This Photoshoot Celebrates Real Women Who Can "Sell the Fantasy" of Victoria's Secret
Linda Blacker was inspired to create an inclusive photoshoot after hearing discriminatory comments about transgender and plus-size models in the fashion industry.
Last year, Ed Razek, the former chief marketing officer of L Brands (which owns Victoria's Secret), told Vogue he would never cast transgender or plus-size models in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. "Why not? Because the show is a fantasy," he said. "We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don't." (Razek later apologized for his comments and said in a statement that he would cast a transgender model in the show.)
Inspired by Razek's initial remarks, London-based photographer and creative director, Linda Blacker decided to challenge the notion that transgender and plus-size people cannot "sell the fantasy" behind lingerie brands like Victoria's Secret.
After the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was canceled this year, Blacker tells Shape she devised her own version of the show. "Representation is really important to me, and I'm truly passionate about creating imagery that's empowering for all women," shares the photographer. (Related: These Diverse Models Are Proof Fashion Photography Can Be Unretouched Glory)
In an Instagram post, Blacker wrote that she recruited a group of diverse models—her take on "angels"—to prove that lingerie is for all bodies. Much like the Victoria's Secret models you've seen on the runway, the talent featured in Blacker's project are dressed in stunning lingerie sets and giant angel wings. But the models themselves—Imogen Fox, Juno Dawson, Enam Asiama, Megan Jayne Crabbe, Vanessa Sison, and Netsai Tinaresse Dandajena—shatter the beauty standards often associated with Victoria's Secret angels.
Imogen Fox, for instance, identifies as a "queer disabled femme" who's passionate about challenging diet culture and mainstream ideas of body image.
"When brands like Victoria's Secret perpetuate the thin white body type as the ideal, they also perpetuate the lie that those of us who don’t fit that are ugly and undesirable," Fox wrote in an Instagram post about the shoot. "Well. Here I am. My own f***ing angel. My incredible, hard-working, failing, saggy body, serving up all kinds of hot fantasy vibes for you all to enjoy."
Another model in the shoot, Juno Dawson, opened up about what the project meant to her as a transgender woman. "My relationship with my body has been ridiculously complex down the years. Transitioning isn't a magic wand that suddenly makes you love your body. I got my gender right but have all the same hang-ups a lot of women do, so the notion of posing in lingerie was F***ING TERRIFYING,” she wrote on Instagram.
Dawson said she was initially so nervous about the shoot that she "very nearly called in sick." But meeting everyone involved in the project alleviated her fears, she wrote in her post. "I realized my issues mostly stem from worrying that other people will judge my body," she wrote. "I shouldn't give them that power. My body is strong and healthy and a house for my heart and head." (Related: How Nicole Maines Is Paving the Way for the Next Generation of LGBTQ Youth)
To help bring her vision to life, Blacker worked with a "really inclusive selection of incredible women," she says. Terri Waters, founder of body-positive online magazine The Unedit, helped Blacker style the models. "Terri did an incredible job making sure the underwear worked for each model. She truly catered to all body types," Blacker tells Shape.
In an Instagram post shared on The Unedit's page, Waters said the shoot was the first time she'd "had the honor of dressing such a diverse cast of models."
"This is how it should be: celebrating bodies regardless of size, shape, color, ability, or gender," continued the post.
Blacker said her goal in creating this photoshoot is to "see more representation of all women and bodies" in the media. (Related: This Plus-Size Blogger Is Urging Fashion Brands to #MakeMySize)
Fortunately, brands like ThirdLove, Savage x Fenty, and Aerie are embracing diversity and body positivity. But as Netsai Tinaresse Dandajena, a model in Blacker's shoot, pointed out in an Instagram post, seeing more representation often means creating the world that you want to see—just like Blacker and her team did.
"I hope this image helps to show and support that all bodies are beautiful and should be seen and represented in the media," Blacker shared on Instagram. "Whether plus-size, black, Asian, trans, disabled, a WOC, every single woman deserves to be represented."