“Sexy,” Victoria’s Secret tell us in a PR snippet to introduce their 2015 ‘What Is Sexy?’ list, “is and always has been about confidence.”
But apparently success has a lot to do with it, too.
The lingerie retailer’s annual list of icons of sex appeal includes 17 winners, all of whom are wildly successful in their chosen fields — mostly as actresses and singers. It’s more a barometer of star power and A-list currency than a serious enumeration of the disparate qualities and personal characteristics that comprise sexiness.
From pop music royalty Beyoncé, Rihanna and Taylor Swift to award-winning actresses Felicity Jones, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams, the ‘What Is Sexy?’ list is a catalogue of (mostly) women who have been in the public spotlight over the past year.
In fact, the list serves as a pretty good indicator of which entertainment vehicles resonate with Victoria’s Secret‘s core audience of American teens and 20-somethings. Apparently, landing a good gig puts you on the fast track to sexiness.
Thus, the brand’s “sexy” squad includes Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones), Lily James (Cinderella), Ellie Kemper (Netflix smash Kimmy Schmidt), Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) and model Chrissy Teigen, the year’s most ubiquitous awards-show seat-filler. Magic Mike‘s beefcake posse gets a nod, as does the cast of top-rated TV show How To Get Away With Murder.
The formula for the annual ‘What Is Sexy?’ list doesn’t change much, and it can be a grim occasion for those Victoria’s Secret fans who rarely see themselves — or their sexiest qualities — represented. It focuses disproportionately on body parts (Beyoncé can now add “sexiest bikini body” to her enormous trove of well-deserved professional accolades), it favors pretty white blondes, and it draws its winners almost exclusively from North America and the UK. It’s also notoriously repetitive, suggesting there’s a relatively small pool of ‘sexy’ talent out there to choose from.
This year’s list isn’t much different. Five of the 14 individual honorees were on last year’s list, too, but in different ‘categories’ so as not to make the whole thing seem like a retread. Taylor Swift has the ‘sexiest legs’ of 2015; last year it was ‘sexiest smile’. Margot Robbie, last year’s ‘sexiest actress’, now has the ‘sexiest eyes’. And Emma Stone, who formerly had the ‘sexiest eyes’, now has the ‘sexiest red carpet look’.
It’s a slightly more racially diverse list than in previous years, but there’s also a significant omission: Victoria’s Secret has dropped the ‘sexiest curves’ category that went to Gabrielle Union in 2014. That leaves the new list without any African-American honoree in the individual categories and, while VS has recognized a handful of curvier stars in the past, there are no plus-size women on the 2015 list.
Fans this year were invited to choose the winner in three categories, and nowhere is the list’s bias toward broad consumer appeal more evident than in the new category of ‘Sexiest Social Star’.
Voters were given the chance to choose one of three DIY stars whose celebrity was born and cultivated on social media: blogger Shea Marie of Peace Love Shea; Paris-based fashion writer Kristina Bazan of Kayture; and celebrity-style guru Tess Christine of Celebspiration.
The winner was Tess (main photo above), who might have the smallest number of Instagram followers (337K) of the three but commands a massive audience through her YouTube channel, which has rung up more than 20 million views — or roughly double the network ratings of last year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
The fact that all three candidates in the category are pretty white blondes is, we assume, just one of those coincidences.