The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has long been criticized for upholding a singular standard of beauty because of the models they choose to walk their highly esteemed runway. Their chief marketing officer, Ed Nazek, stoked the fires of that criticism when he spoke to Vogue about why they don’t cast transgender or plus-sized models for the show.
“It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should,” he said at one point in the interview.
“Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special.”
Victoria’s Secret faced a lot of backlash for Nazek’s comments, so much so that the company posted an apology from him on Twitter.
“To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model in our show,” the apology read.
“We’ve had transgender models come to castings… And like many others, they didn’t make it. But it was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.”
During the interview, Nazek also made comments about why the company doesn’t cast plus-sized models in their show. He claimed that they “invented” the plus-sized fashion show with their former subsidiary company Lane Bryant. But he added they tried to create a Victoria’s Secret plus-sized fashion show in the year 2000 and that “no one had any interest in it.”
Nazek did not reference the comments about plus-sized models in his apology.
There are a couple of high profile transgender models who have made unsuccessful campaigns to walk Victoria’s Secret runway.
A couple of years ago, former RuPaul’s drag race competitor Carmen Carrera made a bid to become the first transgender Victoria’s Secret angel but she didn’t make the cut.
Carrera got lots of fan support though. As TIME reported back in 2014, almost 50,000 people signed their names to a petition requesting that Victoria’s Secret include her on their runway. So, there was clearly an interest which could have translated into viewers for the VS Fashion Show that year.
This year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion show was recently held in New York City. It featured well known high fashion models like Bella and Gigi Hadid, and Kendall Jenner. But this year also saw a crop of rookie models. Winnie Harlow, a model with the skin condition vitiligo was one of them. After the show, Harlow shared how monumental the opportunity was for her.
“I’d say a dream come true, but I can’t because this is bigger than a dream! This is a movement,” she wrote on Instagram under a photo of herself in glittery, feathered lingerie. “Another step for representation.”
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Wow.. did this really happen? Is this real? ???????? Thank you @VictoriasSecret for allowing me to be apart of your family! This was surreal! A young Jamaican girl from Toronto taking the VS runway.. I’d say a dream come true, but i can’t because this is bigger than a dream! This is a movement. Another step for representation. Another step for diversity. I’m so honoured to have been one of the few chosen this year. Thank you God for this blessing, you deserve all the praise.