Victoria's Secret Doesn't Deserve a Reboot

victorias secret controversy
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In case you missed it, Victoria’s Secret recently discovered feminism, and they’re here to tell (read: sell) you all about it.

Now, almost one year out from the failing brand’s attempt to reinvent itself by becoming “what women want,” it’s hard to believe that any self-respecting woman would willingly step foot into a Victoria’s Secret store. And it’s highly doubtful that a transparent, desperate attempt to win them back will ever work. Why? Let’s take a trip back in time.

How Victoria’s Secret Got Its Start

For starters, the founder of the brand created the lingerie brand for men. Yes, arguably the most infamous lingerie brand in the world was, like many things, built around catering to men’s needs. After all, men felt awkward buying the women in their lives underwear and someone had to help them. From there, the rest — more aptly described as damage — is history.

Thanks to Victoria’s Secret, becoming the ultimate “fantasy” became tangible for women (*if they could make their bodies look like the Victoria’s Secret Angels plastered in massive frames across every store staring back at them).


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Be a “bombshell,” they said. Add two cup sizes with the right push-up bra and you might make it happen. Comfort? The execs at Victoria’s Secret had never heard of it. Why choose comfort when you could choose sexy? —as defined by the male gaze only.

Then came the highly anticipated catalogs. The billboard ads. The annual runway show, which peaked at over 10M viewers and sent hordes of teen girls and women to the gym the following day to try and match the unachievable fitness of the Angels.


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Later came PINK — the brand’s effective attempt to attract teen girls because what could be better for teen girls than a brand reinforcing a toxic, unhealthy beauty standard?

From the 90s to the end of the early 00s, Victoria’s Secret reigned supreme by reinforcing the messages that beauty was exclusive (to preferably white, tall, unbelievably thin, blonde models), that female sexuality is not defined by what women want but by what men want, and that there is only one “right” body type for women.

The Real Tea Behind Victoria’s Secret

But, it turns out, even the models weren’t up to “Angel” standards.

One of the most famous Angels ever, Adriana Lima, once revealed that, to meet the standards expected for the runway show, she adopted a strict, no carbs or fat diet six weeks prior to the show. Then, nine days out, it’s down to a “no solids” diet. 12 hours before the show? Any and all liquids get cut. She told the Telegraph back in 2011,

“No liquids at all so you dry out, sometimes you can lose up to eight pounds just from that.”

And this is a brand that is tailored to teen girls and has the very same unattainably thin models walking the runway in more youthful and innocent PINK styles.


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Then, Ed Razek, a then executive at Victoria’s Secret’s parent company L Brands, gave his now-notorious interview in which he scoffed at the idea of diversity. He told Vogue,

“Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special.”

Because, according to Razek, a size 16 woman, a trans woman, or a 40-year-old woman could never be a part of anyone’s fantasy.

Three years later, it was revealed that Razek was the subject of multiple inappropriate conduct complaints, ranging from trying to kiss models, get them to sit on his lap, or groping them ahead of runway shows.

On top of that, in news that should’ve surprised no one, Victoria’s Secret’s corporate culture was outed as extremely misogynistic in 2021. The “Angels” starved themselves. The employees suffered abuse and harassment. And leadership not only failed to adopt more diverse models to be more representative of women today but they laughed at mere thought of it.

Victoria’s Secret Attempts a Rebranding

What’s old is made new again. We see it with TV reboots and brands tapping into the nostalgia of yesteryear. But sometimes, things should be left in the past.

Victoria’s Secret’s rebrand feels deeply hypocritical at best and gaslighting my entire adolescence at worst.

The brand has replaced the “Angels” with a new diverse lineup of women called the “Collective,” who are best known for their achievements, not their bodies. Essentially Victoria’s Secret is using a group of diverse, female celebrities and activists’ images to try and cover up the lack of diversity the company built its multi-million-dollar brand around.

The entire initiative reads as a pathetic, disingenuous attempt at pretending to value and empower women. And considering the brand also brought back model Bella Hadid and added Hailey Bieber to its roster, it’s clear that, while they may have ditched the term “Angels”, super skinny and white still reign supreme when it comes to how they define beauty. And the new lineup still lacks real plus-size representation aside from the perfect curvy hourglass figure of a size 14 model.

After years of their competitors capitalizing on underwear and lingerie trends that Victoria’s Secret refused to acknowledge, the once rigid brand is now embracing consumer favorites like bralettes rather than trying to force push-ups on AA cups like the old days.

In June 2021, Martin Waters, the brand’s current chief executive, told the New York Times,

“When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond. We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”

Victoria’s Secret execs were likely shocked to discover that comfort and support remain the top concerns for U.S. women when choosing a bra, not sexiness, according to a 2019 report from The NPD Group.

Additionally, it seems Victoria’s Secret has suddenly realized that motherhood can also be a part of a woman’s life, and she might — you know — need specific underwear and bras for that time period. And Victoria’s Secret expanded their sizing, to an extent, and eased up on the retouching.

Why Victoria’s Secret Doesn’t Deserve a Reboot

So, isn’t a once-influential brand embracing more diversity and body positivity a good thing? That question misses the point. Instead, it should be whether Victoria’s Secret deserves that opportunity. They had years and years to be a game-changer, to lead the way, but they fiercely opposed the idea.

American Eagle launched the first Aerie Real campaign back in 2014 with curvy model Iskra Lawrence. Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty exploded on the scene in 2018 with the most diverse catwalks ever seen. What Victoria’s Secret lacked (and claimed no one wanted anyway), new better brands stepped in to fill.

So yes, Victoria’s Secret is trying to make up for the intense damage it caused for several decades by perpetuating ideas about how women should view their sexuality, bodies, and worth.

But if you ask any woman who came up during Victoria’s Secret’s peak era, it’s far too little, too late. This transparent attempt at female empowerment stands up about as well as one of their cheap thongs. We deserved better back then, but let’s hope we’re smarter this time around.

Shannon Vize
Shannon Vize is a freelance writer and content strategist living in Brooklyn, NY. Her writing has been published by Elite Daily, Taylor Magazine, CIO, and Forbes. When she’s not hate-binging the latest episode of The Bachelor franchise, she’s busy trying to dismantle the patriarchy by dissecting the latest anti-feminist theme in pop culture to anyone who will listen.