The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has been cancelled. Yes, that Victoria’s Secret fashion show - the long-standing epitome of American glamour and a showcase of the world’s most ‘perfect’ bodies.
The official answer is that L Brands — the parent company of Victoria’s Secret — wants to “evolve the marketing” of its signature lingerie brand to keep pace with the changing consumer landscape.
The show has long been a high-profile branding vehicle selling the fantasy of the ‘perfect woman’, but as many of us know, lingerie is for everyone and there is no true definition of the perfect woman. With ratings for the show declining in recent years, there’s been a long lead up to this decision as customers have begun to favor body inclusiveness over unattainable ideals. But many believe the true turning point was the recent Savage X Fenty NYFW fashion show.
Rihanna’s new and widely successful lingerie line is one of Victoria’s Secret’s major competitors. The Savage X Fenty NYFW show (watch here on Amazon Prime) showcased women of all shapes, colors, genders, and pregnancy terms. There was something for everyone, with a raw, animalistic femininity underlying to entire show. The highly entertaining event showcased passionate women who were confident in their uniqueness, rather than ideal images for others to attain.
The popularity of the Savage X Fenty show and resulting cancellation of the Victoria’s Secret show represent a major turning point in the evolution of today’s ‘beauty’ construct. The ancient Greeks believed perfect proportions were the key to a beautiful face. Victorians favored tiny rosebud lips over the full, sensuous mouths we admire today. History shows that standards of beauty are constantly changing yet it is the link between fashion and politics that seems to determine beauty standards.
There is no absolute truth about beauty. What’s trending is temperamental, while marketing schemes and memes cater to the collective consciousness. What does have a lasting impact is the consequences these trends have on the end consumer, and the marketing models themselves.
JinE, a K-Pop idol and member of the girl group Oh My Girl announced she was leaving the industry to deal with an eating disorder. She lost between 17 to 20 pounds dieting for promotions -- a common practice among K-pop groups who want to look their best on camera, but also as a response to Korean society's expectations for idols to be thin and attractive. Much like the Victoria’s Secret debate, some argue K-pop is visually focused and ‘ideal’ body standards come with the territory of success. Others, reflecting on the health of performers and their fans say it's time to end the stigma of mandatory body shapes.
We base our responses to marketing campaigns on our subconscious definitions of beauty. This interaction of external messaging and internal processing determines our actions and manifests real consequences into our lives. Based on the same visual imagery, some will starve themselves, some will head to the gym, others will book surgeries while some purchase products. Our concept of beauty literally shapes and transforms us.
In a marketing world where all shapes are in vogue, is acceptance of who we already are the ultimate goal, or is it simply an excuse to settle for less? What if you are not in a healthy state? Do we accept ourselves as is? What is a healthy state?
Health is what you can do with your body, and what your body can do for you. Can you move? Can you dance? Can you breathe? Are you eating a balanced diet? Health is not about weight, as skinny or large women can be equally healthy or unhealthy depending on their habits and lifestyle.
A curvy girl who can move and breathe and laugh and work any job and shake what her Momma gave her is not necessarily unhealthy. She may be a bursting light of laughter, sexy, confident, and sharing of her good nature to those around her. She is healthy and beautiful, and needs no ideal image of something else to attain. Conveniently, Lizzo twerking in her thong at the Lakers game supports a monumental shift in what’s considered acceptable and sexy in pop culture.
In contrast, there are some of us who truly are over or underweight. Our bodies are struggling with basic functionalities due to unhealthy diets and unbalanced exercise while our emotional states also suffer. We often feel unhappy with ourselves, not necessarily because of our shape, but because our body is telling us, “Help! Something’s not right! I love dancing but cannot move in this state! I want to shake it but run out of breath! I have more light to give but need to transform!” (yes, this is the voice of the body speaking)
It’s not size and weight that determines health and beauty, though how many of us have been fooled by this old marketing message? Beauty is only skin deep, but our concept of beauty penetrates the depths of our being. While supporting the all-inclusive movement, we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to settle for less than our best. Acceptance of ourselves as is? Yes! Dormant satisfaction of our less than ideal shape? No! And let’s not forget that empowering idols who inspire us to transform can be a wonderful thing.
It’s beautiful to see women of all shapes and sizes emerging on TV and billboards. Men too. We have come a long way, though it’s important to remember that every person we put on a pedestal is a role model for someone. If they are truly unhappy on the inside and not making conscious decisions to transform, they are setting a bad example and paving a pathway for others to fall into the same struggle.
So if you have any influence, all you influencer's and global brands, be clear with your message. Give your customers clarity on what you believe about beauty. It’s hard to argue that the traditional Victoria’s Secret models were not beautiful, but it’s also true that these figures have caused years of pain and unbalanced eating habits for many of their followers.
As brands jump on new trends and revise their image of ideal beauty, the priority is the message they spread and the impact it will have. Brands can paint ideals of positive transformation, or promote the acceptance of who we are. Whatever the case may be, it’s up to each of us to assess how we feel about ourselves, why we feel this way, and what we are going to do about it. To look past the societal construct of beauty that may be influencing us, and connect with our true inner voice.
We are in the midst of a cultural revolution. Companies have always played a major role in the development of ideals, and many of today’s successful brands are guiding their communities to a balance of health, happiness, and positive transformations. While there’s an endless onslaught of what is right and what is wrong, we are each responsible for making conscious decisions that support our highest vision of self.