VS exec apologizes for saying 'no one had any interest' in a show with plus-size models

Performers and models on the runway at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on Nov. 8, 2018. (Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP)
Performers and models on the runway at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on Nov. 8, 2018. (Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP)

The annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show made its return on Friday, and the feather and underwire extravaganza was as decadent as ever. And while rising supermodels like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner strutted the stage like pros, it was the controversy that happened offstage that made the biggest headlines.

Late Friday evening, Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company L Brands, sent out a tweet apologizing for his earlier statements regarding the exclusion of transgender and plus-size models in the show.

“My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive. I apologize,” Razek tweeted on the Victoria’s Secret account. “To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for a show. We’ve had transgender models come to castings…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.”

Razek’s comments stem from the negative reaction regarding his comments in a recent Vogue interview, in which he claimed viewers don’t want to see more diverse models on the runway.

“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. 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,” Razek told Vogue. “As do we. We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.”

He added that the company previously had a plus size-only project nearly 20 years ago, but that viewers didn’t tune in. “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000],” says Razek. “No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” Razek attributed the pressure to include transgender and plus-size models to “political correctness.”

“I’m always asking myself: If we do that, what is the reason? Why did we include that person? And did we include them to shut up a reporter? Did we include them because it was the right thing to do or because it was the politically correct thing to do?” he said. “Do they take the place of somebody who worked for a year for the opportunity and cried when they found that they got it?”

He cemented his frustration with “the haters” by arguing that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show isn’t meant to be based on reality.

“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 its 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.”

While the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show continues to be an international phenomenon, sales at the store have suffered. In July, Forbes reported that the company had suffered a 1% decline in comparable sales in the five weeks ended July 7.

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