Home / Sex, Skinny & Shopping: Victoria’s Secret Doubles Down On Its Proven Formula
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A lot of people have been watching Victoria’s Secret closely this spring, and not just for the usual reasons.

Six months after its ill-considered “Perfect Body” ad campaign triggered a relentless spiral of toxic publicity for the market leader in women’s lingerie, industry watchers have been waiting to see when — and how — the brand will right its ship and repair the damage.

This week we got the answer: Emboldened and defiant, Victoria’s Secret is doubling down on its proven formula of sex, skinny and shopping — critics be damned.

Rather than yield to its detractors who have complained about the company’s promotion of unhealthy body types, Victoria’s Secret announced the hiring of 10 more lookalike Angels to model its products and promote its brand values worldwide.

To mark this apparently historic occasion, the company declared a new global “holiday” for May 2 called International Bombshells Day. The point of the holiday, which falls conveniently between other politically relevant holidays International Workers Day (May 1) and Cinco de Mayo (May 5), is to shop for push-up bras.

“International Bombshells’ Day is the perfect day to pamper yourself, embrace your inner bombshell, spend time with friends and, maybe, do a little shopping,” the company said in a press release.

And to lend a little gravitas to the occasion, the company yesterday released the image above from photographer Russell James, showing five of its new Angels mimicking an iconic 1989 image by Herb Ritts of the world’s leading supermodels (below) at the time.


The Ohio-based L Brands, parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has found itself besieged on all sides over the last six months by women’s groups, feminist critics, opportunistic competitors and a broad swath of the female population that has wearied of the company’s relentless and unchanging promotion of ridiculous stereotypes.

Robust post-Christmas financial results have so far insulated Victoria’s Secret from the impact of its worsening public image, but there is a general consensus that an erosion of the company’s goodwill is inevitable. (One widely-circulated news report went so far as to suggest — somewhat hysterically — that Victoria’s Secret “has recently fallen on hard times” and was “in real danger of losing its relevance.”

Recent criticism hasn’t stopped Victoria’s Secret from using thin models.

Despite its healthy financials, though, Victoria’s Secret was facing a potential annus horribilis:

  • An online petition late last year forced the company to abandon the “perfect body” message in an advertising promotion and triggered the #IamPerfect hashtag blitz from angry consumers.
  • The ‘chorus line’ image in the ‘Body’ ads became a template for many other brands who appealed to women with similar imagery depicting more realistic body shapes and sizes.
  • Plus-size fashion retailer Lane Bryant scored a massive publicity coup by imitating the VS ‘Body’ ads and taunting the company with the viral hashtag campaign #ImNoAngel that celebrated women of all sizes and encouraged them to share their “personal statement of confidence.”
  • Full-figured actress Rebel Wilson skewered the brand in front of its target demo at the MTV Awards last month by showing up in Angel ‘wings’ with the slogan ‘THINK’ printed on her rear.

Online discussions about body image, fat-shaming, offensive fashion marketing and a host of interrelated topics have become constant fixtures in both traditional and social media, with new hashtag conversations emerging almost daily.

Though it has been largely silent in the face of all this attention, Victoria’s Secret has clearly been stung by all the hostility, and at times has been unable to refrain from hissing back at critics. Last month it joined the conversation about body positivity and self-acceptance with this churlish Facebook comment:


The announcement of a new and improved squad of glamazon supermodels shows the company isn’t backing away from a marketing strategy that has made it one of the world’s most recognized brands. In fact, it’s joining the battle for the hearts and minds of women everywhere with its own hashtag campaign, #BeABombshell, that seems to invite customers to embrace their inner sexpot.

As for the company’s go-forward strategy, its new lineup of Angels suggests that Victoria’s Secret is sticking to familiar stereotypes and retreating from recent efforts to introduce more diversity into its promotions. Only one African-American (Jasmine Tookes) is included in the new roster of 15 Angels, and five of the 10 newcomers are willowy blondes.

And anyone who doubts Victoria’s Secret‘s widely publicized plans for global expansion might consider this: after recent departures and the new additions, only four of its Angels are Americans. Even the company’s own employees might need some time to get used to the new lineup, since the names of three of the 10 new Angels are spelled incorrectly on the VS marketing website VSAllAccess.com.

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