Good morning angels, news of the Victoria's Secret show is finally confirmed after some months of online speculation. Our verdict? We’re…open, but we can’t forget both the iconic rise and controversial downfall of the show. Here’s our verdict on the upcoming revival of the iconic show
At the time of its release, the show wasn’t just a show, it was like a lifestyle. Everyone wanted to be an angel. They wore the hottest clothes, dominated the runway, and were worth millions. With the first show debuting in 1999, it brought to the spotlight models such as Adriana Lima, Heidi Klum, and Tyra Banks in its earliest shows to Bella and Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevgine, and Kendall Jenner in the mid-2010s. The success of the show only grew well into the early 2010s which is how I remember its height. The angels were everywhere promoting the show, from dominating the YouTube channels of Vogue, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar with behind-the-scenes sleepovers, skincare secrets, and the #TrainlikeAnAngel workout challenges, avid watchers were able to get insight into how the girls achieved their tall, toned figures. It promoted pilates and ballet for fitness, embracing femininity, lace, and pink. It was the original the hyper-feminine Pilates princess aesthetic meets the IT girl. From Coachella to catalogues, the angels were everywhere.
It wasn’t solely the sunshine and rainbows it appeared to be. The media was quick to shut down and criticize the angels for promoting unhealthy eating habits, and excess exercise, and with the growth of social media platforms including Tumblr, the angels found themselves both on the very positive and negative spectrum - you either wanted to be them or you hated the whole concept of the show.
The show’s decline in viewership would prove a messy one, with 9.2 million viewers in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2018. Contributing to the cancellation of the show in 2019, alongside following a series of controversial opinions, scandals, and outdated beauty standards being enforced onto a generation who quite frankly, was sick of the lack of diversity. In 2018, Ed Razek, then the chief marketing officer of Victoria's Secret's former parent company, caused uproar during a Vogue interview with Nicole Phelps, saying that he didn't think the show should include plus size or transgender models because "the show is a fantasy. It is a 42-minute entertainment special." Leaving no room for diversity. Razek later issued an apology and eventually resigned from the brand altogether. Alongside this, it was also reported at the time that the company’s CEO, Les Wexner, had close ties to Jeffrey Epstein, who was charged with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking in July of 2019. In 2020, the company was also heavily tied with bullying, harassment, and a ‘’culture of misogyny,” by the New York Times.
Compare this to Savage X Fenty, a lingerie brand released by Rihanna in 2018, and it was clear that being both sexy and all-inclusive was possible and popular. Other brands would see the success of the singer’s decision and choose to join the celebration of all bodies and the representation of genders/identities rather than the limitations that Victoria's Secret had held firmly in place, attributing its unattainability to their success and appeal. The backlash left the show facing a choice. Continue to promote the brand that they had so successfully built and the image they had maintained for young women and girls to idolise or listen to the public. To change how they portrayed beauty, would the public accept this change? Was everyone ready? For a company built on inclusivity and essentially one’s desire to be this model.
Jump two years later, and it's been announced that the show will return later this year, with a promise for inclusivity and a strong representation of diverse models. The brand claims to be committed to championing women, telling Insider, "This will lead us into new spaces like reclaiming one of our best marketing and entertainment properties to date and turning it on its head to reflect who we are today.” Appearing open to the opinions and developments of an ever-changing world and a new younger generation.
The public naturally responded with a mixture of conflicting opinions. With some are completely against the idea, but others are more optimistic. “I’ll reserve my outrage until we see if they have become inclusive or all this is just merely performative,” wrote one Twitter user. “Glad it’s coming back, but I doubt it will be as glamorous.” stated another. With the recent return to nostalgia and the increased popularity of hyper-femininity made popular on TikTok and consequently the “-cores' that follow, we seem more open to seeing if there’s space for the show once again.