After a four year hiatus, the Victoria’s Secret show is making a controversial comeback for 2023.
“We're going to continue to lean into the marketing spend to invest in the business, both at top-of-funnel and also to support the new version of our fashion show, which is to come later this year,” explained Chief Financial Officer Timothy Johnson in an earnings call on March 3.
But what does ‘new version’ actually mean? The brand’s signature show collapsed in 2019 after facing criticism around body positivity, its attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community, and former CEO Les Wexner’s links to Jeffery Epstein.
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Since then Victoria’s Secret has made a tumultuous effort to change how the lingerie brand is viewed within the industry, though many have questioned how authentic these changes really are (read on to see Lizzo’s public response to the show’s return).
So what do we expect to see in this new Victoria’s Secret show?
Gigi and Bella Hadid backstage for the show in 2016
In 2021 the brand vowed to ‘swap out’ its angels for the ‘Victoria's Secret Collective’. And as there has been no mention of the return of the angels, we expect the show to feature some of its former models, mixed in with a slew of nepo babies who have fronted the brand over the last few years including Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and supermodel sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid.
Emphasis on ethnic diversity
Victoria’s Secret posted a video of model Adut Akech on Instagram this weekend as part of their ‘undefiable’ campaign. Akech talks about feeling out of place as a refugee, but also as a VS model, “Even just being here at Victoria’s Secret, there was nobody who looked like me that was an angel,” she says, “I feel good to be a part of a positive change”. With her presence, we expect an emphasis on a range of backgrounds and skin tones with more POC model representation than before.
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Paloma Elsesser for Victoria's Secret in 2023
A lack of size inclusivity was perhaps the biggest factor in the downfall of the brand. It lost its appeal when the inclusion of ‘plus size’ models finally became normalised led by the likes of Ashley Graham, yet Victoria’s Secret never seemed to shift its gaze. As of today, the formidable Paloma Elsesser is a regular face as part of the brand’s campaigns.
Speaking out on the return of the show this year, Lizzo said on Twitter: “This is a win for inclusivity for inclusivity’s sake,” but continued by criticising the brand, “But if brands start doing this only because they’ve received backlash then what happens when the ‘trends’ change again? Do the CEOs of these companies value true inclusivity? Or do they just value money?” a question that many will be asking.
Sofia Jirau became the first VS model with Down's Syndrome
Almost a year ago to the date, Brazilian model Sofia Jirau made history as Victoria’s Secret’s first model with Down’s Syndrome featuring front and centre in a campaign. She was 24 years old when becoming a VS Angel – a significant move in the right direction for the brand, as praise poured in not just for diversifying the Angel roster. But for highlighting the prejudice surrounding desirability and disability.
VS was criticised for posting a tweet supporting pride month in 2019, less than a year after former Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek stated in an interview with 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,” Razek said. “It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.”
Later in 2019, Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio became the first transgender model to work with Victoria’s Secret, and in February 2022, 25 year old TikTok star Emira D’Spain became the first black transgender model to work with them, therefore we expect to see an increased number of the LGBTQ+ community on the runway.
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