Victoria’s Secret: A Toxic Fantasy

What do you think of when you hear about Victoria’s Secret brand? I think of push-up bras and thongs. That’s what I would spend my money on in middle school and early high school. Little did I know then I was buying into the falsehoods and lies behind Victoria’s Secret.  

It was an extremely popular brand when it first opened years ago. Lingerie wasn’t a common retail business when Victoria’s Secret launched. Fashion shows at the time never showcased underwear and bras, it was something new and different. Les Wexner and Ed Razek were two powerful white men who turned this brand into a fantasy, but fantasy refers to things that are impossible or improbable.

Victoria’s Secret started its brand by creating this allure of an ideal woman. A one size fits all picture of a woman’s boy type as thin and “perfect”. The creators only cared about creating a body that they thought the public fantasized about, a body they thought women wanted to be and men thought they should have. Not once did they attempt for body diversity, nor did it seem they wanted to. In every advertisement, campaign, picture, video, or fashion show, all the models had a similar skinny, hard-to-achieve body type. 

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Victoria’s Secret reached the pre-tween market by combining with the brand Pink. Young girls only saw an unrealistic and unachievable body because not every young woman looks the same. This affected so many girls, including myself. Everyone was buying Victoria’s Secret or Pink when I was in middle school. It was advertised as a way to look great at an age when your body is changing.

When I would walk into the small pink and flashy Victoria’s Secret store in my hometown’s mall, I would buy the biggest push-up bras and the skinniest thongs to try and fit that fantasy of a “sexy woman.” I didn’t realize it then when buying the lingerie, but I was hurting my self-esteem. I bought these lingerie items because I wanted to look like that girl on the wall next to all these items, which was unrealistic. I was buying into the fantasy that when I buy this lingerie I will feel like the models they advertise. 

I shopped at Victoria’s Secret because all of my friends did too. The images I saw every time I went to the mall reinforced in my young mind that this was the body I was striving for, at all costs. I never looked like any of the models, but that’s what I was taught shopping there, that was the ideal woman. It made me feel like I wasn’t good enough if I didn’t look like the models. None of which creates a healthy mindset. 

There is a new documentary on Hulu that shows the toxic culture of Victoria’s Secret; I recommend everyone watch it. 

It exposes the behind-the-scenes of Victoria’s Secret, former models talk about their unhealthy habits, and it shows the owners and others involved in creating this toxic view of a “perfect” body. During the documentary, one of the models, Tyra Banks, wanted to be a part of Victoria’s Secret because it was that much of an influence on the public. But what the public didn’t know is that the models were being abused. The models were told to lose weight and keep on strict diets. Tyra Banks stated in the documentary:

“I was even told when I was 123 pounds to lose 10 pounds”

Hulu Documentary, Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons

The body image was affecting so many teenage girls because of this fantasy of the ideal woman they were advertising. There will never be an ideal or fantasy woman that everyone can achieve. Nobody should even try to achieve that. It’s time to stand up to brands like these tearing women down and body shaming. Celebrities, brands, and people need to stop following similar ideas from Victoria’s Secret and start supporting each other’s body positivity. 

Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty

Fashion shows are starting to take note. Rhianna had a Savage x Fenty show where models were diverse in body types and race. This is a positive step forward for inclusion and diversity in the fashion industry. Hopefully, more brands and influencers will take notice of the toxic culture and take action for the change. 

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