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Expected VSFS newcomers (top row, l-r): Shu Pei, Sharam Diniz, Cara Delevingne; (second) Hilary Rhoda, Jourdan Dunn, Dorothea Barth Jorgensen; (third) Maud Welzen, Jasmine Tookes, Frida Gustavsson; (bottom) Jessica Hart, Barbara Fiahlo, Barbara Palvin.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show gets underway in New York today with an unprecedented level of pre-show buzz, a dramatic Hollywood-style backstory and a even a tiny cloud of controversy.

The sexiest (and most expensive) night on television will be put together from two taped shows held later today at New York’s Lexington Armory. The hour-long spectacle will then broadcast on CBS-TV on Dec. 4, when it’s expected to blow past last year’s record TV audience of over 10 million viewers.

“When you’re talking about major fashion events, there’s our show and then there’s … what?” VS capo Ed Razek says in the video below, which focuses on the annual ritual of casting the show’s models.

That the 17th VS Fashion Show is being held at all is something of a triumph, coming barely a week after Hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast and left much of New York in darkness for days. But rather than cripple the production, the storm merely added another chapter to Victoria’s Secret’s rich corporate mythology.

When a National Guard regiment in lower Manhattan lost power during the storm, it turned for help to the Victoria’s Secret team that was setting up in the armory — and which had the foresight to bring along eight backup generators to help power the show. The VS team loaned generators and a forklift to the Guard unit to support its relief operations for stranded New Yorkers.

Though generally viewed as a selfless gesture, the role of the sexy lingerie retailer in helping the troops also sparked a lot of internet grumbling (ie. Why was the VS show going ahead at all when New Yorkers are still recovering from the storm?) and exaggerated news stories.

On Monday, Victoria’s Secret used its Facebook page to hit back at “false media reports” and dismiss suggestions that the production somehow took resources and energy away from the post-Sandy cleanup efforts.

“We want all of you to know that we’ve been partnering closely with the National Guard since Hurricane Sandy hit, and we’d never do anything to impede their relief efforts,” the company said on its normally chirpy FB wall.

But when the lights go up on the first taping this afternoon, the last thing on anyone’s mind will be the weather outside.

The 2012 VSFS promises to be an almost fissionable blend of impossibly gorgeous women, blinding costumes and megawatt pop stars like Justin Beiber and Rihanna.

It’ll also provide a window into the future of Victoria’s Secret itself, which will spend an estimated $12-million on the production. This year, the company is energizing its annual marketing showcase with the biggest infusion of new blood in the show’s glitzy history.

Nearly a third of the expected 38 supermodels on the Victoria’s Secret runway will be making their first appearance in the show. Although the lineup can change anytime before the curtain rises on the first performance, insiders say 12 newcomers earned spots in the modeling world’s most highly coveted gig.

This year’s casting sparked a flurry of speculation (and handicapping) on fan sites and social media, ratcheting up anticipation for the show. And all those fresh faces on the catwalk will also provide a visual subtext for Victoria’s Secret’s latest corporate ambition — global market expansion.

The flock of Angels for this show represent 16 countries and include a record three models from China and three from the United Kingdom, where VS launched its first two offshore stores this year.

Model Cameron Russell getting fitted with a costume for today’s show.

The lineup is a high-powered one, too. It includes four of the top 10 models currently working (according to’s rankings), including Joan Smalls (#1) and Karlie Kloss (#2), and six of the 12 highest-paid models in the business.

As for the newcomers and first-timers, fashion fans will be on the lookout for the UK super-duo of Jourdan Dunn and Cara Delevingne, Swedish youngsters Dorothea Barth Jorgensen and Frida Gustavsson, Americans Jasmine Tookes and Hilary Rhoda and the stunning Angolan model Sharam Diniz. Fans will also get their first glimpse of Jessica Hart and Barbara Palvin on the VS runway, although both are now familiar faces in the company’s catalogs and advertising.

And while all the new faces on the runway today might hint at corporate repositioning for Victoria’s Secret, there’s also a simpler explanation.

For those who remember last year’s show, an indisputable new star emerged from the riot of color, sound, flashing lights and glitter-sprayed flesh. The classic American beauty Karlie Kloss, then only 19, stole the show in her first appearance with an effervescent swagger that made her a new VS darling overnight (and added momentum to her meteoric rise up the list of the world’s top models).

Today, Victoria’s Secret is counting on its new girls to generate the same kind of spark — and enough heat to make everyone forget the storm outside.

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