Victoria’s Secret & its Heavenly Angels
You cannot deny that your mouth doesn’t drop when you watch the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show…even if you are a girl! Beauty, sexuality, luxury, desire, all exist in one brand.
Victoria’s Secret is North America’s largest retailer of lingerie. Founded by Roy Ramond in 1997, the line specializes in providing lingerie, beauty products, bathing suits, and fitness gear to its female clients.
Along with the exceptional branding techniques of Victoria’s Secret products, the annual Victoria Secret Fashion Show, has developed as a very prominent part of North American popular culture
The annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that first aired in 1995, has featured many of North America’s top models including Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Stephanie Seymour, and Helena Christensen, just to name a few.
Due to the growing popularity of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows, the brand continued to use those models in many other campaigns and eventually utilized the models for a unique marketing tool: The Angel’s of Victoria’s Secret came down from Heaven to represent the brand and the true beauty of a woman. What is more feminine than an angel right?
Here is a great timeline of the evolution of the Angels provided by Dhani Mau in Fashionista Magazine:
Very much throughout history, women in literature including Renaissance poems, the Bible, and love stories, have been defined as angelic, virtuous, chaste, beautiful, feminine beings. Most importantly, a very prominent ideology of European literature as early that dates back as early as the 12th century, was the representation of females as an object of desire (Jaffe, Irma B.)
Victoria’s Secret very much depicts the ‘spiritual capitalism’ ideology. The use of Angels as a form of spirituality can be seen as a tool to support capitalist ideologies in order to benefir the product. Because the brand, in no way, is associated with a deep religious connection, it allows individuals to pick and choose components of religion without guilt or critique; supporting the Angels by purchasing the products, without needing to support any Christian doctrine. Carette and King discuss many ways that capitalist spirituality works together with the economic system. For instance, with the removal of critique from religion, capitalism decides for itself what is right and what is wrong.
The marketing tactics of Victoria’s Secrets Angels very much resembles Richard W. Santana and Gregory Erickson’s consuming faith by advertising the pornographic gaze and religious desire theory. The Angels as objects of desire follow what Santana and Erickson believe to be a classic tactic of consumerism: “the culture of consumerism readily yields to the pornographic gaze and its power to seduce buyers.” In fact, Victoria’s Secret even has a line called “Desire” that provides products including perfumes, body lotions, and body mist.
On the one hand, purchasing the commodities allows the female consumers to achieve their desire to be beautiful and sexy. While on the other hand, the male’s desire for the Angels’ beauty is accomplished by his significant other’s purchase.
However, as the Angels gained their popularity and eventually became the spokeswomen of the brand, their glamourization arrived with mixed emotions. For example, the brand was charged with sexualizing the female models, while other critics argued that the Angels did not accurately define the female identity. In addition, many opponents of the Angels thought that their attire was an innapropiate oxymoron: something as sacred as an angel should not be portrayed in such a manner.
Following a Change.org petition against Victoria’s Secret, the company has recently altered its ‘Perfect Body’ campaign, Check it out below:
Victoria's Secret quietly changed its "Perfect Body" slogan on Thursday, following backlash stemming from a Change.org…mashable.com
In addition, a former Angel herself spoke-out against the company’s female sexualization as a commodity tactic. As a devout Christian, Kylie Bisutti felt that it was necessary to leave the brand. Below is her interview with ABCNEWS:
One Victoria's Secret angel might be turning her back on lingerie modeling but she's not giving up her modeling wings…abcnews.go.com
Carrette Jeremy and Richard King. “Spirituality and the Privatisation of Asian Wisdom Traditions.” In Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion, 87–122. London: Routledge, 2005.
Jaffe, Irma B, and Gernando Colombardo. Shining Eyes, Cruel Fortune: The Lives and Loves of Italian Renaissance Women Poets. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002.
Santana, Richard and Gregory Erickson. “Consuming Faith: Advertising, the Pornographic Gaze and Religion Desire.” In Religion and Popular Culture: Rescripting the Sacred, 50–66. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.
Due to their growing popularity, the brand used those models in several other advertising campaigns alongside Laetitia Casta and Inés Rivero, Christensen was the first to leave the brand. Nowadays, the term Angels refers to the brand’s contracted spokeswomen, while the fashion show models are referred to as “Runway Angels”. In 2004 due the Superbowl controversy, instead of a televised show, Victoria’s Secret sent its 5 contract models on a tour called Angels Across America. The Angel line-up has been changed multiple times over the years, with one being officially released before each fashion show[nb 1]. The brand currently lists 8 supermodels on its website, and had a Facebook application in 2013–2014 highlighting the Angels (then including Miranda Kerr and Erin Heatherton) as well as Lais Ribeiro, Toni Garrn and Barbara Palvin.
Among other recognitions, the Victoria’s Secret Angels were chosen to be part of People magazine’s annual “100 Most Beautiful People in the World” issue in 2007 and became the first trademark awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 13, 2007. Other notable spokesmodels for the brand have included: Claudia Schiffer, Eva Herzigová, Oluchi Onweagba, Jessica Stam, Ana Beatriz Barros, and Emanuela de Paula, as well as a handful of celebrities such as Taylor Momsen.