6 December 2014

Victoria's Secret Angels: the backlash, the bodies and the hypocrisy


Unless you've been shying away from online and print media this week, there's a chance that you've seen an article (or two... or twenty) on the Victoria's Secret show.

The uninitiated should know that Victoria's Secret is an American lingerie brand (with a growing beauty and bath and body range, FYI) whose popularity - like most things stateside - has travelled across the pond. The brand puts on a multi-million pound catwalk show every year around Christmas to showcase new collections, and the models that walk in the show are amongst the supermodel elite.

Now, I confess I got quite excited about the show this year - which for the first time, was held at Earl's Court in London. I love the glitz and glamour. I love the way the models (or "Angels" as they are officially known) are made up to look as if they are naturally glowy and radiant. I love the glossy hair, the flamboyant outfits. The show also represents the proximity to Christmas. It's soon, guys!

But even the glitz and glamour can only stay sparkly for so long. When the glitter has been swept away, the wings dismantled, and the models back in outfits which cover more than 5% of their flesh, there's no denying a slightly uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. There's no getting away from the fact that this lingerie extravaganza goes a lot deeper than slightly itchy, overpriced garments.

A Daily Mail article by Sarah Vine (linked to me by a friend, thanks Emma) soon wiped the "aren't Karlie and Taylor the cutest bezzies ever?" induced smile off my face. It discussed how the angels earned their much-coveted figures. One model admitted that for the show, she stopped consuming solids 9 days before, and stopped consuming liquids 24 hours before. The latter apparently "dries her out" and helps her to lose an extra 8 pounds.

How grim does that sound? And worse - how many young girls are going to read this and blindly attempt to copy her in the hope it helps them achieve the figure of a Victoria's Secret Angel? 

It's not that simple. These models are eating measured amounts all year round, sometimes just enough to keep up their energy travelling between castings. At the peak of their preparation, they also work out with personal trainers 7 days a week. The way they live is not realistic or sustainable 365 days a year. But unfortunately, Victoria's Secret is sending out the message that this is how we should be. 

Look around you. Lots of women on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have linked to images of the  show and accompanied them with comments like: "Pizza guilt", "Need to go to the gym" or "I need those abs". It's promoting the idea that not only should women want to look like an Angel, but that men are looking for women that look like Angels. Because let's face it, men will watch the show, lust after them, and buy the products thinking their significant other will transform into an Angel right before their eyes. They are buying into the brand. And through all of this, women are looking at themselves in a bra and knickers and thinking, "Jeez, I'm not a patch on Lily Aldridge, am I?" 

It's not right. It's one thing for models to act as "hangers" for clothes during Fashion Week, but strutting down a catwalk in a bra and knickers is another, as it adds a larger amount of pressure which is unrealistic and dangerous to the average girl with very normal lumps, bumps and cellulite. It makes them feel like having these normal attributes means they are undesirable or unattractive.

The idea that such a show can encourage a negative self-image is heartbreaking. The idea that the models are pro-Ana role models, or could be a trigger to those who are trying to overcome body dysmorphia and eating disorders, is plain awful. 

People shouldn't feel bad for enjoying food. Or for not exercising extensively 24/7. Or for not measuring out cereal or counting out blocks of cheese. For one, it doesn't make for a happy life. And secondly, it's not as if controlling your diet and exercise regime will necessarily result in an Angel's body anyway. The upkeep and the paranoia will be nigh on unbearable, and you won't be paid anywhere near as highly as some of the models putting themselves through it. Oh, and there's no guarantee that Taylor Swift is going to be your bezzie, either. It's lose-lose.

And then there's the backlash. "These women aren't real women". As if having long limbs, toned abs and sizeable boobs doesn't make you "real". I'm not saying we should champion the brand or the image they are trying to promote, but let's not hate on the women, please. Of course they are real women. They have lives, they have fears, disappointments and hang-ups, just like the rest of the world. Let's not let jealousy and/or dismissal of the lives they lead get the better of us. 

At the end of the day, it's their job. Fine, their job might encourage some women to doubt their beauty, and trigger destructive habits, but we are buying into this negativity everyday with the media we consume. Unless you can honestly say you never read, buy or lust over magazines and newspapers which feature these women, kindly stop being a hypocrite.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that we need to be more careful about how we respond to the media. Everyone has a job to do, but it's the audience that seems to pay the price. Not everyone is a Victoria's Secret Angel - in fact, only about 30 women in the world are. And just because their lives don't seem "real" to the everyday person, know that they are just as "real" as you are, and both are okay. Oh, and you don't have to be a model to look completely amazing in your underwear. 

Let's just take the show with a pinch of salt and envy the way they manage to walk in heels and balance some heavy-ass wings and manage to make it look effortless. Because, glitz and glam aside, that IS pretty cool.
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9 comments

  1. I just found your blog from Grace's post. I enjoyed reading that. You write very nicely.

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  2. Actually I sounded like a bit of a jerk there because I think I've seen your blog before... I think you've commented on my blog before. At any rate, I've been enjoying poking around your blog :)

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    1. Hi Holly,

      You didn't sound like a jerk, don't worry! I'm so pleased Grace linked me and that you've enjoyed my posts :)

      Sofie

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  3. I really enjoyed this post and it's a very important one for people to start talking about so that the unhealthy body obsession stops..

    www.willowjolie.com

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    1. Hi Willow (beautiful name by the way!),

      So glad you enjoyed this post, and yes - I agree!

      Sofie x

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  4. I couldn't agree more with everything you've written here! I am completely guilty for feeling very depressed and crying into my dominos after watching their fashion show... but you're completely right. It's their jobs to look like this! x

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  5. Good article. http://www.robesdemariee2013.com/

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