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Victoria's Secret's rise to international superstardom and its subsequent dark turn under former CEO Leslie Wexner has been thrusted into the spotlight once again after Hulu debuted its latest documentary Victoria's Secret: Angels and Demons earlier this month.
In the second episode of the much talked-about docuseries, Sharleen Ernster, a former Victoria's Secret executive, says that frustrations grew internally among staffers over the brand's marketing becoming too sexualized and how it related to the overall workplace culture at the lingerie giant.
Ernester says in the doc that Wexner and executive Ed Razek, the former Chief Marketing Officer of L Brands, were making all the top line decisions behind the retailer's sexy branding.
"Time and time again, we couldn't get past Ed [Razek]. He had the power to shut down an idea and if Les [Wexner] happened to be there. Les backed him. There was a security between the two," Ernester says. "Les wanted nothing to do with maternity, he wanted nothing to do with shapewear, he wanted nothing to do with comfort."
"It was just like boom, this woman shot out of a cannon that was born perfect and impossible to become and then made better by push-ups and padding," she adds. "So no matter what we did Ed was going to make the decision on how our swimwear looked, how our lingerie was shot and how that projection of our brand looked."
Ernester says the company "started to split at the seams" by 2007.
"We were just following the bombshell, unattainable single vision of how men see women and it was really frustrating to all of us internally at Victoria's Secret," she shared.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, former public relations employee Casey Crowe Taylor, who worked at the brand from 2012 through 2015, echoed similar sentiments about the direction of the brand.
"I do know from my time within the company that he always spoke about this fantasy element," she says of Razek. "That's what the brand was built on. The brand was built on this fantasy woman. A woman that men want to have sex with, the woman women want to be and that was very common knowledge throughout the company."
"Ed used to make a big speech to the models every year before the fashion show that was always woven in there," she adds. "It was like the Super Bowl for models, right? The most beautiful, most representative of this angel fantasy image he created."
Razek was the subject of a 2020 The New York Times investigative report in which several employees also complained about the executive's behavior, specifically referencing his "demeaning comments and inappropriate touching of women," according to the publication.
Razek denied all allegations, telling the Times, "the accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context," adding, "I've been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other."
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In a statement shared with PEOPLE, Victoria's Secret addressed the documentary and shared that the brand has shifted and evolved since becoming a stand alone company in 2021.
"The company featured in this docuseries does not reflect today's Victoria's Secret & Co. When we became a stand-alone company in August 2021, we set out to regain the trust of our customers, associates and partners," a Victoria's Secret spokesperson tells PEOPLE. "Today, we are proud to be a different company, with a new leadership team and mission to welcome, celebrate, and champion all women. This transformation is a journey, and our work continues to become the Victoria's Secret our customers and associates deserve — where everyone feels seen, respected, and valued."
As part of the rebrand, Victoria's Secret has brought in Martin Waters as CEO and launched the VS Collective, aimed to positively impact women and provide a more inclusive environment for shoppers and employees, according to the brand.
Victoria's Secret also shared an Instagram post, writing "It's no secret. We've made mistakes, we're listening, we're learning and we're changing."
Victoria's Secret: Angels and Demons is streaming now on Hulu.