victoria’s secret fashion show: a tale of cultural appropriation and false body image

The Victoria’s Secret (VS) Fashion Show, which has been going on since the 1990s, is an annual lingerie fashion show held by the brand Victoria’s Secret. Certainly everyone knows what VS Fashion Show is all about: pretty skinny toned-up girls strutting around with lingeries on. In a positive light, the fashion show is a great platform to boost these girls’ confidence and popularity. In other words, the show is only beneficial for them, not us. I myself used to think about how amazing it must feel to be one of those Victoria’s Secret models. Even now, I  still see and listen to most girls saying on social media, “Look at those Victoria’s Secrets models! I want to be just like them! Their bodies are too die for. Meanwhile, here I am with my flabby tummy, potato crisps, and chocolate chip cookies”. And not to mention the clueless little girls watching the fashion show at home — their eyes glue on the TV screen while thinking about how they really wish to look like those VS models when they grow up.

Now, as I’m older and shit, I think about how destructive Victoria’s Secret is in terms of body image and narrow-minded capitalism. Give me a break, those models’ bodies are made at the gym by training like athletes every day of the week; they themselves say things like: “I work out seven days a week, even twice a day. It really feels like working out and preparing for the Olympics!”. They say, the reason why they have to work out like athletes is because Victoria’s Secret is all about showing women’s bodily strength, “Besides, how can we lift those heavy wings if we don’t work out every day? Millions, or even billions, of people are watching us walking the runaway!”. I suppose it’s great when a brand supports hard work & athleticism, but is it really necessary for these young women to work out like athletes and starve themselves with liquid-only diets? Yes, liquid only diets. The whole thing is beyond ridiculous. Also, why don’t Victoria’s Secret just make the wings less heavier for those skinny models?

Aside from creating destructive body-image, Victoria’s Secret is a narrow-minded capitalist since it literally celebrates cultural appropriation. Last time I checked, the CEO of Victoria’s Secret is a white, balding, 79-year-old straight guy; I suppose that’s why the cultural appropriation thing is inevitable. For those who still don’t understand the meaning of cultural appropriation, here I give you the definition from

“Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation may be perceived as controversial, even harmful, notably when the cultural property of a minority group is used by members of the dominant culture without the consent of the members of the originating culture; this is seen as misappropriation and a violation of intellectual property rights

Bottom line, cultural appropriation is wrong because you actually need CONSENT/agreement from the minorities before using their sacred cultures as mere decorations and fashion props. These minorities have undergone sufferings due to their cultures, yet some people still have the audacity to only appropriate the cultures for fashion trends, self-expression, et cetera, without showing any support for the minorities. Cultural appropriation is not controversial — it’s just downright wrong, ignorant, and offensive. One of the segments of this year VS Fashion Show was ‘inspired’ by Chinese culture — the costumes and wings were beautifully designed with oriental theme. Nonetheless, some of the models wearing those Chinese costumes were not even Chinese at all, even the one who opened up the segment wearing a dragon (barongsai) was a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. What baffles me is… WHY didn’t Victoria’s Secret choose a Chinese model to open up a Chinese-themed runaway? I suppose Victoria’s Secret “paid a tribute” to China (with the Chinese-inspired segment and all) only because the company wishes to expand its business in Asia; that’s why cultural appropriation is heavily overlooked. I mean, if they wanted to have dragon costumes, at least put the spotlight on the Chinese models. Then again, Victoria’s Secret only allowed 4 Chinese girls out of 50 models to walk the 2016 show — FOUR is ironically the highest number of Asian girls walking for that damn fashion show. Back in 2012, Victoria’s Secret also faced accusations of appropriating Native American’s culture. Damn, where are these Victoria’s Secret CEOs and models be when Native Americans fight blood and tears for #NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline)? At least support Native Americans’ rights if you end up appropriating their cultures for your goddamn capitalist fashion show.

That being said, it gets on my nerves when people glorify the fact that Chinese/Asian girls can finally be one of Victoria’s Secrets models. Girl, calm down — they are only treated as ‘models’, not ‘angels’. The real Victoria’s Secrets Angels are still mostly white, blonde, blue eyes, green eyes, blonde, blonde, did I say blonde and white? (Victoria’s Secret Angels differ from the mere ‘model’ title in terms of more recognition, popularity, promotion, and payment). There are only a handful amount of Asian or black models walking the show because Victoria’s Secret is reluctant to offer those opportunities for them. The brand would much rather give the opportunities to commercialized white models like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid to boost the show’s ratings, instead of talented women of colors. Therefore, it’s not something to be proud of when a few women of color get appointed to walk for the show. It’s not something to be proud of when the show itself limits the opportunity for women of color, but still appropriates the hell out of their cultures.


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