Arts, Culture & Entertainment

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is making a return to the big screen, but what has really changed?

Is Victoria’s Secret the next brand to hop on the diversity and inclusion train?

A photo of models in ornate costumes at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show in 2010

Do you remember finally being old enough to step foot in a Victoria’s Secret and purchasing all the things your parents refused to buy? For many girls, the 5 for $35 underwear sale was a staple part of their journey to womanhood.

But we got older and everything changed.

The Victoria’s Secret Angels transformed from picture-perfect embodiments of femininity to problematic portrayals of what society thinks women should look like.

The company has had a controversial history in regard to the beauty ideals they’ve promoted. The last Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was in 2018, and after that, many spoke up about the treatment they received while working under Ed Rasek and Leslie Wexner.

Rasek was accused of sexual assault and harassment by former Angels, who claimed that when they would speak out, they would face retaliation by not being hired anymore. Wexner not only condoned this behavior but, according to The New York Times, also had connections to Jeffery Epstein “who managed Mr. Wexner’s multibillion-dollar fortune, [and] lured some young women by posing as a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret models.”

Wexner is no longer associated with Victoria’s Secret as it completed its separation from the parent company L Brands that he originally founded. Rasek stepped down as well, so what does this mean for Victoria’s Secret’s future as a brand?

The company has now launched its rebrand with the “Victoria’s Secret World Tour 23,” which will showcase four female designers from Lagos, Nigeria, London, Japan, and Bogotá, Colombia. It will air on Amazon Prime on Sept. 26, showcasing their journeys and the process behind their work.

Within the trailer, we see models like Adut Akech, Paloma Elsesser, Imaan Hammam, and Winnie Harlow, who all have different body types and skin tones, a stark contrast to past Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows.

We also see the inclusion of transgender models, like Alex Consani, within the show. In 2018, in an interview with Vogue, Rasek said, “It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.”

Now it’s a reality, and a huge step in the right direction for the brand.

However, even with the push for inclusion within their new framework, I can’t help but remember the 12-year-old version of myself who wondered why women who looked like me weren’t represented on that stage.

Has the damage been resolved? Will the unrealistic beauty standards and ideals they promoted throughout society for years be reversed through this return?

No.

That’s the hard truth, as we’ve seen the beauty standards of each decade fade in and out, but they always come back to two things: skinniness and whiteness. This notion has stuck around for so long, it’s been embedded into the structure of our society.

People have taken to social media and begun to speak out about their thoughts on the rebranding of the new show. Cami Twomey, USC junior and TikTok content creator said, “The return of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show flopped.”

@cami.twomeyy

It would have been great to see plus sized and diverse models walking the iconic VS runway. VS clearly only included more diversity when they realized they were losing money so something about the rebrand feels disingenuous. Not to mention the show and looks seemed poorly executed. #victoriassecret #victoriassecretfashionshow #fenty #nyfw #vsshow #newswithcami #greenscreen

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Although this fashion show is conceptually appealing in its ability to showcase talented designers all over the world, Victoria’s Secret has been at the forefront of pushing these unrealistic standards for years.

The Victoria’s Secret brand can change, but it will take a lot more than one fashion show to erase years of conformity pushed on women in their most formative years.