Opinion: Bidding an overdue adieu to Victoria’s Secret Angels

For as long as we can remember, Victoria’s Secret has been synonymous with size zero models – dubbed the ‘Angels’ –strutting down the runways in gorgeous, sexy lingerie and grandeur clothing lines. Without the prestigious position of the Angels, we wouldn’t know and love superstar models such as Heidi Klum, Gisele Bündchen and Alessandra Ambrosio. However, the brand’s beloved Angels came at a price, and it proved to be a heavy one.

Over the last decade, Victoria’s Secret has struggled to stay relevant amidst accusations and backlash revolving around the lack of diversity among the angel-like models, all of whom seemed to fit society’s “perfect” type to the T, with unblemished, fair skin and long, skinny limbs and torsos on display. While rumours about the models molding themselves into these unrealistic beauty standards in unhealthy manners didn’t go unnoticed, the brand tackled massive scrutiny when L Brands’ owner’s relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein came to light as well. 

On 17 June, Victoria’s Secret officially announced the launch of their partnership called the ‘VS Collective’, replacing their long-standing Angels with a more inclusive and diverse group of women to represent the brand going forward and making up for the lack thereof. 

The founding members of this new and improved platform include the successful 38-year-old Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, 17-year-old Chinese American soon-to-be Olympic skier Eileen Gu, and active LGBTQIA+ advocates such as Brazilian 24-year-old model Valentina Sampaio breaking barriers for transgender models. 

What does this mean for the future of Victoria’s Secret?

“When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond,” said Martin Waters, the former head of Victoria’s Secret International and newly appointed chief executive of the brand. “We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”

Originally built on the guise of the male fantasy, Victoria’s Secret has been the beauty standard, for better or for worse, since the late 1990s. Despite how long it has taken for the brand to catch up to the progressive 21st century and make necessary changes, it will most likely emerge like a phoenix from the ashes due to their deep-set influence on young girls and women across the globe. 

With a major rebranding underway, the world is on the lookout for the fresh contributions of the seven all-powerful women from the VS Collective. While this initiative may have been a small step in comparison to the significant progress that other fashion brands have made, any and every act of representation matters, making it a step in the right direction regardless.

Despite having grown up outside of the United States of America, the standard that Victoria’s Secret Angels had set over the decades impacted almost every woman across the world, and I was no exception. I never fit into the restrictive box labelled “size zero” by the fashion industry, and tracing the petite outlines of the unrealistically beautiful supermodels on magazine covers had me doubting my physical imperfections, whether they were the rounder curves of my thighs or the stretch marks on my hips. 

Just like countless other women out there, the Angels did not make me feel confident in my own skin. Instead, I wondered if I would ever look like them, if the flaws would magically disappear one day so I could become more attractive to men and society. 

With the massive impact that the brand’s propaganda has had on the mindset of young girls, I sincerely hope that the founding members of the VS Collective use their voice and power to change this troubling perspective and encourage women of all shapes and sizes to feel desirable in whatever they choose to wear, especially in Victoria’s Secret’s iconic lingerie.

Size zero or not, every woman deserves to feel good about herself and I look forward to seeing the VS Collective’s contribution towards changing the toxic narrative that states otherwise. Better late than never, right?

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