Victoria's Secret Added a Slightly More Size-Inclusive Angel to Their Roster
But does this small, body-positive effort—in the face of dropping sales—actually deserve a pat on the back?
ICYMI, apparently when the New York Stock Exchange bell rings, a VS model gets her wings. Lingerie giant Victoria's Secret announced that 25-year-old Hungarian model Barbara Palvin received her ~wings~ and has been welcomed into the VS family.
Palvin and VS shared the news in a video on Instagram. "Thank you for believing in me," Palvin said in the clip. "There were times where I let my own thoughts hold me back, and it was a hard climb away from those, but my family, my team, Ed, and everyone at VS they were always there to support me and uplift me. I am proud to represent Hungary, and most importantly, all of you in this new chapter of my life!" (Related: These Victoria's Secret Angels Had Impressive Fitness Goals While Training for the 2018 Fashion Show)
VS fans, and even some former haters, seem to be particularly excited about Palvin's new gig. The consensus? Her body type is a refreshing shift from the brand's infamously long-limbed and shockingly slender Angels. That said, Palvin isn't that far from the brand's historically narrow beauty standards: Sources say she's a size 2 or 4 and weighs about 120 pounds and is 5'9". So if this is the brand's attempt at representing the majority of women, it's safe to say they (still) missed the mark.
ICYDK, Victoria's Secret's lack of diversity isn't a new issue: For many years, VS's huge holiday-season fashion show has stirred up controversy about the lack of body and racial diversity represented on the runway. (See: Celebs Are Calling Out the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show for Its Lack of Diversity Again)
In a climate where popular clothing brands are (and should be) embracing diversity and body positivity-especially VS's competitors like Third Love, Savage x Fenty, and Aerie-Victoria's Secret is lagging behind. And, it's hitting them where it hurts: the bank. Just a few weeks ago, VS announced they were shutting down 53 stores after sales dropped 7 percent in its last quarter. This steep decline was a direct result of the brand refusing to listen to customers to include more bra sizes and feature more diverse and inclusive models in their campaigns, reports CNN.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg: VS's chief marketing officer Ed Razek made national headlines following the VS Fashion Show last year for saying that women of different sizes and sexualities didn't belong on their runway because that would undermine the "fantasy" of the show. (Related: Regular Women Recreated the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show and We're Obsessed)
"Shouldn't you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don't think we should," he said in an interview with Vogue. "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, still don't." Despite the uproar these comments caused, Razek has yet to step down from his position. That said, Jan Singer, the former chief executive of the brand, did resign following the statements (and plummeting sales).
While Palvin isn't anywhere near a plus-size model-nor is she representative of the normal U.S. woman, who averages a size 16 to 18-Instagrammers are excited to see even a small body-positive deviation in the women featured in VS's campaigns. "Good job for picking a slightly curvier model. Her body represents most of us girls in real life. NOT everyone is born super skinny," one user wrote.
"Yes, finally someone with real girl body goals," said another. "Now we just need girls with realistic bodies on your runway next year."
Palvin has walked the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show before and has previously modeled for the brand. Just a few days before she was crowned (winged?) an angel, VS shared a few photos of her on Instagram that were also praised by customers for being more body positive. "Finally a real human body," one user wrote. "This model actually looks healthy," said another.
Some even pointed out that featuring a model like Palvin might be a sign that the struggling retailer is finally starting to listen to their critics. "Her being an angel...is the best choice VS has made," someone said.
Given the amount of flack VS has received for their lack of inclusivity, it's pretty evident that their traditional ads and runway shows no longer resonate in the era of #MeToo and the ever-evolving body-positive movement. By highlighting Palvin, it seems they're making a tiny effort to chip away at the idea of perfectionism that they've built their fading empire upon. But TBH, it's still a small consolation-and more so, feels like a meek attempt to mask recent PR nightmares. After years of denial that real women deserve to be seen and years of body-shaming messaging, one slightly-less-skinny Angel isn't about to save them.