This article appeared in the first 2016/2017 issue of the Look magazine
Growing up so many girls look to the Victoria’s Secret (VS) Angels as just that, visions of beauty, the embodiment of all things our society branded beautiful and sexy, they are truly angels. So many young women and girls dream of one day being one of them, even Kendall Jenner herself said it was one of her life long aspirations.
With the much anticipated 20th anniversary VS show just around the corner, on the 5th of December, the question needs to be asked; do we want this company’s ideals forced into our society?
There’s no doubt that there are a lot of worrying experiences of being a VS model being shared. The most talked about is of course, Erin Heatherton. Erin told Times Magazine she was pressured to lose weight in her last few VS shows, before leaving in 2013 after five years working as an Angel. This woman who was already slim, even contemplated not eating to try combat the pressure to fit into the VS angel ‘look’.
With eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia only on the rise, presenting this kind of pressure to look a certain way is so damaging. In Ireland alone there is 400 new eating disorder cases a year being seen to by psychiatric facilities, with 80 cases annually resulting in death. Now of course, an eating disorder is a complex issue and we can’t pin it on one company, but it is definitely part of the pressure these people face on a daily basis.
There is nothing wrong with having a slim body like a VS model, but that body type alone is simply not a real representation of women. Brands like Good America which Khloe Kardashian is an ambassador for and Zendaya’s line ‘Daya’ are working to be more body positive and inclusive of all shapes and sizes. There is room for more than one body type in the fashion world, and this narrow minded view of beauty that VS and so many other companies present to us is not acceptable anymore.
Despite the body shaming concerns, VS does have some good aspects for inclusiveness. Over their twenty-year history, 295 Angels have come from fifty-three countries across the globe, including Malaysia, Uganda, Venezuela and China.
Having a culturally diverse image is just as important as including all different body types. It shows audiences, especially young girls and women, that you don’t have to be white to be beautiful. For too long our society has forced the ideal beauty of a white, thin, tall women on us when in reality that is just one type of beauty.
In a society that holds women up to high scrutiny and constantly comes up with new products or surgeries we need to indulge in to be beautiful, we need companies like VS to recognize the beauty in diversity. Although there is a clear problem with VS and how much pressure they put on their models to look ‘perfect’, the issue is a lot deeper than just one company. We, as a society, need to continue to reject beauty ideals that aren’t realistic and representatives of a whole population. Without the support of big companies like VS, that fight will only become more difficult.
By Hannah Kelly