Should Victoria's Secret Keep Their Signature Style of Model Selection?

Should Victoria's Secret Keep Their Signature Style of Model Selection?

After reading thoughts on Victoria's Secret getting negative feedback for their choice of models, I have some thoughts on the matter as well and how it affects our cultural view of models and of course, the style that we photographers shoot. There're some critics who feel that Victoria's Secret should include plus-size or transgender models in their fashion show.

Hazel Cills writes here about how she feels the fit, beautiful women for the signature lingerie company are causing them to lose popularity with the younger viewers. It sort of reminds me of the criticism that A&F received for not manufacturing clothes for plus sizes.

There was a quote about Ed Razek not understanding why it's culturally ok to skinny-shame the Victoria's Secret models. I agree with him: it isn't ok; these models are fit and beautiful. The Victoria's Secret models are a source of inspiration to young models and photographers as well. I watch the Fashion Show and follow all the Angels on Instagram. Why? Well, they are pretty girls, and that's a nice bonus. But the real value for a photographer here is how great of models they are: the ways they walk into a room, stand, sit, etc. are top notch. These are some of the finest models in the world in my opinion. 

Mr. Razek is accused of being out of touch with the younger customer base by featuring pretty, fit models. Honestly, that is his choice, after all, but I agree with his choice. The reason why is because these models are fit and healthy, after all. They eat healthy, exercise, and are great role models. They are most certainly not malnourished, unhealthy, too skinny, etc. America is known as the most obese country all around the world and for a good reason. I myself am overweight, and I hate it; it's wildly uncomfortable, and I am working to remedy that. So, I certainly don't think a company should be bullied into promoting being overweight. At the end of the day, this is a world-leading lingerie company; it's expected they would have healthy and fit models. 

Shooting the style of photos I do, I shoot a lot of thin, fit women, and I've always thought Mr. Razek's choices have been stellar. I like to learn from the Angels in tips and things I share and help my models with on set.

And most importantly here, when I think of Victoria's Secret, I think of the tall, thin, pretty models. I have nothing against a plus-size model, and I do not wish to bash them. Plus-size models have a right to be whatever size they are comfortable with; however, brands also have a right to select models they are comfortable with to promote the type of image they choose. There are other companies out there that specialize and cater to different types of models. I would compare this to me being upset that I couldn't be in a Calvin Klein ad because I am too heavy. Instead of being mad at them for featuring fit guys, I admit I am overweight and I go on about my business with what is within my means.

Encouraging positivity and happiness, the Victoria's Secret models always are healthy, happy, and friendly, and I think that's a wonderful image to present these role models in. Because let's face it, young girls do look up to these models. Below is one of my favorite Victoria's Secret models, always smiling and happy, promoting positivity. She never bashes heavy women; it seems pretty unfair that the bashing is a one-way street.

Some of today's culture seems to want everyone and everything to be equal. The reality is people are not the same: some people are tall, some short, some fat, some thin, and it is what it is. Victoria's Secret is known for tall, thin models; that's their right. Let's not try to push a square peg through a round hole. They are a great source of inspiration for me as a photographer, and I like it the way it is.

I normally average 250-400 likes on a model photo. When I recently posted a thin, fit Czech model shot in the same way I do everything else with the same hashtags, it rose to over 1,800. It seems clear to me what people would like to see when it comes to sexy models, and this would apply to the Victoria's Secret lingerie as well.

What do you think? Do you think Victoria's Secret should change its branding and platform to concede to these requests? If you do think that plus-size models should be in this show, I'd like to hear a reason why.

Lead image credit: Tofros via Pexels.

Bill Larkin's picture

Bill is an automotive and fashion inspired photographer in Reno, NV. Bill specializes in photography workflow and website optimization, with an extensive background in design and programming.

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Somewhere I heard, 'Whether you marry a beautiful woman or an ugly one, eventually you stop noticing.' My wife is beautiful.

"if you want to be happy for the rest of your life
never make a pretty woman your wife
so for my personal point of view
get an ugly girl to marry you"

I thought I was among the few today who know that song :)

This is such a sad, typical, myopic, misogynist, male point of view that I have decided to take time out of my busy Saturday evening and educate you just a little because I'm embarrassed by your ignorance and a little bit appalled fstoppers would print something so devoid of value beyond some photographers semi-boner.
Yes, of course you got more likes on a photo of a half naked girl.
Yes, of course photographs of Victoria's Secret models are always "happy". They are paid to be happy the same way strippers are paid to smile at you...
But, do you know anything about Victoria Secrets bottom line and how they are struggling to maintain relevancy in the lingerie market?
They are bleeding debt because so-called "normal" women don't shop their flimsy fall-apart crappy lingerie while wealthy, thin women shop high-end lingerie like La Perla.
And while we are discussing that these "pretty-happy" models are bankrupting Victoria's Secret, let's discuss your complete lack of knowledge of the health of VS models. Some admit to having horrific Eating Disorders including bulimia, binge eating disorder and/or anorexia.
Men like you have projected a ridiculous, Disney Princess fantasy of a woman onto these models for the sake of your sexual fantasies. But, sexual fantasies sell lingerie to men, they don't sell it to the women who have to wear it day after day.
Victoria Secret models have an unhealthy body mass to height ratio and most are not physcially healthy. The average height of an American woman is around 5 ft 4 in and her weight is a healthy 130ish.
A marketing plan that attempts to sell an ideal to a real-world woman, will never survive.
Victoria's Secret's models & many of their stores, will soon go the way of the Playmates and Playboy magazine and I hope your myopic, misogynistic, views go with them.

I agree....and I know cigars and rum are bad for me...but I like them anyway :-(

This is such a sad, typical, victim narrative driven female point of view I just had take time out of my busy Saturday evening to educate you little femsplainer who screams “patriarchy” any time anyone talks about female sexuality, but has no problem infantilizing and shaming men for expressing their own sexuality.

These are not men’s items. Men do not buy Victoria’s Secret. The fashion magazines are not bought by men. Even if men did, it’s not misogyny to value things you don’t posses. You are not “women.” You do not speak for them and are not empowered to educate on their behalf.

The brave thing to do here would be to share your own personal experience, how these things hurt you personally and let us reflect. Instead you project these feelings onto all women which is dishonest. Women are not a collective. Let them be seen as individuals covering the spectrum of human experience and speak for yourself alone.

This is makes YOU feel sad. This makes YOU feel less desired. These are YOUR feelings to own.

I see these women like professional athletes. They’re fun to watch but I don’t see them as the standard by any means.

Men can both have a fantasy sexuality and a realistic one. Don’t be a slut shamer.

I am having a wonderful time copying and pasting your mansplaining.
It may even become the definitive definition of mansplaining on the net.
"Aw, did she leave you for a doctor?" #rhetorical

I just assume when someone uses the term mansplaining they have no logical argument. Do men buy Victoria secret stuff? Sure. For the most part when men don't really care what women wear. Women care what other women look like and what they wear more than what men do.

Are you aware of what happens when you use the word assume?

When I use the word assume I just mean I know I'm right and it's just a nice way of saying you are wrong.

Ps. Google is your friend.
We can't stop laughing over your misnomer that men don't buy Victoria's Secret... Why do you think the Victoria Secret's models were invented?

I assume by “we” you mean your posters of the supreme 4th wave feminist icons Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer while you play with the beginner Wicca kit you got at the mall.

This article does not prove your case. It says the marketing is for men, but doesn’t really make that case. It’s does make an important distinction between the role of lingerie vs. underwear. Lingerie is a niche, special occasion garment. It is not the standard. It is fantasy. Just like the VS models are named after a fantasy character, “angels.”

It’s fun. Maybe it’s not your type of fun and that’s okay. Embrace diversity.

I posted that article as evidence that the Victoria's Secret model marketing campaign is bankrupting Victoria's Secret.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just old. For the past 20 years the company has been mostly led by women BTW.

Another business in decline is Hooters. It could be argued that porn accessibility is more a reason for the decline of the “tease” industry than any great moral awakening.

It could be the availabilty of porn...or maybe young men (except for incels) are more likely to see women as people instead of as objects and toys than they used to be in the past.

Objectification and selfishness are not uniquely male characteristics. It's not that some men don't see women as people, it's that they don't care about the impact to others as much as they want what they want.

You see plenty of that patterns in the way women vote, shop, impact the environment, etc...

Many women exploit people with the power they have, just like many men.

Being a victim does not make someone good.

We’re you ever going to answer the original question in the title or you just gunna leave us with the impression that only your bleak view of the world matters and since you don’t wear VS, it’s a trash company with hookers for models because they’re unrealistic Barbie dolls?

I’m paraphrasing here, cut me a break.

Feminism has such a bad rep because of out of hand rants from women like you.

Who are they marketing to?

Seriously Rob, men buy VS so their S.O. will wear it , and then take it off.

I don’t. Define “men.” Is it 90% of men? 10% of men? How many men are needed to make a sweeping generalization about approximately half the planet?

I think that VS /pretends/ they are marketing to men, but only so that women who see the adds will think, "this is what [all] men want me to look like".

Really, whatever number of men actually buy VS for their SO, I highly doubt that it is VS' target market.

Bottom line- VS is failing to reach the next generation of women, because the next generation itself is reimagining what is seen as attractive, and acceptable as a body type, etc.

I say, good riddance to any company that still clings to this outdated "heroin chic" look that came into popularity in the 70's-90's.

You go into a VS store, and most of the shoppers are women under 30. The few men that are there are shopping for a present and have no idea what size their SO it's a guessing game. The underwear bought by men is almost always very uncomfortable and women are glad to peel it off.

To quote Rob Davis "Men do not buy Victoria’s Secret." "I don’t. Define “men.” Is it 90% of men? 10% of men?"
So if you don't that means "all men" don't buy anything at VS? I have bought things for my W or GF at VS I have seen men buy things there. We don't really have a clue what to buy but "men" do buy things at VS, probably not very much though.

Men buy Victoria secret for their wives/gf so their gf feels sexy. For a man to be turned on it doesn't really matter what she is or isn't wearing. For a woman to be turned on is psychological.

This is true Jack, and was the original point. Usually it's the obese women that claim the thin & fit women are unhealthy and if you disagree, you're a bad guy. It's pretty comical. And sad, definitely sad also. We are entitled to like what we wish to like.

I agree with you on most but the average American woman wishes she was a healthy 130lbs. :-). The average American female is approximately 5 feet 3 inches and 168.5 pounds.

you said it yourself that women don't like their "crappy quality" lingerie while those who can afford it shop La Perla.

so what does that have to do with the models? sounds more like their problem is a poor quality product.

as for a "marketing plan to sell an ideal to a real-world woman"? that's everything. makeup, haircare, clothing that's not lingerie, food... every product is marketed as idealistic. makeup to hide blemishes, haircare to wash out that greasy mess, clothing to make you feel "slim" or "sexy," food that doesn't make you fat... it's all idealistic. if it weren't, it wouldn't sell.

You are onto exactly what advertisers do. They make you feel bad about yourself so that they can sell you the solution: their product. They do it for everything. It's not gender specific. They want everyone to buy their crap. If we learn to ignore the lies, find happiness from within instead of from a purchase.

I really appreciate that you took time out of your "busy Saturday evening" to "educate" the "typical misogynist" males that we are with this subtle and balanced point of view. Thanks to your valuable contribution, rest assured that Bill case is taken very seriously and I personally alerted our internal censorship department. Most likely, Bill will have to get away from models and be sentenced to shoot pet contests with a Hello Kitty camera for a period of 6 to 8 months.

And please, allow me to correct a lightweight mistake in your comment (otherwise filled with wisdom) regarding the average US women size and weight. According to the CDC, the "Measured average height, weight, and waist circumference for adults women aged 20 and over" are 5"4 and 168.5lbs which gives a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28.9 based to the US health department model. A number which falls in the overweight category, borderline obese. Knowing how preoccupied you must be about women health in this country, I don't want you to promote unhealthy lifestyle at the other side of the spectrum.

If you are not too busy tonight, you may want to double check your source:

Thanks again.

well said Oliver.

As someone who is not skinny but has a healthy bmi of 21, I get skinny-shamed all the time by other women. It's freaking annoying.

Sorry to hear that. The problem is not about being skinny or curved. The problem is shaming, no one should do that to women, men, minorities or anybody in general.

I think this article tries to do both - talk about ideals and business. The business point of view is not always "right" one. If current business model and art direction works for them - they should do it. If adding something new brings more revenue - they should do it also.

Many top models work hard to get where they are. Its true for many other jobs. They are happy not only because they are paid, by because they do what they love, provide for themselves and their families, and because it brings more opportunities for them.

I agree with Rob. A proper thing would be talking about your own experience. That is a real talk. A lot of models are healthy, including victoria secret girls. Some are struggling, yes - but its the same with any sport, or any job.
Some are fit for what they do, some are not - but still try to do it anyway. Or work hard for it. Pretty sure it was their dream even if they need to vomit for that. Who did not feel sick because they work really hard to get where they want to do? Pretty much sure everyone did. And yes there are some men who look at women as objects of their sexual fantasies - there is place and even market for them also. But not all men like that.

there are places for many personal stories. For happy and sad ones. Tell us yours - that will be real.
Putting everyone in the same category - is lack of common sense.

Should we blame men or should we blame women? The answer is no.

"Victoria Secret models have an unhealthy body mass to height ratio and most are not physcially healthy."

That's not always true. It's a lot easier to stay skinny when you're young and be perfectly healthy.

I'd agree they shouldn't hire the ones that have eating disorders but I wouldn't say all of them are "unhealthy".

And some guys also have super skinny genes. I eat a lot without working out much and my BMI is 18.7 (the low end) and am very healthy and over 30. People tell me to gain weight (because skinny guys are "wimpy" in American culture) but I've tried strapping on an extra 10-15lbs pounds in a backpack for a's not great feeling on the legs. I'd rather be able to move faster when playing tennis 🙂

Am I the only one who questions that the average American woman is 5'4 and 130 pounds? That's my exact height and weight and I'm in pretty good shape (gym 5-6 times a week and 2 meals a day). I cannot believe that the average woman in America is that way! The average male in America isn't fit either.

That's right Patrick Hall , as Oliver pointed out from research: "According to the CDC, the "Measured average height, weight, and waist circumference for adults women aged 20 and over" are 5"4 and 168.5lbs which gives a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28.9 based to the US health department model. A number which falls in the overweight category, borderline obese."

The photography disgusts me sometimes (well, a lot of the time)...this article and the comments are definitely one of those times.

You will not be disappointed...with the comments, not the bears. LOL

99% of your models you post are "thin, fit, and slightly dressed". I don't think that had anything to do with the spike in Instagram likes.

As far as representation is concerned, this is how logic sees it: if a fraction of 1% of population is transgender then a fraction of 1% of VS models should be transgender. And since they don’t have a hundred+ models, then it’s only fair, just, and relevant that their model pool reflect actual statistics. So until the transgender demographic exceeds a certain quota in the census, I see nothing wrong with VS models being represented solely by females.

I made this same argument with my gf about diversity in the supreme court and congress. Found out that both of those institutions have about the exact number of African Americans as the normal percentage found in American population. That being said, it's good to see a few Muslims added to our House of Representatives because based on their 1% demographic in America we should have about 4 of them in the house.

Statistics are interesting "Of the 2010 Census population, 157.0 million were female (50.8 percent) while 151.8 million were male (49.2 percent)" To reflect the US population, The SCOTUS comes closer (30% women ) than congress (approx 20%).

The problem with some of these stats is that there are other factors that cause the numbers to not reflect actual populations. It's the reason the pay gap is mostly a myth. Almost all women attorneys and lawyers, regardless of how successful and esteemed they are, eventually retire around the age 30-40 as they become mothers. Not all do, but most do. Therefore the chances of a woman lawyer progressing through the judicial ranks up to the age of 50 to then be nominated to the Supreme Court is pretty rare. At least rare enough to warrant the 30% presentation (not saying that number is what it should be but 50:50 might not be possible).

It's the same reason why I'm not upset that the majority of the medical field is run by women. It's not that they are given preferential treatment necessarily, it's just that most nurses and caregivers aren't men. Same goes in the teaching field. Most teachers are women.

I'm not saying I agree with those views but I'm not opposed to every demographic having representation in congress. If you don't believe in the beliefs of someone running for office, you have to vote against them. Michael Jackson was also Muslim and like many religious people who don't actually follow the teachings, I don't think he was a threat to democracy or US beliefs.

Sex sells, not reality. This is marketing, not a political statement.

Let me put it another way, do you put ALL of your portrait/couple/weddings on your portfolio or website?

Didn’t think so, get off your high horse.

I personally don’t care if they include transgender or plus size models. If they are targeting those markets, do it.

Your generous compliment returned.

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