Society Deserves Transgender Women in the Victoria Secret Fashion Show

The Victoria Secret Fashion show is a common victim of accusations stating it lacks diversity. This lack of diversity’s’ apparentness is seen through race, colour, body shape, ability, and gender. As much of the fashion industry embraces transgender models, Victoria Secret continues to neglect them. Transgender models have been previewed across a variety of high fashion stages, “Lea T is Riccardo Tisci’s muse, Andreja Pejić closed Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall 2013 show, and Carrera walked for Carmen Marc Valvo Spring 2015,” (J. Andrews 2015). The Victoria Secret Fashion Show supports a hyper-feminine image and female gender identity, ignores the male identity, and discriminates all others.

Gender Identity is referred to as one’s internal sense of being male, female, neither, both, or another gender (Milestone and Meyer, pg. 13). For the transgender community, this means the sex they were assigned at birth does not correlate with their internal sense of gender identity (H. Baba 2016). There is a pervasive pattern of discrimination and prejudice against transgendered people within society, and there exists a social climate that isolates people for not conforming to society’s gender norms (Journal of Homosexuality 2005, pg. 53). These gender norms are enforced widely through popular culture. Victoria Secret is a part of modern day popular culture; it is produced for the masses and favoured by many. Another example of a popular culture icon in our society is Carmen Carrera. Carmen has been featured in Elle magazine and walked in the prestigious Life Ball runway show, a resume that shares similar features with multiple other Victoria Secret Fashion Show models. The difference between Carmen Carrera and other Victoria Secret models is that she identifies as a transgender model. Carmen has yet to achieve her dream to walk in the Victoria Secret Fashion show and is currently fighting the gender barrier enforced by Victoria Secret, “I’m hoping that everyone’s open to giving me a biological female role and the fact that I’m trans is not an issue,” (Carmen Carrera 2015). Victoria Secret has yet to enlist a transgender model for any one of the multiple Fashion Shows or campaigns (J. Andrews 2013). Society as issued a willingness for change as Carmen has received a tremendous amount of support from the community through her 2013 petition that collected over 50,000 signatures; “I want to do this for the 50,000 people who signed the petition on” (Carmen Carrera 2013).

Over 10 million people viewed the Victoria Secret Fashion show as it aired on TV this year alone (Adams 2015). Many of those people were most likely adolescents struggling with their internal sense of gender identity. Unfortunately, the media produced by the Victoria Secret Fashion show only reinforces gendered-attitudes. Victoria Secret is effectively stating through the discriminatory process that a transgender female is not good enough for the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, “By asking Carmen to be a model, Victoria’s Secret would show the entire community that they embrace trans patrons. There are so many prejudices toward the trans community, even within the LGBT community, and many trans individuals are not seen as real people. To see a transgender model walk would show that trans women are to be taken seriously, and that Angels are selected because of their character and talent. As a brand, Victoria’s Secret should feel comfortable marketing towards all types of women,” (Regalado, 2013). The Victoria Secret Fashion Show has such an enduring impact on young women; the message it is sending is not representative of race, body shape, size and gender identity widely accepted today. Victoria’s Secret continues to trail behind in the fight for change. “I’ve been training so hard; I want to do my runway walk in my lingerie. That’s my dream, and I won’t ever stop until I make that happen. For me, that would be huge for all those people that supported me” (Carmen Carrera 2014). Victoria Secret is enforcing the stigma surrounding transgender women not equating to women born female. Rates of attempted suicide among transgender people are a staggering 32% due to gender-based discrimination and victimization. Victoria Secrets target audience is the female population; it is time Victoria Secret makes an effort to recognize that the female population is also inclusive of transgender women. This lingerie company has been given an opportunity to use their platform to accept different forms of gender identity.

Victoria Secret has every right to cast strictly female born models that lack diversity and fit a firm set of criteria. They have no legal obligation to accept a transgender model into their ranks on the whim of a petition. Many girls that exceed the standards set out by Victoria Secret are often turned away because of the intense competition in securing a spot amongst the most popular fashion show in the world. The messages the show endorses are reached by hundreds of millions of easily influenced adolescents. The negative impact of the Victoria Secret Fashion show is cast upon generations as it glorifies the hyper-feminine image. The ability that Victoria Secret has to combat the negative  views  towards transgender people in society should be put to use. It all starts with casting one transgender model.


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Analyzing Gender in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

Keaton Scarabelli

Professor Habibe Burcu Baba

TA Shawn Newman

GNDS 125

1 February 2016


Analyzing Gender in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show



Every year, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is one of the most widely viewed programs in the world on television. Models dress in elaborate lingerie and perform in the fashion show in promotion of the Victoria’s Secret Company’s clothing line. According to the company, the women performing in the fashion show are considered to emulate properties of the “ideal female”, which results in the show providing an unhealthy body image for women and portrays unrealistic expectations for women to look a certain way (Andrews 3). The show’s models show a outright lack of diversity in body types amongst the women, and implies to the women of the wider population that you’re supposed to be extremely skinny and have large breasts and butts, which, evidently, is not a reality for all women to share. Unfortunately in society, there have been ideologies fashioned surrounding the fact that in order to be normal you must be beautiful (Lennard 263). These are the kinds of sets of standards we see portrayed from the annual events of the VSFS, which are often easily integrated into society. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show depicts the various ways in which women are objectified and are exposed to unrealistic body standards, ultimately revealing how many forms of popular culture and media can negatively influence the female body image.

There is no arguing that the VSFS and the media that surrounds it provide high expectations for women to look like the models that participate in the event. Andrews stated that the brand has continued to idolize thinness, and shows no sign of altercating their standards of size in order to reflect the majority of American women (2). These standards demonstrate their point that only one kind of body type is worth honoring. Many audience members are adolescent girls, who are quite arguably a rather impressionable demographic. Seeing the bodies of these models on TV makes many women feel like they have to achieve a similar feat for acceptance. The sordid reality is, most of the models’ bodies are near impossible to achieve and only function to create body issues and self-confidence issues (Tam 1). In addition to the influences from the various forms of popular culture, women are often already expected to obtain a body that measures up to the standards set in life (Milestone and Meyer 88). Particularly in the lives of teenage girls, body image is a substantial issue. It is already a concern amongst women in society without the negative influences from the fashion show, so Victoria’s Secret merely fuels the fire. Women see these famous, skinny models with large breasts and big butts and they tell themselves that they have to achieve those looks or else no one will consider them to be beautiful. Not only are women influenced to think they have to be skinny and beautiful, but their “marks of history such as scarring and impairments are now expected to be surgically erased to produce an unmarked body”(Lennard 263). The women in the VSFS show no signs of scarring, blemishes, or any form of deficiency, once again imposing to the audience the standards that they set.

The VSFS promotes images of women that other women aspire to but can’t attain (Andrews 1). The bodies of the Victoria’s Secret models act as negative representations of body image that lead to hierarchies and inequalities within the society of women (Milestone and Meyer 8). Since the ideal “beautiful” body image is considered to be skinny, plus sized women are constantly getting the message that they aren’t supposed to feel sexy (Andrews 2). The show has an extreme lack of options for the sizes of lingerie that they offer, which completely eliminates the chance to diversify the show in that way (Andrews 2). In America, the average clothing size for women is 12 to 14 and bra size is a 34DD, yet Victoria’s Secret remains to demonstrate that the only body image that is considered beautiful is being skinny (Andrews 1). These facts simply continue to prove the point that the VSFS is forcing girls to feel like they should be skinny and beautiful. The models that are chosen to participate in the show are constantly portrayed in social media as the most popular and beautiful girls in the world, which only creates more and more expectations throughout society for all girls to look like that. Many girls who are regular viewers of the VSFS and who have knowledge about the participating models know that their diets consist of very little (Andrews 1). Knowing these models are eating practically nothing but egg whites in order to look the way they do, girls often practice the same eating habits in hopes of one day achieving these same looks (Andrews 1).

It can come as a great shame that one of the most watched programs in the entire world poses such negative effects on the women in today’s society. The portrayal of the show by the media to the public reinforces these negative properties onto women. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show sets a standard of expectations for women to look a certain way even though it is nearly impossible to look the way some of those models do. Women all around the world are put down and disheartened by the way the media exemplifies how they are supposed to look, and the VSFS is one of the main contributors of these representations.


























Andrews, Jessica C. “Why We Deserve More Diversity on the Victoria’s Secret Runway | Teen Vogue.” Teen Vogue. Teen Vogue, 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.


Davis, Lennard J. “21. Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory/ Rosemarie Garland-Thompson.” The Disability Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1997. 257-73. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.


Milestone, Katie, and Anneke Meyer. “Representation, Gender and Popular Culture.” Gender and Popular Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2012. 8-101. Print. 24 Jan 2016.

Tam, Adrienne. “All That Glitters Is Not as Gold as It Seems.” The Daily Telegraph, 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.






Victoria’s Secret: Giving Disabled a New Definition

44 women walk in the annual Victoria Secret Live fashion show on television to exhibit the upcoming looks for the New Year (teenvogue 2015). Out of these glamorous pristine world-renowned super models not one has a visible or is described as having a disability of any sort.

A disability is described as any kind of trait that separates someone from the perceived “norm.” Having a disability can range from a physical or mental handicap on any scale (Mitchell & Snyder). 1 in every 33 people is born with a disability (CDC, 2015), let alone disabilities that develop or occur and impair someone later in life. This statistic supports that on average at least 2 women out of the 44 Victoria Secret models would have some form of a disability. However, this group of models is hand selected from the top model agencies have to offer and not one having a known disability. The makeup of women consists of an elite group of unattainable icons that are not only considered of the ‘norm’ but the ideal image of what the ‘norm’ should be in the eyes of the largest American retailer of women’s lingerie (Statistic Brain, 2015).

It is no doubt that this is not the average fashion show meant to display the mere merchandise and upcoming seasonal product, but a spectacle idolizing the models and the cultural phenomenon of being an ‘Angel.’ It is far from focused on the lingerie, with live performances, back stage interviews of the models and commercials on television (Fushion 2015). The hype and attention placed on the models glorifies them to a new degree, these models that are supposed to be there to exhibit lingerie for potential customers who will wear the pieces of clothing. Producers and product marketers are well aware that viewers cannot relate to someone who is of that immaculate physique. The mandatory requirement of a Victoria Secret model is to be 5’8” in height, and the cast of models averaging is about 5’10”, which rules out the majority of women (MailOnline, 2013). Not only does the show exclude and not employ women with actual disabilities but the women who walk in the show have little to none diversity amongst them undermining actual disabilities with being short or overweight. Being short and overweight does in no way mean that women with these charateristics are now deemed with a disability, yet the way the show is completely selective of the models all of one lean, tall, tone, porcelain body type, this begs the question: if the entertainment and focus on the models idolizes much more than the actual product being sold off the hanger, why is it that the models do not look like more than half of the women watching (MailOnline)? These women are the opposite of standard with unwavering bubbly, charismatic personality and a Hollywood smile there is no room for someone with a speech impediment or lisp to be interviewed by national television. Some would refer to this as the well known “cheerleader effect” in other words the group attractiveness effect. Stemming from the common idea that a cheerleader appears far more attractive with a roster of other girls of the same age group and status, rather than when she is alone or not within a group of similar individuals (Scientific American, 2013). The cast of the Victoria Secret angels fully embraces this ideology to a new extreme by all having the same body proportions and considerable ideal personalities. A future member of the cast who contained a disability would immediately take away from this effect due to the overall manicured to a certain degree requirement that is highly regarded to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel. The future does not look promising for a cast of diversity with real women and real disabilities due to the cheerleader effect maintaining to reel in viewers by the millions year after year, why change (MailOnline)? This does not imply that women that are disabled are any less beautiful than ones without, yet viewing this particular clan of models may lead one to believe that there is a demand for a specific type and any disability or observable flaw would discern someone from believing they could ever measure up to these standards.

Although stated above that the show only puts on a spectacle for the able bodied tall thin women, the clothes also reflect this. The apparel limits to who can and can’t purchase these items due to being manufactured based off what Victoria Secret has labeled as an adequate spectrum of sizes. Consumers who shop at Victoria’s Secret come in all shapes and sizes, yet there is a constant complaint from women of how Victoria Secret does not provide merchandise that fits their body (bratabase blog, 2012). This popular complaint should be addressed by the company by producing a larger variety of sizing and fit, still each year they fail to do so. Due to the evidence of how little of the women watching the show actually posses similar traits of the models, every year the show manages to attract millions of viewers (Fushion).

Never in the history of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show has there been a woman with a noticeable disability (Fusion, 2015). At the rate the show is going, a model in a wheelchair or with a prosthetic limb is beyond far-fetched and unrealistic. Without these variations the show has turned into something unattainable by even the average women without any real disabilities. It promotes exclusivity by deeming anything from what their ideal image of a woman who will be wearing the clothes as disabled based off their current and past track records of models. The show presents the models to be viewed through group attractiveness affect eliminating all forms of diversity that comes with being human.




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Whitewashing, Cultural Appropriation, and Ignorance: An Analysis of Race in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is a huge commercial success.  Beginning as a small show in 1995, it now reaches 500 million viewers in 185 countries (Robehend 2015). Thus the potential for harm from gender and racial stereotyping is enormous. Criticisms of the show include the sexual objectification of women and a lineup that excludes plus sized, gender fluid, and racially diverse models (Harrington 2015). The following analysis will focus on the show’s lack of racial diversity and racial sensitivity.  The whitewashed nature of the show will be described, followed by an assessment of the show’s cultural appropriation. The show’s attempts to address gender inequality in the industry will be discussed, as will ways in which it would benefit from adopting intersectionality.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is an example of a mass culture piece that is targeted primarily at a white audience. According to Susie O’Brien in The Consuming Life, mass culture is a system characterized by “voluntary experiences, produced by a relatively small number of specialists, for millions across the nation to share, in similar or identical form, either simultaneously or nearly so; with dependable frequency; mass culture shapes habitual audiences, around common needs or interests; and it is made for profit” (O’Brien et al. 2014).  The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show fits this description, as although it is available to millions, it is marketed to a select group of viewers. It is aimed towards white women and men: “Everyone is primarily white with the exception of a few black and Latina women. Even if women of colour are featured, they are never the focus of the campaign and are usually on the side or in the back” (Chuang 2015). Not only does its “whitewashing” of the runway exclude more than half of the US population (Corby and Ortman, 2015), it also excludes the two-thirds of the US population who are overweight (Ng et al. 2013), and the many gender fluid individuals in the population. Emphasis on ‘whiteness’ and marketing towards white men and women of a specific body type, gender, and sexuality is one of the many ways the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show ignores diversity.

Racial insensitivity in the form of cultural appropriation has been demonstrated numerous times since the show’s its creation. In 2012, Karlie Kloss, a white model, wore a Native American-inspired headdress and leopard print bottoms. This association between minorities and ‘exotic prints’ arises numerous times (Edwards, 2012). A set titled “the sexy little geisha”, fostered Asian stereotypes.  The 2010 show featured black models wearing “jungle-inspired” outfits, with ‘tribal’ body paint, once again associating being black with exoticism or primitiveness (Edwards, 2015). This appropriation of black culture transpires in other shows. The designer Valentino produced a show that “was inspired by Wild, Tribal Africa”. It included bone necklaces, belts made from African beads, and prodigious use of feathers. The show employed  87 models, only 8 of whom were black (Stansfield, 2014). The placing of models into the category of ‘black women’ by fashion shows belittles the many facets that make up an individual woman’s persona include her ethnicity, sexual preference, gender, etcetera. In short, Victoria’s Secret seems oblivious to the importance of intersectionality. The concept of ‘race’ itself is questionable, as it’s not an attribute of human biology, but merely a cultural and historical category separating people by skin tone (Storey 2009). Thus it is unnecessary for Victoria’s Secret to categorize it’s models as ‘wild African women’, ‘sexy Asian geishas’ or otherwise.

Despite these shortcomings, the most recent Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has been described as one of the most diverse in the industry (Builder, 2015). The Victoria’s Secret ‘Angels’, the company’s top rated models, included two black women for the first time (Builder, 2015). The remaining cast included 31 white, 5 black, 5 multiracial, two Asian women, and one Hispanic woman (Ferber, 2015). While this does not mirror the diversity of the show’s audience from a racial perspective, let alone the many other aspects of cultural diversity including body size, disabilities, class, gender, and so on, this is more diverse than most shows, which usually employ about 20% of models from racial minorities. (Builder, 2015).  Furthermore, black model Maria Borges became the first to walk the runway with her natural hair (Andrews, 2015). Models, regardless of race, are expected to have long, silky hair; which is inconsistent with the natural hair of most black individuals (Andrews, 2015). This: “help[s] to disrupt the damaging myth that natural hair is unattractive” (Andrews, 2015). Imani Perry in “Who(se) am I? The identity and Image of Women in Hip Hop” has described how black girls had been the social group with the highest self esteem and body image scores, which Perry attributes to an absence of black women in the media. Paradoxically, glacial movement towards improved racial equality in terms of increased black female presence in the media may have contributed to worsening body image in young black women (Perry).  The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, an important influence on what society defines as ‘sexy’, is now showing black girls and women that natural hair is beautiful: “If it’s so undesirable, how can you explain its appearance on the Victoria’s Secret runway, a bastion of sexiness?” (Andrews, 2015).  As damaging as the show is in terms of racial stereotypes and gender inequality, it is perhaps not as bad as other fashion shows. “Tales of racism in fashion”, according to Julee Wilson of the Huffington Post, “are, sadly, never ending. From ridiculously insensitive editorials to the blatant white-washing of runways – and beyond” (Wilson 2014). French model Anais Mali explains her own experiences: “In Milan, you don’t really see black girls on the runway; it’s sad. You hear things like, ‘We already have Jourdan [Dunn], one black girl is enough” (Lee 2015).

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show objectifies women, is whitewashed in its approach to its audience and in it’s hiring of models, utilizes shameless cultural appropriation, and when it does attempt to employ some degree of diversity, ignores intersectionality by assigning its models to categories such as ‘black women’.  Despite these flaws, it’s messages are reached by hundreds of millions globally.  While it could certainly be argued that fashion shows contribute little to equality, if the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show were to employ concepts based on intersectionality, including models from diverse groups based on ethnicity, sexual preference, gender fluidity, and beyond, it could undo some of the harms of its whitewashed, racially insensitive, cultural appropriating past.

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