Victoria’s not-so-secret discrimination

Victoria's Secret fails to progress despite inclusion revolution in fashion

Felicia Xiong, Staff Writer

“A Body for Every Body”. The phrase, which used to be “The Perfect Body”, is the slogan of popular womenswear company Victoria’s Secret. Ironically, the company has failed to represent “every body”. Victoria’s Secret, known for its notorious fashion show and tall, slender models dubbed “angels”, has excluded diverse models despite top competitors embracing inclusivity.

This fall, Rihanna hosted the first ever fashion show for her all-inclusive lingerie company, Savage X Fenty. After the streaming, many consumers compared the runway show to the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show, which was supposed to air this fall. Consumers noticed that Savage X Fenty represented a multitude of races, gender identities, and body sizes, while the Victoria’s Secret models do not deviate from convention. 

Leslie Wexner, chief executive officer of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, L Brands, confirmed that the 2019 fashion show would not broadcast on network TV. The decision comes in light of disappointing viewership and the resignation of Ed Razek, the former Chief Marketing Officer of LBrands. 

Last November, Razek ignited controversy for his remarks during a Vogue interview. When asked about shifting desires to new models for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, Razek expressed that he had no desire to use curvy and transgender models because “the show is a fantasy”. 

After months of negative press and multiple public figures vowing to boycott the brand, the company has been resistant to enact real change in the diversity of its models.

Some consumers believe that the company has since redeemed itself following Razek’s departure. In August, Victoria’s Secret’s sister brand, PINK, made the reactionary decision to hire Valentina Sampaio, an openly transgender model. While Sampaio is not modeling for the bigger undergarment company, the decision received a lot of praise.

Recently, the undergarment company has partnered with Bluebella, a UK-based company, to launch a new campaign called #loveyourself. The fall campaign features curve model Ali Tate Cutler and transgender model May Simón Lifschitz; its aim is to promote self confidence. 

However, Tate and Lifschitz are employed by Bluebella, not Victoria’s Secret. Tate is also not the best representative for the campaign, as she was accused of body shaming others. In 2016, the model posted a derogatory Instagram comment, responding to Alysse Dalessandro’s article, “11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone”. 

“I do care about…the amount of exploitation that is going on to create fat. That’s not even being mentioned. Being obese is simply bad for the environment, and in this day and age, we cannot afford that lack of empathy anymore.” Cutler posted.

According to Citigroup analyst Paul Lejuez, the company is “slow to implement meaningful change” with “cultural norms [shifting] away” from the company’s values. With leading competitors, like Savage X Fenty and Aerie, that have always embraced unconventional models, Victoria’s Secret’s attempts to save its damaged reputation are largely ineffectual.

The future of the brand is not bright, as the business’ prospects have been at an all time low. The company has reported that it will close 53 stores in North America, and 50 employees were laid off.

It is time for Victoria’s Secret to acknowledge the importance of representation. The current generation is welcoming inclusivity, and the company will fail if it does not follow its competitors by diversifying its models.