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Victoria Secret Controversy: Victoria’s Secret Has Been Under Fire for A Number of Reasons, Including Transphobic Comments and Allegations of Sexual Assault.

This week, Victoria’s Secret made a huge change by doing away with their supermodel “Angels” and replacing them with a group of women who have done things other than walk the runway. Victoria’s Secret has long been recognized as the company that launched the careers of models like Heidi Klum, Gisele Bündchen, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Tyra Banks.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was another shining highlight. Celebrities, musicians, and lingerie-clad models all came together annually for this event, which could have doubled as a Hollywood awards ceremony.

Given the lavish atmosphere, only one model with elaborate wings was ever chosen to wear the Fantasy Bra, which was encrusted with diamonds and typically valued at millions of dollars when it was presented. A select group of models were given the title “Angels” and were tasked with promoting the company year-round. Additionally, they would hold photo shoots on exotic, sun-drenched beaches to increase exposure for the product.

The yearly event, which premiered in 1995, ended in November 2019 because of declining ratings and accusations that it didn’t portray women of diverse sizes and ethnicities.

This week, the brand announced that “accomplished women” like a soccer player and LGBTQ activist Megan Rapinoe, actress Priyanka Chopra, and trans model Valentina Sampaio would be ambassadors for its new VS Collective. However, what led to Victoria’s Secret shifting dramatically away from the brand identity that made it famous?

Declining Sales

Founded in 1997 by husband-and-wife team Roy and Gaye Raymond. Sales have been on the decline ever since long-time CEO Sharen Jester Turney left her position in 2016. She became the company’s president and CEO of Victoria’s Secret in 2006. Since then, the company’s overall sales revenue has gone from $4.5 billion to more than $7.7 billion.

Victoria’s Secret has been owned by Leslie H. Wexner’s company, L Brands, since the 1980s. After that, he appointed a CEO for each of the three divisions he created: Secret Victoria’s Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty, and Pink. The corporation also performed some other bold things in 2016, like doing rid of its popular catalog.

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Transgender Comments

The brand was criticized for being a bit behind the times as models of varying body types became more sought after. Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek didn’t do much to change this when he gave an interview with Vogue.

He complained to a magazine in November 2018 that transgender and plus-size models were absent from the brand’s annual runway display. No. That’s not something I support, sorry. Sure, why not? That’s why: it’s completely fabricated. This is a 42-minute-long entertainment program.

The answer to the question of whether or not “we’ve considered putting a transgender model or a plus-size model on the show” is “absolutely,” he responded. We created the plus-size model presentation for our sibling brand, Lane Bryant.

As with every other specialized clothes retailer on the planet, Lane Bryant still offers a limited selection of plus-size lingerie. Similarly, we do as well. To avoid wasting time and resources, we limit our advertising to buyers in our target demographic. Once upon a time, back in the year 2000, we attempted to create a television program aimed at larger individuals. In other words, nobody gave a hoot then and nobody gives a hoot now.

After receiving a barrage of criticism, Razek issued an apology on Victoria’s Secret’s official Twitter account, writing, “My comment about transgender models being in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was thought to be harsh. Sorry about that. A transgender model, to be clear, would be a fantastic addition to the event.

“There have been transgender models at castings,” he continued. Like many others before them, they perished. Still, that has nothing to do with gender. Having the courage to be themselves is an admirable and inspiring feat. However, Razek’s remarks were heavily ridiculed once they were released only days before the annual VS fashion show, doing more harm than good.

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Dip in Ratings

Only 3.3 million people watched the show, the lowest number ever. A record low of 5 million viewers set the previous year was smashed by this huge decrease. Razek plans to resign from his position in August 2019.

The 2018 event’s headliner, Halsey, criticized it on her Instagram account. After filming the special performance, she received feedback that she felt compelled to address in her writing.

I absolutely despise it when my LGBTQ+ friends and allies are treated as outcasts. No less so if it relies on preconceived notions. Please know that you have the support of many people if being trans has made you feel isolated or irrelevant. We are together and strong. Moreover, the only “dream” I subscribe to is complete and unconditional acceptance. In August 2019, Valentina Sampaio made history by being the first transgender model for Victoria’s Secret. That was the beginning of the modern era.

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Sexual Assault Allegations

The same month, however, over a hundred models signed an open petition to CEO John Mehas, which once again put the organization in the news for all the wrong reasons. The Model Alliance petitioned the corporation to prevent sexual harassment and assault against its models, citing the company’s “culture of misogyny and abuse.” Upon Mehas’s departure in November 2020, Martin Waters was appointed as his replacement.

It was written “to show our concern for the safety and well-being of Victoria’s Secret models and young women who desire to be models,” among other things. The allegations of sexual assault, rape, and sale of sex against models and those aspiring to be models have been widespread in recent weeks. Although Victoria’s Secret was not the target of these specific allegations, it is evident that your firm plays a significant role in resolving this issue.

Connection to Jeffrey Epstein

The petition also made reference to purported ties to notorious financier Jeffrey Epstein, who posed as a VS model scout on many occasions to lure women to his hotel room and attack them, as reported by The New York Times in July 2019. After being arrested in August 2019 for the sex trafficking of kids, Epstein was found guilty and ultimately died in prison. Moreover, his association with Wexner was public knowledge.

A spokesperson for L Brands told The New York Times at the time, “Mr. Epstein was Mr. Wexner’s personal money manager for almost 12 years, but we don’t think he ever worked for the company or was an authorized agent.”

The representative added that L Brands had recruited attorneys to “seriously look into” the connection between the two. During what is called “internal interactions” within the corporation, Wexner is reported to have indicated that he was unaware of any “criminal behavior” on Epstein’s behalf.

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Claims of Bullying

The New York Times published an article in February 2020 alleging that Razek had fostered a hostile work environment for female employees through acts of sexual harassment, bullying, and sexism. Defending himself against the story’s claims, Razek wrote to the newspaper, “The accusations in this article are totally incorrect, misconstrued, or taken out of context.” I’m happy of the mutual respect that exists among the world-class models and skilled professionals with whom I’ve worked.

Executive of Victoria’s Secret and parent company L Brand, Razek recently resigned. According to a May 2021 CNN Business article, Victoria’s Secret had intended to permanently shutter 250 of its locations across the United States and Canada.

The days of exclusively using supermodels as business spokespeople are passed, and the corporation has since embraced a more diverse group of people to represent its products. There’s no telling how this will impact sales just now.

“With The VS Collective, we’re establishing a platform that will let us engage with all women in new and deeper ways,” said Martha Pease, the company’s chief marketing officer. We’re expanding the scope of the brand experience through a variety of partnerships, both commercial and charitable.

We can transform our capacity to engage with and support women by pooling the talents, perspectives, and resources of our new partners with our own. Also, Victoria’s Secret has established the Global Fund for Women’s Cancer, which will donate “at least $5 million a year to study and correct racial and gender inequities and create new approaches to aid all women with cancer.”

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