Anyone still disappointed in Victoria's Secret for its lack of diversity should take heart that "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Is Dead," as The Cut reported in December.
The 2018 event garnered the worst ratings in the brand's history, largely due to the chief marketing officer's intolerant remarks during an ill-received interview with Vogue. Even though Ed Razek issued an apology on Twitter, the consumer and celebrity backlash against the brand continues.
But VS's intolerance has only helped Munroe Bergdorf, LGBTQ+ activist and trans-model, promote her cause—as well as her career. The 31-year-old has collaborated with Bluebella to launch a new ad campaign with the British lingerie line.The Valentine's Day campaign features Bergdorf modeling for the first time since her gender reassignment surgery. The new line by the "female-owned and female-created lingerie brand" debuted yesterday.
As an outspoken activist, Bergdorf has been open about beginning her transition at 19 years old, struggling with body image issues, and experiencing discrimination in the fashion industry. She told The Daily Mail, "Lingerie should be something that all women can enjoy. It's something personal, beautiful, and intimate that is a celebration of femininity, something that every woman should have the option of being included in." She added, "True diversity is the future, let's leave any form of discrimination or exclusion in the past."
The model also disagrees with critics who believe that lingerie fashion "upholds a standard of beauty that is infiltrated by the male gaze." In an interview with Out, she emphasized the difference between celebrating femininity and objectifying women: "I would say, if the lingerie isn't picked by a woman, if it's not intended to represent all women, if the lingerie is being created in mind for the benefit of men, then I think that's very different from lingerie celebrating femininity. If it's intended for the consumption of the gaze of men, then that's very different from it being a tool of empowerment."
Describing her first post-op campaign, she told Elle UK, "Bluebella is a lingerie brand created by women and I think that's so important, especially in today's society when we are becoming more conscious of conversations surrounding inclusivity and authenticity." In contrast, Bergdorf has been outspoken against Victoria Secret for stifling diversity in its brand, stating, "It's a big shame Victoria's Secret decided not to be inclusive of trans women within their shows or campaigns."
Her criticism is rooted in Razek's ill-worded response to a question about consumers' expectations. He said. "Do I think about diversity? Yes. Does the brand think about diversity? Yes. Do we offer larger sizes? Yes."
But then the 70-year-old added: "So it's like, why don't you do 50? Why don't you do 60? Why don't you do 24? It's like, why doesn't your show do this? 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. That's what it is. It is the only one of it's kind in the world and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we're the leader."
Despite later acknowledging that his remarks were "insensitive," Razek still implied that transsexual models would ruin the constructed feminine "fantasy" that Victoria's Secret profits from. This week, Bergdorf told Out that she hopes the heads of Victoria's Secret sees images of Bluebella's line, saying, "[The campaign is] a great reaction to a really sad situation. I mean, ultimately, any woman can sell the fantasy. These images show that trans people aren't an exception to that statement." She added, "I'm not trying to look like a Victoria's Secret model. I'm not trying to look like anybody else apart from myself."
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