Turn to Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for Simultaneous Depression and “Empowerment”

Today we have a guest post from Kelsey, who watched the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and had lots to say about it as a result. When you’re done reading, you should also go sign up for the giveaway that we’re running with Knickerocker!

In case you live under a rock, I should inform you that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show invaded CBS network Tuesday night.  When it comes to the company, I’ll admit that I’m completely torn.  I love the style of all of their products, I’m a sucker for lace, bows, things that sparkle, and basically anything that screams, “Look at me!”  So, Victoria’s Secret sucked me in that way.  Unfortunately the fit of their bras is atrocious, and the “expertise” of their employees is even worse.  That being said, I continue my unhealthy relationship with the company because their branding simply won’t let me move on. And the annual fashion show is the perfect example why.

For those of you who don’t know, the fashion show started out many years ago as a way to show off the way the company has transformed underwear into, basically, works of art.  Over the years, I’ve seen it develop into more of a spectacle, with performances from chart-topping artists, the angel wings growing bigger and bigger (while the models seem to shrink), and different themes developing for each part of the show–this year they included: Circus, Calendar Girls, Silverscreen Angels, and In Full Bloom.  Regardless of your views on the company, its hard to deny that it’s one of the sexiest forms of entertainment.

The Daily Beast

However, there was one component they added this year that really just irked me.  The behind the scenes footage and commentary had the models explaining their favorite parts of being a coveted Angel. Traveling, shooting with famous photographers, and the holiday commercials were amongst the frequented responses, followed by one model’s statement that she loved being part of something that was so “empowering to women.”


I love the garments and I think the models are gorgeous, albeit a little too thin, but who are they kidding here?  Myself and about 60% of the girls on my campus tweeting about “time to stop eating,” or “let me just grow two feet and lose 45 pounds,”  followed by the hashtag, #VSFS2012, would argue that the last thing Victoria’s Secret does is empower women.  After that commentary was aired, I noticed the Victoria’s Secret Twitter and Instagram accounts coincidentally started making a couple posts about either the new workout videos that are integrated into the sport clothing line, and pictures of the supermodels working with a chef to prepare healthy meals.  This all gave the immediate illusion that the models maintain healthy lifestyles and that towering at 5’11” and 120 pounds is all part of being a “normal woman.”

The Daily Beast

To be clear, I have nothing against the models themselves, but at least own up to how you got to where you are.  The reality is that being a model means maintaining your body and your image is your full-time job.  An unrealistic possibility for pretty much every other woman on the planet.  Then, they replay video footage and images with the Angels strutting around in lacy thongs and claiming these models don’t need a man to feel beautiful.  They can feel confident, sexy, and beautiful all on their own as long as they have their Victoria’s Secret lingerie sets on. Right. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re all tall, thin, bronzed, waxed, toned, and buffed to perfection.  But if they want to call that “women’s empowerment,” then so be it.

I guess I’m just wondering who they’re thinking they’re able to fool with this new marketing initiative.  Like, which one of their employees spoke up at a brainstorming session and said, “Hey, after the incredibly select group of Angels are done prancing around in their underwear without a jiggle in sight, let’s have one of the models say that it’s about women’s empowerment.  Yea, I think that’s a home-run idea.”

The Daily Beast

To me, Victoria’s Secret has always been more about the sex appeal than the function.  Which is fine, it works for them, and occasionally I buy into it because bows make me feel pretty.  BUT, don’t you dare take over social media for a night and shove your perfect bodies in my face as I switch to eating a bag of celery for dinner, and tell me you’re empowering me.  Just be upfront about what the brand is about, and don’t try to tell me it’s normal or in anyway healthy for women to look up to.

The Daily Beast

That being said, I’ll sign off with with this lovely excerpt quoted in a Daily Beast article from one of the most notable Angels, Candice Swanepoel.

Must be nice….Not that I’m bitter or anything.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Do you agree/disagree/even care?


  • Reply June December 10, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    Yep, agreed. I can’t comprehend what they’re getting at with the female empowerment angle? I have no problem with the Angels themselves or their body type (certainly their are some women who are naturally tall & thin). But I don’t feel any female empowerment seeing them strutting around in their ill-fitting outfits. Brands like Curvy Kate or Ewa Michalak or even Duloren (here in Brazil despite how ill-fitting their bras are) do the job by showing a diverse grow of models with a variety of body shapes and skin tones (although I’d love to see some more mature models added in there too!). They also don’t depend on sex to sell their items (and Curvy Kate actually goes for a much more wholesome look when it comes to lingerie).

    If I want to become inspired in terms of health I’d much rather turn to some of the former contestants from the Biggest Loser. Courtney Crozier is a great example of someone who radically changed her life and lost a ton of weight. However, if you follow her on facebook she always emphasizes that BMI is not the be all end all and it’s better to focus on healthy eating and exercise. She discusses her struggles and her positives. Now THAT inspires. Not hearing how a model preps for a fashion show when she’s naturally thin (I’m saying this as someone who has struggled with her weight so I just can’t even remotely relate).

  • Reply Quinne December 10, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Sometimes I feel like Victoria’s Secret’s image is only sexy because they tell us how sexy it is; to me, it feels completely devoid of any actual human sexuality.

    I can definitely see how walking the show would be empowering for the models–but for anyone else? A prime-time broadcasting of women who fit into one standard of beauty, and whose two purposes of the night are being sex objects and selling poorly-made lingerie? I can’t see how any woman would feel confident OR sexy after watching that.

  • Reply Madeline December 17, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    I see nothing remotely empowering about women everywhere suddenly feeling the need to diet, especially as the majority of women will never look anything like those models no matter how hard they try – and there is nothing wrong with that. While you ca diet it’s difficult to grow two feet. I think it’s important to critically comment on things like this in our society so thanks for your commentary! Body image is such an enormous issue for women at the moment (probably always) and the harmful impact of images like these is pretty well documented. The life of a model doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me 🙂

  • Reply Rachael @ Style Every Day December 18, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    I’m with you on so many levels! While I find the VS brand and fashion show to be anything but empowering for women, I also buy their stuff because they do lace and bows and sex so well! What else can a girl ask for in her undergarments (well, I guess fit and comfort! 🙂 ).

    However, the idea of them ‘eating’ lean proteins and working out as a regular woman is ridiculous. You reminded me of a story from 2011 where Audrina Lima talked about her pre-show diet and workout routine (http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG8872623/Victorias-Secret-show-What-does-it-take-to-be-a-Victorias-Secret-Angel.html).

    Here are a few notable comments: Lima, 30, has been working out every day with a personal trainer since August. For the last three weeks, she’s been working out twice a day.She sees a nutritionist, who has measured her body’s muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima’s energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes – “no solids”. The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and “just drink normally”. Then, 12 hours before the show, she will stop drinking entirely.”

    Healthy? Absolutely not.

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