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Victoria’s Secret is Changing, But Carries Along its Dark and Controversial History


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Victoria’s Secret is Changing, But Carries Along its Dark and Controversial History

Victoria’s Secret just made headlines by announcing a new set of brand ambassadors. The lingerie brand will be ditching its Angels as their face, and has instead opted for seven prolific women from various walks of life to be their new reps. Known as the VS collective, the group includes Priyanka Chopra, gender activist and star American soccer player Meghan Rapinoe, renowned photographer and journalist Amanda de Cadenet, champion skier Eileen Gu, along with models Adut Akech, Paloma Elsesser, and Valentina Sampaio.

The breakthrough decision is an attempt to change the brand’s decades-old problematic image. Chief Executive of the brand, Martin Waters told NYT that the company now has to adapt to “what women want,” and break away from “what men want.” The brand has long been criticized for its inaction to help break the toxic body ideal. Body positivity activists have carried out multiple conversations about how Victoria’s Secret continues to present the idea of what a woman should like, ideally.

The most – and probably only – hyped element of the brand was its annual fashion show, more popularly abbreviated as VSFS. The event was sought after as one of the key events in the fashion calendar. Getting A-list stars to perform as models walked the ramp with over-the-top costumes; it was no less than a star-studded affair. Gems, laces, feathers, thongs – they had it all. The show has made careers for models like Adriana Lima and Heidi Klum.

But how will this brand fare after this face-revamp? The brand, even with its ‘all things sexy’ trope managed to remain popular despite criticism. It has never included a plus-size model in its annual show or its campaigns. Years of pressing on the ‘skinny and tall’ ideal has ultimately, led to its downfall. The only instance when the brand has been the most inclusive is by roping in model Winnie Harlow, who also has vitiligo. Ed Razek, Victoria’s Secret’s erstwhile marketing officer outright dismissed comments that called for including more body types. He justified his stand by saying that the show was a “fantasy”.

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By having more activists on board, this seems to be an attempt to create a human face for Victoria’s Secret. While execs did not pay heed, body-positive lingerie brands like Savage x Fenty stepped in and gave the former a hard competition. Victoria’s Secret now says it aims at rebuilding its connection with women and will also support causes that are “vital to women.” Priyanka Chopra said that now more women can feel represented and also ‘belong’.

This new and rather impactful group seems to be Victoria’s Secret’s saving grace. Having its most diverse representation in decades is definitely going to change the conversations that the brand used to create. The lingerie brand has a lot, lot to make up for, given the damages it has done to the self-esteem and confidence of numerous women who do not fit its celebrated body type. By not having a body ideal altogether in its new marketing campaign, Victoria’s Secret ‘fresh start’ will be determined by its reception by those it only now acknowledges.

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