My issue with the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

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By Daisy Farrow, Second Year, English Literature

Second Year English Literature student Daisy Farrow discusses her issues with the Victoria's Secret show

As a disclaimer: can I just say that I love the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and take it upon myself to watch it every year. When I found out that my flatmate was as obsessed as I was, it leads to a series of intense discussions about our favourite models, the most stunning looks, which performers we felt performed best on the runway, and various other little things provoked by our infatuation with the show. Until one night we had a discussion which, I believe, needs to be had more: why isn’t the Victoria’s Secret show more inclusive?

If I were to tell you to close your eyes now and picture a Victoria’s Secret Angel, she’d probably be enviously tall, almost-dangerously thin, and probably blonde. In fact, considering that in 2016 only 30% of models were from non-caucasian backgrounds, you might even picture somebody white too. There is, of course, nothing wrong with being thin, tall, and blonde. Every model who walks the show is beautiful. The issue with Victoria’s Secret isn't who is walking the runway, it's with who isn’t.

In a society increasingly pushing for inclusivity across all industries: racially, sexually, physically, why is it that this isn’t represented in the fashion industry we see today? This isn’t limited to just seeing a plus-sized model, or a model of an ethnic minority, but also a model with a disability or a model who isn’t cis-gendered. With an estimated audience of around 5 million (source), and the average woman in the UK being a size 16 (source), what Victoria's Secret parades down the catwalk is entirely disjunct from what we see in our day to day lives. Of course, it would be unfair of me not to mention the strides Victoria’s Secret has made in the past few years. In 2017, they had their most diverse show yet, with almost 50% of models being black, Asian, or Hispanic. But this begs the question as to whether this is enough; surely a show as prolific and revered as Victoria's secret can afford to be making the most radical statements in the industry?

I am being somewhat hypocritical. For feeling so passionately about this lack of inclusivity, I still ardently watch the shows every year. In fact, if you were to look in my wardrobe, you’d probably see several things that I have bought from Victoria’s Secret or from PINK. But isn’t that part of the problem? In other aspects of my life, I have been more ardent, like when I found out that some of my favourite makeup brands tested on animals and subsequently stopped using them. The issue of animal cruelty and testing mattered to me so much that I decided that I could not reconcile my desire with my morals. These days, it seems like clothing choices are beginning to hold the same gravitas. I am not necessarily advocating a boycott of all Victoria’s Secret products. I am aware, however, that to see real change, we, as the consumers of the product, need to become more vocal.

Protest shows such as the one held by Robyn Lawley and Simply Be, as well as various models like Barbie Ferreira, are speaking out from within the industry and demanding change. These people do, indeed, lead the movement towards better inclusivity. Diversity comes in all shapes, all sizes, all abilities, all sexualities. To see this represented more in the fashion industry and from the very businesses we patronage, we should be aware of the power we hold as the target audience for these companies.

It is then imperative that we demand change and more improvements; without us, the consumers, complaining, can meaningful advances ever really take place? With the success of various brands like Rihanna's Savage X FENTY debut, which also featured two pregnant models and a myriad of sizes and colours, it is not unreasonable to request that similar steps should be taken by other brands. It is not a matter of Victoria’s Secret being unable to change, it is a matter of being unwilling.

Featured Image: ABC News/ abcnews.com


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