In 2011, Selena’s long legs were still strutting the Upper East Side in hit show Gossip Girl, a film titled Gay Best Friend was still years from release, and LMFAO ruled the charts. Body negativity reigned and Miranda Kerr was still walking the runway. Coincidentally, over 10 million people around the world tuned into the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In 2011, your insecurity probably peaked.
For the near-decade since, fashion has been been held in call-out culture’s tight vice until it reluctantly dripped diversity. The collective embrace of inclusion has birthed unprecedentedly successful Instagram accounts like Diet Prada, more models of color on the runway than ever before and plus-size superstars. Gucci even instigated an in-house diversity panel after releasing some unfortunate turtleneck-cum-balaclavas. Singer Rihanna launched her own lingerie Savage x Fenty, its campaigns privileging women of all races and body types. Everything has changed, except Victoria’s Secret. And it’s hurting them…big-time.
Last year, the lingerie brand experienced their lowest viewership during their annual runway extravaganza. Not even Halsey or a Hadid could capture the attention of their waning fanbase. A day after the fact, it emerged that Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek had told Vogue he didn’t think the company’s annual fashion show should feature “transsexuals” because “the show is a fantasy.” The backlash was swift, heavy-handed and likely in no small part contributed to the company’s announcement last month that they would be shuttering 53 Victoria’s Secret stores nationwide.
Therefore, in what appears to be a last ditch attempt to remain relevant, they’re mixing it up — but only ever so slightly. This week, they made an angel of their first ‘curve’ model — the size eight-wearing, 120-pound weighing, Barbara Palvin. While Palvin’s talent and beauty is undeniable, it’s impossible to overlook the brand’s tokenization. They simultaneously introduced the first angel with red hair, Alexina Graham. Certainly, redheads do only make up one percent of the population, the majority’s white privilege makes the VS’s attempt at scoring additional inclusion points nothing short of laughable.
Rumors have been percolating that in the casting of this year’s show Victoria’s Secret have requested a range of plus-size and curve models with significant online popularity. This is yet to be confirmed by the brand, but little has been said as to whether they’ll backtrack on Razek’s comments and branch away from solely cisgendered models. Thus far, however, the message has been very clear: Victoria’s Secret might be dipping their toes into the body diversity pool to save their bacon, but far from diving in.