Victoria’s Biggest Secret? Deciding Whether To Do A Fashion Show In The Shadow Of Sexual Abuse
Ratings have plummeted. Marketing chief Ed Razek drew outcry last year when he said that fat and transgender people have no place on a fashion runway.
And the news that L Brands Corp. CEO Les Wexner has counted child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein as a close business associate (https://forward.com/fast-forward/427201/jeffrey-epstein-leslie-wexner-sex-trafficking-sexual-assault/) might just be its end – the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, model Shanina Shaik told press (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/victorias-secret-show-cancelled_n_5d4197c1e4b0db8affb171c3), is canceled. Or is it #Canceled?
Lingerie company Victoria’s Secret show has enjoyed decades of dictating the definition of beauty. According to the company, a subsidiary of Wexner’s L Brands, beauty mostly means thin white women with outsized breasts, glowing complexions, and skin that has been dyed darker. The cornerstone to the company’s strategy is its annual fashion show, stocked with super famous models and serenaded by rockstars.
Now, it might be crumbling.
“Unfortunately the Victoria’s Secret show won’t be happening this year,” Shaik told (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/victorias-secret-show-cancelled_n_5d4197c1e4b0db8affb171c3) The Daily Telegraph of the 20-year fashion tradition. “It’s something I’m not used to because every year around this time I’m training like an Angel.” The company hasn’t respond to requests for comment.
Shaik’s apparent outburst comes after a memo written by Wexner himself and obtained by CNBC (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/10/victorias-secret-rethinking-annual-fashion-show.html) in May, announcing that the show would move off network television, with the company planning to “evolve and change.” If Shaik’s claim is true, it’s not clear whether the total cancelation of the show was predetermined, or reflects attempts to divert attention from Wexner as the full story of Epstein’s crimes continues to unfold.
Wexner and Epsteins’ history in business and personal affairs goes back years, though the total scope is unknown; the New York Times reports (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/business/jeffrey-epstein-wexner-victorias-secret.html) that on several occasions Epstein posed as a talent scout for Victoria’s Secret to recruit women. Wexner and other higher-ups at the company were aware of the situation. Additionally Razek, who invited fans’ excoriations of the company when he dismissed fat and transgender women last year, has close ties (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-29/victoria-s-secret-has-more-than-a-jeffrey-epstein-problem) to Epstein.
But criticism of Victoria’s Secret, which was developed with the goal (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-29/victoria-s-secret-has-more-than-a-jeffrey-epstein-problem) of creating a lingerie store in which men would be comfortable shopping for clothing to dress their partners, has been losing cultural and financial cache for years. Many critics argue that mass store closures (https://www.forbes.com/sites/andriacheng/2019/02/28/theres-no-sign-of-reprieve-for-victorias-secret-yet/#79792be63775) indicate the brand can’t keep up with the #MeToo movement – though companies like Sephora, which attempt to sell women beauty for wads of cash (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/11/fashion/sephora-beauty-retail-technology.html), are thriving. Superficiality is always in vogue; men are just being scraped, partially, out of the equation.
Likely, there will be no Victoria’s Secret fashion show this year. If that happens it won’t be clear whether the change is because the owners associated with a sex criminal, because a male-focused lingerie store is an outdated model, or simply because women have wised up to the fact that better-made, just-as-cute underwear can be purchased elsewhere for less. Victoria’s secret will be much more interesting than garters and lace, but we may never learn from it.
Jenny Singer is the deputy life andfeatures editor for the Forward. You can reach her on Twitter @jeanvaljenny
Forward, August 2, 2019
100 Models Blast Victoria’s Secret For Role In Jeffrey Epstein Abuse
“It is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationship with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”
That’s the message from over one hundred models in a public letter released on Tuesday, addressed to John Mehas, CEO of popular lingerie company Victoria’s Secret.
The once-omnipresent underwear company, which has lately been closing stores, is under fire because of its association with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender who was recently charged with sex trafficking women and children. The Times reported last month that Epstein, who was a close advisor for L Brands CEO and Jewish philanthropist Les Wexner, posed as a talent scout for Victoria’s Secret, a subsidiary of L Brands, to recruit women for trafficking. The Times reports that Wexner was aware of this.
In a public letter released by the group Model Alliance, women who have modeled for the company and many who haven’t wrote “to express our concern for the safety and wellbeing of the models and young women who aspire to model for Victoria’s Secret.” They went on, “From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deploy disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationship with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”
The letter asked Victoria’s Secret to commit to “Respect,” a program run through Models Alliance that offers anti-sexual harassment training and asks groups to hold their employees accountable to an anti-harassment based code of conduct. “We are calling on Victoria’s Secret to take meaningful acton to protect its talent and those who aspire to work with the company,” the letter concluded.
Some notable women who signed the letter include: Christy Turlington Burns, Cindy Leive, Alex Waterbury, Caitriona Balfe, Doutzen Kroes, Gemma Ward, and Milla Jovovich. The letter was also signed by the Time’s Up organization and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Jenny Singer is the deputy life and features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenn
TIME’S UP @TIMESUPNOW
.@VictoriasSecret: It’s #Time4RESPECT.
#TIMESUP is proud to co-sign a letter with @ModelAllianceNY demanding that Victoria’s Secret take action to protect their models from sexual harassment at work.
Learn more here: http://programforrespect.org/open-letter-to-vs
Model Alliance – Letter to John Mehas, CEO Victoria’s Secret
— TIME’S UP (@TIMESUPNOW) August 6, 2019
Twitter, 6 aug. 2019 · 5:20 p.m.
Forward, August 6, 2019