Victoria’s Secret Recieving Backlash After Insensitive Comments


Photo// Wikimedia Commons

Lais Ribeiro walking in the Victoria Secret Fashion Show in London of 2014.

Brianna Herder, Arts & Entertainment editor

Victoria’s Secret, one of the biggest names in fashion, hosted their annual fashion show on Dec. 2, 2018 on the ABC network. This show comes with a bit more baggage than their previous shows due to the changing climate that favors diversity in fashion and media paired with controversial comments made by the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company “Limited Brands” or “L Brands”, Ed Razek in an interview with Vogue.
Victoria’s Secret was founded in 1977 and the first fashion show launched in 1995. The brand has accumulated a net sale of 7.4 billion USD worldwide, according to Statista. Their first televised fashion show debuted in 2001, and along with it came the controversy that the brand is no stranger to. The suggestiveness of the event was unlike anything the public had seen before. IndieWire reported that the Federal Communications Commission received over 400 phone calls from unhappy ABC viewers, arguing that the special was inappropriate.
The FCC dismissed the complaints saying it was well within the company’s first amendment rights. ABC declined to apologize, and the show plowed on for the following years, except for in 2004 when the show was aired on CBS network and the Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson Superbowl scandal was at its height. Now, the 43 year company is under fire for the lack of diversity associated with their business.
Despite the massive amount of money and traction Victoria’s Secret garners, many are beginning to grow tired of their distinct image. The discontentment amongst the public was ignited when comments made by Razek in an interview with “Vogue” surfaced.
Razek was joined by the executive vice president of public relations at Victoria’s Secret, Monica Mitro. The focal point of the interview was to get to the bottom of whether or not the company would submit to the public’s wishes and begin their transition into becoming a more size inclusive and diverse label.
When asked if Victoria’s Secret would be “putting more emphasis on diversity” Razek argued that the look of the models used in their show was beyond anyone’s control. “Progress gets made, and part of what’s happened in our show is that the girls have just continued to get more physically fit. We don’t tell them to; they compete with one another and they work hard, they work in pairs, they work in threes.” He goes on to say that the model’s “shouldn’t have to apologize for that.”
Many Victoria’s Secret critics often refer to Rihanna’s new lingerie line “Savage Fenty” when discussing a need for change. “Savage Fenty” is credited with being an affordable, quality brand that praises all body types and colors. Her fashion show debut was at New York Fashion Week, where she closed out the entire week of festivities. A wide range of women of all colors and sizes modelled Rihanna’s line, including model Slick Woods, who walked the show while pregnant, and immediately after went into labor. The show received an abundance of praise from the general public.
Razek referenced the show saying, “If we had done Rihanna’s show, we would be accused of pandering without question.” On Slick Woods walking pregnant, Razek defends VS stating, “By the way, we’ve had three pregnant models walk the show.”
The most controversial comment that came from Razek’s interview were his thoughts on why the company fails to include transgender models in their shows. To that Razek responded, “No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.” Razek continues with saying the show “is the only one of its kind in the world” and that VS is the “leader” to other brands, citing that as the reason why other labels are joining in on the people pressuring them to make a change.
The debate has surged on, reaching the point where one of the musical guests, singer Halsey, who performed at the 2018 show criticized the brand publicly on Instagram. She wrote, “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have no tolerance for a lack of inclusivity. Especially not one motivated by a stereotype.” The fashion show was filmed before the comments were made public.
Makeup artist and beauty Guru Nikita Dragun who is a transgender woman, chimed in with her own thoughts. She took to Twitter and Instagram to showcase herself in her own Victoria’s Secret inspired look. She captioned the video, “Dear Victoria’s Secret, you said trans women can’t sell the ‘fantasy’ so here I am as a trans woman selling the fantasy!” She encourages viewers to “stand tall” in who they are and to “live your fantasy and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Although still one of the most recognizable names in fashion, VS’s fashion shows are losing steam. Each year, viewership reaches an all time low, this year taking the cake with only 3.3 million people tuning in, compared to 2017 where around 5.5 million people watched, which was still a decline from 2016’s show that garnered almost 6 million. According to Entertainment Weekly, the 2018 installment earned a .9 rating amongst 18-49 year old adults who tuned in.