Victoria’s Secret doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to inclusivity, whether it’s a lack of plus size models or LGBTQ representation, the company has been increasingly called out in recent years for only casting tall, skinny, cis-gender models. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with featuringthese types of girls, in a time where consumers want diversity, to see themselves and the people around them represented in magazines and on international catwalks, Victoria’s Secret seems to be lagging behind the rest of the fashion world.
This issue came to a head earlier this month as the brand’s annual fashion show was about to film in New York City. Victoria’s Secret Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek, sat down for an interview with Vogue alongside VS executive vice president of public relations Monica Mitro, where he wasasked about the growing desire from customers to include bigger sizes and trans women in Victoria’s Secret branding and shows. His response?
“So it’s like, ‘Why don’t you do [a size] 50? Why don’t you do 60? Why don’t you do 24?’ 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. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.”
This statement caused a major backlash, angering thousands. Many condemned Razek and threatened to boycott the company.
The implication that trans and plus size women were not attractive enough to be a ‘fantasy’ was on its own, horribly offensive. As was the use of an outdated and what manyconsider to be offensive, term ‘transsexuals’.
This was only the beginning of the issues with his statement.
Although it had been obvious for a while that Victoria’s Secret had a type of model they preferred, the confirmation that the company would continue to consciously exclude certain body shapes, sizes and women was hugely disappointing. Many expressed their upset, including plus size model Tess Holliday as well as former drag race star and trans model Carmen Carrera who wrote on Twitter “The worst feeling in the world is knowing you have what it takes but are being denied simply for being who you are.” There were even photos and video of angry Victoria’s Secret customers cutting up their underwear amid the drama.
Razek seemed to backtrack later in the interview saying “If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus-size model in the show, we have. We invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division, Lane Bryant… We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.” However thesevere damage was done. Even after issuing an apology, which seemed contradictory to the interview and came off more as damage control than a genuine apology, people were still enraged. Razek retracted his statement in his “apology” saying that VS would “absolutely cast a transgender model”and “it was never about gender.”
But the fact that in 2018, when other brands like Rhianna’s line Savage X Fenty, Third Love and Marco Marco are wholly embracing plus size and trans women without issue,people weren’t at all convinced by his words. Actress Alexandra Grey posted a statement to Twitter that expressed this well, writing “Its not about gender?? Girl bye and girl stop!! It’s ridiculous in 2018 and with all that is going on in the world, your company would say something so heinous and discriminatory.”
The issue Razek and Victoria’s Secret doesn’t seem to comprehend is that the “world” Razek markets to has changed in the last few years. Based on the backlash alone, it’sabundantly clear that people wanting the Victoria Secret’s version of ‘fantasy’ or ‘women’ is in the minority. A quick trip to twitter or Instagram will show that people want trans women on catwalks and in magazines. People want plus size girls, bodies of all shapes and sizes to be featured in fashion shows and branding. They want representation for all women not just the tall, skinny ones and most certainly do not want a 70 year old male dictating what is and isn’t attractive.
To exclude trans and plus size women is to exclude and alienate millions of people around the world. It’s not progressive, it’s not productive and it certainly won’t benefit the company to only market their products to certain people.At a time when body positivity and self-love are at an all-time high, when trans people are fighting hard for their rights, support from such a big brand would be phenomenal and positive for all involved. Drag Race alumni, trans woman and LGBTQ advocate Peppermint passionately explained this on her Instagram.
“Victoria’s Secret is a household name, I believe they have more to gain and less to lose by being more INCLUSIVE with their Casting. If our country has become more diverse, surely their customer base has also changed. It would be nice to see them acknowledge that.” She continued “An ALTERNATIVE to saying that plus size and transgender bodies are not attractive or marketable enough to put in their fashion shows is RECOGNIZING that these AMERICANS are a growing demographic that also need to buy and wear underwear.”
Peppermint always hits the nail on the head when it comes to issues of trans inclusion and diversity and this statement was no different. It expressed how many peoplewere feeling and addressed how ridiculous Victoria’s Secretand their lack of diversity at this time in history really is.
At the end of the day, if Victoria’s Secret doesn’t want to cast plus size or trans women, or any women for that matter whodon’t fit their ‘fantasy’,that’s their prerogative. As Peppermint also stated in her comments regarding the scandal, it’s their company their choice and no one can force them. But we don’t have to like or accept that choice. “No one’s forcing you to cast transfolk so please don’t tokenize or patronize.
IF inclusion & diversity is important, it’ll be evident from now on.” Says Peppermint and it’s really the only thing that can behoped for from VS moving forward. If they really have considered casting trans women or plus size girls, maybe next year we will see them take the leap and put their money where their mouths are. If they show no improvements in inclusivity and diversity there’s still plenty of brands that will give all women the love and representation that they deserve. It will be Victoria’s Secrets loss. With the news yesterday that the company’s CEO has been replaced, we can only hope that this is a step in the right, inclusive, direction.
Written by Guest Contributor Ashleigh House