Dear Victoria’s Secret,
Hope all is well. Business is booming, I hear. You’re likely very busy at the moment, but allow me to take a moment of your time. All I want is to make you aware of one thing: It is 2016.
Adriana Lima is still bad (in the good way). Popular Twitter accounts still post photos of your products captioned “goals”. The woman with the unidentifiable accent still narrates your commercials. And you’re still making billions off of your own discrimination.
Wake up, Victoria’s Secret.
This is not a rant in opposition of skinny women. This is not a condemnation of white girls. No, this is me begging you to not only recognize the diversity of your audience, but to fully embrace it for the first time in your history.
I’m not sure what I can contribute to the body diversity conversation that has not already been said. I’ll just tell you not to forget that you’re one of the only popular lingerie companies that has yet to introduce a plus-sized line, or even bras with a cup size larger than a triple D. Meanwhile, according to Business Insider, the plus-size industry is worth $20.4 billion. Sure, you’d have to make some changes to your patterns to accommodate this market. What a burden such innovation would be! I don’t care what excuses you give, your fashion show is yet another reminder that you are nixing an entire consumer demographic in the name of a tired ideal.
One more note about body image: despite what your fashion show’s behind-the-scenes coverage claims, working out is not going to make me look like an “angel”. It will make me feel great (read: endorphins), but it will not make me any less of a 5’3 teenager with a pear-shaped build. Stop trying to make me think that my body is incorrect for functioning in the only way it knows how.
Each year, your show includes an alarmingly small selection of women of color. To make matters worse, the few who are cast appear to be chosen based on their Eurocentric features. Of course, there is nothing inherently harmful about almond-shaped eyes or button noses. What is harmful, however, is convincing a generation of girls that they are the “wrong” type of Black by only featuring models whose chocolate complexions are offset by their textbook white attributes. Of the eight Black women in your show this year (and the 51 total models), only three wore their hair naturally. Don’t get me wrong, this number is groundbreaking. You are improving, and for that I thank you. Yet you’d have to have your lace-lined panties in a twist to believe that there isn’t a world full of issues left for you to address.
Don’t get me started on your buddy-buddy union with appropriation. A Chinese dragon wrapped around a Swedish woman’s body? A consumer-friendly robe with traditional kimono sleeves? I’m not one to make mountains out of molehills, but there is something to be said for a corporation (i.e., you) who capitalizes on the blending of culturally significant symbols and commercialized lingerie year after year. You seem to be the only one in this room who does not see the elephant. You do not acknowledge how blatantly wrong this practice is, and you’re the most powerful one here.
You are forging obvious discrimination and masking it with sparkly wings and enthusiasm. This generation of young women may wear your products with pride, but not everyone is fooled.
You do not represent the millions of girls who crowd around their televisions to watch your fashion show. While they live-tweet about Bella Hadid’s “perfect boobs,” you are here to remind them that no other variation is worthy of your catwalk. I’m writing this from the back row of an official Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show viewing party. There is more diversity — of race, body type and background — in this one room than there’s ever been in your self-proclaimed “sexiest night on television”.
I still love lingerie. I admire Victoria’s Secret Angels like Jasmine Tookes, who use their platforms to emphasize the significance of self-care. It’s you, Victoria’s Secret, who angers me. Your yearly fashion show has nothing to do with the outfits presented. Rather, it presents a full package, a signed, sealed and delivered paradigm to which every viewer should aspire. Let’s cut to the chase: you have, quite literally, all of the potential in the world. The global lingerie market is practically yours. I cannot say whether you will use that power for good or for evil, but I do know that you are capable of both. All I can do is wait, open-eyed, for your next spectacle.
Tess Garcia (the one who always lies to your employees about whether her cup size has been measured recently)