The Complicated Reality Behind the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

December 9th 2015

Diana Crandall

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show premiered on CBS Tuesday, bringing women's body image to the forefront of conversation once again. Whether you tuned in or not, there's no doubt that the models in the 2015 VS Fashion Show should not be shamed for participating in the event.

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In defense of the VS Angels

Proponents of the show argue that the models worked hard to get there, and that women are the ones who keep the company thriving. Opponents denounce the objectification of women and the unhealthy promotion of unrealistic body standards for women.

It is without question that the models who participate are athletes. They work out seven days a week, sometimes twice a day, to maintain a uniform body. Professional athletes and Olympians also engage in a rigorous diet and exercise plan to keep their body at the level they need to effectively perform.

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“The fashion show is the kind of event where you really step it up,” one Angel said to the camera. “There’s a lot of hard work that’s going into this.”

The women who walk the runway really want to be there, and have worked really hard to get there. Some of them have even been fat-shamed online, like model Gigi Hadid, who felt the need to directly address critics of her body in a recent Instagram post.


A photo posted by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on

Where the VS fashion show becomes problematic

There's a lot of discussion about why people do or don't watch the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. It often becomes an issue up for debate.


For one, most of the audience at home can’t actually buy any of the products that are being modeled — some of the price-tags on the lingerie modeled climbs into the millions of dollars. Many of the products also aren’t even available for sale on store shelves or online.

These factors contribute to why the VS Fashion Show has been called “outright commercialism” and an “infomercial” by critics throughout its 20-year-run.

Others have heavily criticized the Angels’s unconventional methods of weight loss and food restriction. Back in 2012, Adriana Lima revealed that she went on a liquid-only diet for nine days before the fashion show to “help her shed her babyweight.”

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Non-models may not have the ability or time to work out every day of the week, let alone more than once a day.

A harsh reality is that VS models are seen as a pinnacle of success and beauty in and out of the modeling world. But a healthy, fit woman has between 21 and 24 percent body fat, according to the Daily Mail, whereas a VS Angel has less than 18. 


Using the Victoria’s Secret models as a goal of “perfection” or the “ultimate definition of beauty” is a very effective marketing scheme. After all, if women can’t achieve “total physical perfection,” at least they can buy VS lingerie to bring them one step closer, right?

If every woman in America had the time, money and desire to put themselves through the VS workout routine, they wouldn’t, because women have different goals and priorities. Women also have a wide range of body types, and being healthy doesn’t always look the same. But that’s a conversation for a woman and a medical professional, not a multi-million dollar production displayed on a television screen.

Where VS 2015 took a huge step forward

In one incredible step forward at the fashion show this year, model Maria Borges was featured on the runway with her natural hair. Borges is an Angolan supermodel, and the 2015 Fashion Show is the third time she's walked the VS runway, but the first time she's done so donning her curls.

“I told my agent I wanted to walk in the Victoria’s Secret show with my natural hair,” Borges told Essence.

“I was nervous, but I had to do it. When they said ‘yes’ I didn’t expect it, but I was so happy!" Borges said.

A representative from Victoria's Secret confirmed to Cosmopolitan that "this is the first year a model wore completely natural hair on the runway." The representative said that the lead hairstylist, Akki, sprayed Borges' hair, and that was it.

Borges' gave advice to Essence, addressing women unsure about wearing natural curls:

“Be strong...If you say you’re beautiful without hair and makeup, then they will believe you. It’s about being confident and always being yourself.”

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