It's official: we won't be seeing the VS angels this Christmas because Victoria's Secret will not have their runway show this year. It was confirmed this morning by VS executives after months of speculation.
Stuart B. Burgdoerfer, CFO and executive vice president of L Brands (the parent company of Victoria's Secret, Lane Bryant, and Bath & Body Works), announced the news on November 21, 2019.
“[The show] was a very important part of the brand-building of this business and was an important aspect of the brand and a remarkable marketing achievement,” Burgdoerfer said. “And with that said, we’re figuring out how to advance the positioning of the brand, and best communicate that to customers, and that’s among the things that [Victoria’s Secret CEO] John Mehas is focused on.”
The Victoria's Secret fashion show first launched in 1995 and started the careers of some of the most successful models in the world, including Giselle, Naomi Campbell, and Adriana Lima. Walking the show and hopefully becoming a Victoria's Secret "Angel" was considered one of the biggest achievements in modeling the last couple of decades.
Becoming a Victoria's Secret "Angel" was considered one of the biggest achievements in modeling the last couple of decades.
In recent years, the brand has had some controversies, and ratings for the 2018 show hit an all-time low. Only 3.3 million viewers tuned in, half of what the 2016 show had. The show started receiving a lot of bad press for featuring "Instagram models" to get more ratings.
The Takeover of Social Media Influence
When Kendall Jenner was asked to walk the show in 2015, there was an uproar from viewers everywhere. "Having grown up watching avidly every year, I cannot wrap my brain around the announcement that Jenner was invited to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show this year. It’s more a disappointment than shock because we all know that big companies love 'It' girls, but let’s be honest; this involves a moral compass beyond the fact that Jenner doesn’t match the typical voluptuous bombshell." wrote Claudia Dayani.
Models everywhere were annoyed and disappointed with Kendall's seemingly easy road to fame. In a controversial article with Love Magazine, Kendall stated, “Since the beginning, we’ve been super selective about what shows I would do. I was never one of those girls who would do like 30 shows a season or whatever the fuck those girls do." Meanwhile, "those girls" were struggling to make it, going to casting after casting facing rejection, without the luxury of picking and choosing.
The same went for Gigi and Bella Hadid (although I personally can see Gigi's appeal) coming from being known as the kids of Yolanda Hadid and David Foster on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It seemed as the pinnacle of modeling no longer came from discovering supermodels in the local mall, but to girls who were related to Kim Kardashian and could afford upwards of $20K test shoots with Russell James.
Karlie Kloss, who was an Angel for two years, stated her reasons for leaving the brand. "The reason I decided to stop working with Victoria’s Secret was I didn’t feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful," she told British Vogue. "I think that was a pivotal moment in me stepping into my power as a feminist, being able to make my own choices and my own narrative, whether through the companies I choose to work with or through the image I put out to the world." A source close to us also disclosed that Kloss' husband was uncomfortable with the male attention she would receive.
I didn’t feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful.
But if sexualizing women was really the downfall, why do we see brands like Savage X Fenty doing their own overly sexual runway shows? Models in Sports Illustrated are still posing nude, and many huge tv shows (like Game of Thrones) feature excessive nudity. Women are still definitely sexualized in media at large.
The new ideal being sold to women is that all bodies are beautiful, even objectively ugly or unhealthy ones, and that there is no "ideal." I'd even go further to say that conventional ideas of undisputable beauty are rejected and disdained by many of today's women in media. Maybe it makes us jealous. Perhaps it makes us insecure. I have a hard time believing their objections are purely in the name of concern when they often refuse to talk about the other extreme of women's health, which is a way bigger issue by all accounts.
I didn't see my younger brother complain about Brad Pitt's body in Troy being unattainable, or Chris Evans' body in Captain America (deliciously muscular Chris, not scrawny Chris), making him insecure. He knew it was a movie, a fantasy, and that superheroes (much like the VS Angels in unwearable lingerie costumes) are fantasy, too. While I think it's refreshing to see more body types, health should be promoted over anything else. Women who work hard on their bodies should be admired for their discipline, as long as they're not pushing themselves to unhealthy extremes.
The VS Standard Cannot Be Attained or Sustained in a Healthy Way
Perhaps the biggest reason the image of a Victoria's Secret Angel walking down the runway lost favor with many women is that it wasn't attainable by healthy means. In 2011, Victoria's Secret Angel Adriana Lima told the Telegraph that she cuts out all solid foods nine days before an appearance. Nine days! And twelve hours before the fashion show, Adriana stops drinking water entirely.
It's the end of an era for Victoria's Secret. Some will miss the fantasy that they never took seriously in the first place, and some will laud it as a victory for eradicating unhealthy standards in women's beauty.