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Victoria’s Secret and Selling “Empowerment”

By Rachel Zimny

Victoria’s Secret, a brand known for their highly publicized Angel fashion shows and teeny tiny lingerie, has finally entered this decade by presenting a more diverse selection of models. Diverse, of course, is a stretch considering the biggest model they’ve brought on is only a size 14, which is still below the average size in the US as of 2021. They have hired at least two dark skinned, black models though, which is a definite marked improvement from the white, pale waifs of the 2000s. They have also made a point to have a wide age range between them, the youngest being 17 and the oldest 38 years old. Considering most models age out of the industry by their mid twenties, that’s something, I suppose.

The CEO himself acknowledged that the brand has been “slow to respond” to what he refers to as “the world changing.” He further tries to male-feminist the brand’s failure by saying that they used to focus solely on what men wanted, so now they’re about what women want. Whatever that means.

While it is true that this is an improvement from the classic Victoria’s Secret skinny, young, white model of yesteryear, I can’t help but roll my eyes.

With the rise of the body positivity movement, more and more brands in recent years have pulled this exact move: rebranding as empowerment. American Eagle’s Aerie did it almost 10 years ago already, with many other brands following in their footsteps. Every time, without fail, these supposed “empowerment” brands lack adequate body diversity or racial representation, and they certainly still don’t represent the everyday person.

And that’s what’s so repulsive about every brand that pulls this type of publicity stunt, because that’s exactly what it is. These titans of industry have figured out that women are tired of feeling like shit about themselves and they have learned to capitalize on it.

Instead of unlearning internalized self hatred and accepting your body, they want to sell it to you. They want you to purchase self actualization in a pretty pink bag.

They want to do this while still encouraging fat people they don’t consider “fuckable “to hate their bodies. These big name brands never include women above a size 20, or women whose fat is proportioned away from their tits and asses. God forbid you have an apron stomach or a double chin. If your fat body isn’t palatable to them, you are not part of their “real woman” demographic. There is nothing for you; not a sexy lingerie set or a crumb of representation.

Additionally, with this new line up of women, they are mostly widely known celebrities. They are all eurocentrically beautiful, with “desirable” features. Maybe it’s a step forward, but it’s still a capitalism-chewed and spit out version of fat liberation. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a billion dollar enterprise.


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