It’s happening, folks: the infamous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is being resurrected from its grave to haunt us once again, though this time it claims to be a little more realistic in its representations of women. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Victoria’s Secret announced on Friday in its 2022 earnings call that it plans to revamp the iconic show which, until its demise four years ago, was known for its array of leggy, skinny, ethereal Angels and the unattainable beauty standards that came with them.
“We’re going to continue to lean into the marketing spend to invest in the business…and also to support the new version of our fashion show, which is to come later this year,” CFO Timothy Johnson said, per The Hollywood Reporter.
In a statement provided to the publication, a spokesperson also said the new show will “reinforce our commitment to championing women’s voices and their unique perspectives.” Interesting.
Of course, it’s unclear what this will actually entail, though judging from a promo video floating around Twitter it looks like we can expect a renewed attempt at size diversity and some Fenty-esque aesthetics, which I imagine is surprising to no one considering the rise of Fenty was undoubtedly a contributing factor to the show’s demise.
The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is coming back THIS year! pic.twitter.com/viL9k7am9r
— linda (@itgirlenergy) March 5, 2023
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was put on hiatus in 2019 because of a myriad of factors, the main ones being its declining TV ratings, lack of diversity and the controversies surrounding CEO Les Wexner.
And there’s the issue of body positivity and harmful beauty standards.
Aussie model Bridget Malcolm is one of many VS models over the years who has condemned the company for promoting “sick” and “unhealthy” standards which require models to be exceptionally skinny.
Malcolm called her time on Victoria’s Secret runways in 2015 and 2016 “traumatic” and said by the time she was 25 in 2017, she had stopped menstruating, her hair was falling out, and she was so malnourished it took her “10 minutes to climb a flight of stairs”.
“I had an eating disorder, I was relying on anti-anxiety medication, I was having panic attacks constantly, I was exhausted,” she told 60 Minutes.
“What that company represented for me and for so many other women was extremely exploitative at that time. To me it felt like controlling women.”
She said she was dumped from the brand when she gained half an inch on her hips as she was considered “too big”.
In 2018, former chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands Edward Razek told Vogue he wasn’t interested in featuring a more diverse cast in the fashion show, saying: “It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because this show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.”
Ah yes, because trans people and women with mid to plus size bodies just don’t exist in anyone’s fantasies, right? That would be absurd! Only skinny cis women are attractive!
Given that the same year Fenty was making waves by holding catwalks that were both diverse and sexy, those comments didn’t go down very well.
Victoria’s Secret did try to relaunch in 2021 with a campaign featuring plus-size model Paloma Elsesser, LGBTQ+ activist Valentina Sampaio, and U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, as well as a pregnant model to celebrate Mother’s Day, but at that point it became clear people were over it.
I mean, where was this energy in 2019? It felt like employing plus-sized models was the company’s last ditch attempt at relevancy after it had exhausted all other options, and we’re not about that performativity.
It also didn’t help that only a year before the relaunch, The New York Times interviewed more than 30 staff at Victoria’s Secret and accused Edward Razek of creating a “culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment” — which is not exactly in line with the image of divine feminine energy that the company is trying to give off.
Well, I guess we’ll see where the next relaunch goes. But I do have to wonder, how much room does a company like Victoria’s Secret — which frequently displays the exact opposite of the values it claims to have — get to find a redemption arc?
Why should the men who head these companies continue to profit from both the insecurities *and* the confidence of women whose bodies they have turned into profit?
Whether women are being pressured to lose weight by Victoria’s Secret or they’re encouraged to be proud of their bodies, you still have to consider that this messaging is concocted in a board room, told to a consumer group, and mined by a male CEO. So how genuine can it be?
I, for one, reckon we should just banish it back to the hellscape from whence it came. Lord knows we don’t need another brand to co-opt radical and feminist ideas of self-love and acceptance just to sell more products that will eventually end up in a landfill.
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