Good Riddance To The Victoria's Secret Show – A Brand Frozen In Time

There's nothing empowering in seeing models starve themselves to walk a runway in underwear, journalist Jessica Evans writes.
Victoria's Secret show
Victoria's Secret show
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has cancelled its annual fashion show amid dwindling television ratings and rising criticism of the event. The show launched in 1995 and was once a major pop culture event, drawing millions of viewers each year.

Last year it had its lowest ratings ever and poor sales at Victoria’s Secret weighed on the performance of L Brands, which reported a net loss of $252m (£195.1m) in third quarter results announced this week.

This cancellation of the supermodel annual show is long overdue, and I rejoiced as I read the news. I am glad young women will no longer be subjected to it, nor will grow up in a world where it’s still a thing.

For years, it has been well documented that the “angel” diets in the lead up to the show are unhealthy and pushed an unrealistic body image onto both their models and viewers of the show. VS promoted self-consciousness and promoted eating disorders. There’s a reason why it became a social media trope that models would head straight to the nearest fast-food chain to eat burgers, after the show ended.

Even though people already knew the dangerous extremes the models stretched to achieve their VS friendly bodies, the tired company still insisted on cheerleading the annual show. The models looked glamorous on the famous VS catwalk, but the truth behind the wings, was anything but. No matter how fun the music was or how pretty it was dressed and packaged up, the motive and vision behind VS was toxic.

It also became a cliched reaction which was provoked on social media of tweets and statuses from teenage girls, reading, ‘I just watched the VS show and now I’m not eating again’. Teenagers already have so much pressure to contend, not to mention, eating disorders are rife. I’m aware every body is different and some, are naturally thin, but encouraging the idea that extreme thinness is the only one type that is beautiful, is different.

While last year’s show was hilariously and depressingly labelled “more diverse than ever”, with almost half of the models being of black, asian, or hispanic descent, not one of the 52 models was plus-size. Not a single one.

VS bosses still refused to feature a woman bigger than a size eight and we were hungry to see a more relevant representation of women. Earlier this year, Victoria’s Secret hired their first transgender model – fantastic news, but what about hiring plus-sized models? Where are the majority of us represented who aren’t carbon copies of the teeny tiny frames on display?

At a time when the likes of Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham have graced the covers of high fashion magazines, and Giuliana Farfalla and Valentina Sampaio made history with their Playboy and Vogue covers, Victoria’s Secret didn’t want to move with the times.

Most women have cellulite, wobbly bellies, their thighs touch – why was this deemed as undesirable in VS shows, when it’s actually just normal?

Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek defended the decision not to hire plus-sized models, stating: “We market who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.”

Their message is clear; plus size isn’t sexy, curves aren’t something you should be proud of and when it comes to body type, there is only one ideal.

Victoria’s Secret don’t offer a plus-size range, their bras only go up to a DDD, so it has consistently been a brash choice to arrogantly ignore the body positive movement and refuse to alter their harmful business model and marketing.

What is empowering about starving yourself to walk a runway in underwear in front of millions of viewers? Victoria’s Secret defence was always “We’re pitching a fantasy”, but no woman I know views starving and prancing around in feathers as a fantasy.

Perhaps that’s why Bella Hadid admitted she never felt empowered walking the Victoria’s Secret catwalk, just last week at the Vogue Fashion Festival in Paris. The 23-year-old model said that she had “never felt powerful” modelling lingerie on a runway show until she worked with Rihanna and modelled her Savage X Fenty collection at New York Fashion Week.

When Rihanna’s show debuted in 2018, the internet was lit up with excitement. The show featured models of all shapes, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds, including two pregnant women, one of whom reportedly went into labor after the show. While it had the raciness of a Victoria’s Secret runway show, fans applauded Rihanna for promoting body inclusivity and acceptance.

Victoria Secret has for too long been selling a product to women while steadfastly refusing to reflect actual women. The demise of their show and the decline of the brand shows that the space is shrinking for people who are too stubborn to listen to how the world is changing. It will also create much needed space for brands who actually do reflect women. And this, is rather wonderful news for all of us.

Jessica Evans is a freelance journalist.


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