Hours before the Victoria Secret Fashion Show held on November 8th, 2018, Vogue published an interview with VS Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek. When asked if VS plans to use plus size and transgender models, Razek responded to Vogue, “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.”
He went on further to say that VS has tried to include trans and plus-size models, but people simply are uninterested. Razek told the Vogue interviewer,
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. Lane Bryant still sells plus-size lingerie, but it sells a specific range, just like every specialty retailer in the world sells a range of clothing. As do we. We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world. We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.
Razek’s comments sparked outrage in online communities for his outdated and insensitive use of the word “transexual” and suggestion that plus women and trans women are not suitable VS models.
However, there are others that suggest VS has done nothing wrong, and they have every right to shape their brand how they want to.
It’s true that Victoria Secret can sell to whoever they want to. However, they can’t control who buys their stuff, and let’s face it, your mom shops at Victoria Secret. You’ll be hard pressed to find a young woman (with the means of course) who hasn’t perused the 7 for $28 panty special. And I honestly don’t know anyone who looks like those VS models actually shop at their stores.
So what exactly is the VS market and what is this “fantasy”? Men. The Victoria Secret runway and print ads are all designed for the male gaze. That’t the fantasy they are creating, and it’s the one we are all buying into.
Companies never sell the product. They sell what the product can give you. Toyota doesn’t sell cars. They sell safety and reliability. Allstate doesn’t sell you insurance. They sell you peace of mind. And McDonald’s doesn’t sell you burgers. They sell you happiness.
Victoria Secret doesn’t sell you underwear. They sell you the idea that you too can be desirable. You want to be these women because they are the true definition of beauty as dictated by men. Trans women and plus size women don’t fit into this fantasy land because they’re not socially desired by men.
There are plenty of trans women that model and fit the body type of a VS model, and plus size models like Ashley Graham are demonstrating the growing interest in women that don’t fit the size 0 mold.
So what really is the deal with Victoria Secret? They simply don’t think we’re desirable, but don’t let the tweets fool you. You as a consumer have every right to demand what is marketed to you. Victoria Secret would not show on your Instagram feed or Facebook timeline if you weren’t the consumer.
This idea that cis white men and women with teeny waists and perfect peach beach bods is archaic, and they’re far behind their competitors. When Cheerios realized hey black people eat our cereal too, they made a commercial featuring interracial families. When Apple realized wow people all over the word really like this iPhone, they marketed to global audiences.
Victoria Secret’s excuses for not having plus size women or trans women are whack. They’re the same excuses they used for not having VS angels of color. In 2015, Maria Borges, made history when she walked down as the first VS model rocking her natural hair. And Kelsey Merritt, a filipina VS angel, didn’t join the team until early this year making her the first filipina VS angel in the company’s 41 year history.
The world is changing and Victoria Secret simply can’t keep up. So don’t waste your time and take your buying power elsewhere.