It’s no secret that the Victoria’s Secret had a rough couple of years behind them. And there are no signs that the situation is any getting better. Their sales have dropped, their stores closed, the key people are leaving, there was a lot of controversy surrounding lack of diversity… Even former VS model Karlie Kloss recently said that she had quit doing the show because she didn’t feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who she was, and the kind of message she wants to send to young woman around the world about what it means to be beautiful.
A week of news
But, the last week was particularly eventful. First, the VS model Shanina Shaik said that the show won’t be happening this year. Then, it was announced that the brand hired a first transgender model Valentina Sampaio for the PINK line campaign. A day after that, the company’s top marketing chief Ed Razek resigned.
Razek resigning after the company hired a transgender model has perfect sense. We all remember his Vogue interview where he stated that he does not consider including transgender people in the show “because the show is a fantasy”. In this case, VS couldn’t have it both ways anymore.
The question is will this move have any effect with the customers. With the harsh competition such as Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty or ThirdLove who accept and promote diversity, one can’t help but wonder: “Is Victoria’s Secret too late?”
In January we published online media analysis after the Razek’s comments sparked outrage. Seven months later, after the company hired the first transgender model, we’re checking the pulse of the online community again.
Let’s start with the trailblazing rising star Valentina Sampaio. Since her Instagram post in which she announced that she’s shooting a campaign for VS PINK, the number of online mentions of her soared. There was a rise of 75775% in mentions, and the number of total impressions reached over 5,5 million. People were talking about her all over the Internet. Twitter with 45% was the most-used channel for discussing the new VS model. Twitter is followed by web with 34% since media outlets around the world covered the story.
We’re often hearing about Twitter being a platform where a lot of negativity is spread but in case of Sampaio, the sentiment of the mentions is 76% positive.
valentina sampaio to be the first trans model working for vs is such a big deal, it was about time pic.twitter.com/OUAZpQXfv9
— RINA. (@LAVIDAPRADA) August 4, 2019
Victoria's Secret has hired its first Transgender model! i could literally cry out of happiest. i’ve said from the beginning the point of my video was never to be cast as a model. i just wanted to prove that Trans woman can sell the fantasy! to see change like this is amazing! 👼🏻 pic.twitter.com/M2P4mHrIla
— Nikita Dragun (@NikitaDragun) August 4, 2019
WOW! DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING
After not being casted for 2018's VSFS, Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio is now the first transgender model in history to work for Victoria's Secret. pic.twitter.com/eGIJbzgB4z
— MODELS (@ModelsFacts) August 5, 2019
As a trans woman who grew up silently, desperately wishing she could be like the models in the VS catalog, I can’t tell you what this means to me. It doesn’t absolve the label of its problems, but I’m so happy for Valentina and every woman she inspires!https://t.co/RlkLRjzQU0
— Vanillannie, Rising Goddess (@DVanillannie) August 3, 2019
Praises for Sampaio, but for VS not so much
While scrolling through the tweets it’s hard not to notice that a lot of people are praising Sampaio, but at the same time dissing VS wondering why the brand has had a sudden change of heart. Some argued that Razek’s comments don’t necessarily represent the brand’s values, but his own. Then again, if we take into account that he was the mastermind behind the show and sat in VS castings each year, it’s a stretch saying that his views are not the company’s views. Others are saying it’s all about the money criticizing Victoria’s Secret for doing this as a desperate move.
Since working for Victoria’s Secret was always every models’ dream and getting the job meant that you’ve made it, many are wondering is that still the case. Furthermore, some are actually joking that Sampaio should be saved from the VS contract.
Hiring transgender models have been increasing in the last couple of years. 2018 was the year with the highest number of transgender models walking the runways and that continued in 2019. This is especially important since the transgender rights have been under attack in recent years. The situation in the fashion industry is still far from perfect, but the progress is visible and deserves acknowledgment. And this can be said about diversity in fashion in general. More and more we’re starting to see models with different body types and race. Fashion is becoming more inclusive and everyone can see themselves represented on the runway, magazine covers or fashion campaigns. It’s not only reserved for skinny, blonde types with perfect skin anymore.
What does the future hold?
The online reactions show that there’s a lot of work ahead for the Victoria’s Secret. Hiring one transgender model will not erase the fact that for over a decade they’ve been ignoring calls for more diverse body types and inclusion of transgender models. VS promoted one unrealistic body type, “a fantasy” as Razek would say, that did not represent everyday women around the world. Hiring Barbara Palvin as a “curvy” model was just another sign that the key people in VS just don’t have a clue what body diversification means. While VS ignored calls for more body diversity and hiring transgender models, on one hand, they did kinda well with racial diversity. Since the beginning of the show in 1995, they’ve been hiring models of different races. The 2017 show had the largest number of models of color. But even when the brand does something good, they shot themselves in the foot eventually. Hiring Alexina Graham as a first redhead walking in Victoria’s Secret fashion show and presenting it as “diversity” would be funny if it weren’t sad.
Now, with the rumored cancellation of the annual fashion show, a huge event that was watched by so many people for over a decade, the brand will have to come up with something new to reactivate the love it received before. The survival of Victoria’s Secret is still unknown and it’s going to be an interesting thing to follow. It’s still not clear how’s going to replace Razek, but one thing is sure – it has to be someone who’ll be able to lead the brand in the new and inclusive direction.
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