Amid all the commotion about the Victoria’s Secret Angels in recent weeks, one name was curiously ignored: Chanel Iman.
The lingerie retailer’s baffling brinksmanship over Miranda Kerr‘s contract and its appointment of new Angel Karlie Kloss (the first in two years) grabbed a lot of headlines. But missing among all the noise was any discussion of the disappearance of Chanel from the VS Angels lineup.
The only African-American full-time Angel was dropped from the official roster in late March, without any announcement and just a day before the official announcement that willowy youngster Karlie was joining the team. So is Chanel in or out, and if it’s the latter, what does it mean … if anything?
(The VS Angels thing is mostly a media convenience these days anyway. Victoria’s Secret generally doesn’t like to differentiate between it principal brand ambassadors and the dozens of other models it hires for specific assignments. The company’s only public acknowledgement of its A-Team is found on its marketing site, VSAllAccess.com, which lists 10 ‘supermodels’.)
The likeliest answer is that Chanel’s premium Angels contract was not renewed for 2013 — which is a friendly way of getting fired. If that’s the case, many will say they saw it coming.
Only two years after ceremoniously getting her Angel ‘wings’ during the 2010 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Chanel dropped out of the 2012 show in order to campaign for Barack Obama and the Democrats during the fall election season. Not long before that, she starred in an explicit Usher video that was waaaay outside Victoria’s Secret’s admittedly broad comfort zone.
The 22-year-old supermodel was also considered the most outspoken on the VS squad, involved in a variety of activist and charitable causes. Significantly, she complained about fashion industry bias against black models in a widely circulated interview with The Times in February. The fact that she was dropped from the VS Angels roster shortly thereafter is, at the very least, awkward.
One thing is certain, though: Chanel is not going away any time soon. She’s busy on the runway circuit and favored by numerous A-list designers from Tom Ford to Jason Wu and Alexander Wang.
And this month, she emphatically rebounds with a dramatic, symbolically rich photo spread in Galore magazine, shot by Ellen Von Unwerth.
There’s a whole lot going on in the series, called Love Hangover, but Chanel’s personality somehow rises above the noisy backgrounds and numerous props. She’s wearing a lot of different outfits, including swim and lingerie pieces from such brands as Guess, The Blondes and NYC vintage revivalist What Goes Around Comes Around.
It’s somewhat ironic that for the past couple of years Chanel Iman was the main rebuttal to critics who complained about the lack of racial diversity in Victoria’s Secret’s marketing. The company still uses other women of color such as Joan Smalls and Sharam Diniz, but its current Angels lineup is, excuse the pun, lily white.
We may never again see Chanel in those endless and repetitive VS catalog shots, but the Galore cover announces a welcome return from that rarest of creatures: a lingerie model with loads of personality and lots to say.