The 26-year-old model told British Vogue that she doesn't feel the brand is "truly reflective" of who she is.

By Faith Brar
July 03, 2019
Matt Winkelmeyer/Staff/Getty Images

Karlie Kloss was a Victoria's Secret Angel for three years before she decided to hang up her wings in 2015. The model briefly returned to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show runway in Shanghai in 2017. But, for the most part, she no longer works with the brand.

Now, almost two years later, Kloss is sharing why she chose to end her contract with Victoria's Secret.

"The reason I decided to stop working with Victoria's Secret was I didn't feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful,” she told British Vogue in a recent interview. "I think that was a pivotal moment in me stepping into my power as a feminist, being able to make my own choices and my own narrative, whether through the companies I choose to work with, or through the image I put out to the world." (Did you know that Karlie Kloss was called "too fat" and "too thin" in the same day?)

It's no secret (pun fully intended) that VS—and its annual fashion show, in particular—have faced backlash over the past several years, mainly because of the brand's lack of diversity in ad campaigns and, of course, its choice of models that perpetuate an unrealistic standard of beauty.

Over the past two years, the brand has responded to the criticism by making some efforts to be more inclusive. For starters, VS broke beauty barriers on the runway by exchanging its bombshell-waves-only policy for close-crops and afros. The brand also recently decided to make a slightly more size-inclusive model, Barbara Palvin, an Angel. Victoria's Secret even invited Winnie Harlow, the first model with vitiligo, to walk its annual runway show last year.

But these efforts were practically sabotaged when Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of L Brands (which owns Victoria's Secret), defended VS' lack of inclusivity by saying that using diverse models would undermine the "fantasy" aspect of the show.

"Shouldn't you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don't think we should," he told Vogue in November 2018. "Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It's a 42-minute entertainment special…We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, [they] still don't." (See: Why We've Changed The Way We Talk About Women's Bodies)

Understandably, celebs and influencers (and everyone else, for that matter) took issue with Razek's insensitive comments. At the time, Kloss' only acknowledgment of the controversy was an Instagram Story on her feed, which read "Trans and [gender nonconforming] people are not a debate," according to Teen Vogue.

In March of that same year, Kloss defended those who choose to work with Victoria's Secret: "There's something really powerful about a woman who owns her sexuality and is in charge," she told The Telegraph. "A show like this celebrates that and allows all of us to be the best versions of ourselves. Whether it’s wearing heels, makeup, or a beautiful piece of lingerie—if you are in control and empowered by yourself, it's sexy. I personally love investing in a powerful scent or piece of lingerie, but I ensure it's on my terms. I like to set a positive example, so [I] would never be part of something I didn't believe in." (Related: Karlie Kloss Shut Down Pregnancy Rumors with an Emoji That Needs No Explanation)

While her stance seems to have evolved since then, Kloss appears to have zero regrets. "Looking back at my late teens and early twenties, I think I was fearful that I would lose a job or lose my position if I said I didn't want to do something," she told British Vogue. "But I did not lose out on jobs. If anything, the more I exercised the power of my voice, the more I earned respect from my peers. And I earned more respect for myself. Only now do I have the confidence to stand tall—all 6ft 2in of me—and know the power of my voice.”

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