Victoria's Secret has been slammed for not featuring a more diverse lineup of models in its annual fashion show

By Kaitlyn Frey
November 12, 2018 10:58 AM
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Fans praised Rihanna this fall when she featured a very diverse mix of models — including heavily pregnant model Slick Woods — in her debut Fenty x Savage lingerie show at New York Fashion Week. And it seems the inclusive designer doesn’t approve of lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret’s stance on hiring transgender and plus-size models.

L Brands’ (the parent company of Victoria’s Secret) Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek has been facing backlash since telling Vogue that the brand would not hire trans or curvy models for the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

“Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special,” Razek told the magazine.

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He added that inviting plus-size models to participate the show isn’t something Victoria’s Secret plans to do in the future, since “no one had any interest in it” when they pursued the idea in 2000.

“I think we address the way the market is shifting on a constant basis. If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus-size model in the show, we have,” Razek said. “We invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division, Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant still sells plus-size lingerie, but it sells a specific range, just like every specialty retailer in the world sells a range of clothing. As do we. We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.”

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He added, “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”

Rihanna appears to support those who are speaking out against Razek’s comments by “liking” an Instagram post that slammed the executive and praised the Fenty x Savage designer for her inclusive runway.

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Model Kendall Jenner, who made her return to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway last week, seemed to also shade Razek after his comments hit the internet.

Kendall Jenner/Instagram

Jenner posted a graphic on her Instagram Story that read, “Celebrate Trans Women.” The model’s dad, Caitlyn Jenner, publicly opened up about her transition from male to female in 2015.

Following the backlash, Razek apologized for his comments with an official statement shared on the Victoria’s Secret social media accounts.

“My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive. I apologize,” Razek said. “To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show. We’ve had transgender models come to casting… And like many others, they didn’t make it…But it was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.”

Victoria’s Secret has made an effort to expand diversity on the runway, casting 19 models of color.

The brand was also praised for adding Winnie Harlow, the first model with vitiligo, to its catwalk lineup in the 2018 show.

Harlow told PEOPLE about how proud she felt to be breaking down barriers by walking in the iconic lingerie show.

“It means the world to me,” the first-timer said. “Victoria’s Secret might be the biggest show there is because of how many people are able to watch it around the world, so to be a part of diversifying the Victoria’s Secret Angel landscape is a true honor that I’m so proud of.”

“Any step towards a truly equal and diverse modeling industry is great, but for a huge brand like Victoria’s Secret to include me as a model with vitiligo is a huge step to normalizing it in the entire industry,” Harlow added. “I’m glad to be the first, but part of me is also sad that there weren’t any before me and I hope that there are many more in the future. We need to work towards diversity, not for the sake of it, but to make it the norm. And I hope this is a big step toward that.”