Another day, another non-apology from a man.
Victoria’s Secret issued a message on behalf of its Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Ed Razek, clarifying statements that Razek made in Vogue about why the lingerie brand hasn’t cast trans models in its tentpole fashion shows.
Razek originally stated that Victoria’s Secret has not and should not cast trans models because they’re not consistent with the “fantasy,” as he called it, presented by the show. Now, Razek says that the company has never cast trans models because they simply didn’t make the cut, not because of their gender. And that Victoria’s Secret would “absolutely cast a transgender model.”
If you’re scratching your head at this circular logic, and wondering whether this statement really contradicts in any way the idea that trans models aren’t part of the “fantasy” that Victoria’s Secret tries to present — well folks, you’re not alone!
Let’s break it down.
70-year-old white male Ed Razek is one of the people who casts the extravagant objectification-palooza that is the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Featuring models like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner in angel wings and Scottish tartan-adorned underwear, Victoria’s Secret broadcasts the show of tall, thin, near-naked women on ABC in December. A holiday spectacular!
Razek recently gave an interview to Vogue about the show, the brand, and its place in a lingerie market that now includes more inclusive and diverse brands, like Rihanna’s Fenty. In the interview, Razek was clear: Victoria’s Secret is not a brand for everybody, nor should it be. It will continue to promote and cater to a very specific Hadid-esque body type.
“We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world,” Razek said.
To that end, Victoria’s Secret has considered putting plus-size and transgender models in its shows, but ultimately decided against it. That’s because the company needs to stay true to its brand, to the “fantasy” it’s selling – which, to be clear, is “physically fit” women, as Razek described them. And that fantasy does not include plus-size or transgender (transsexual, as Razek calls them) women:
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’s rare these days to see such a bald-faced embrace of an obvious-if-unpopular truth. Why doesn’t Victoria’s Secret cast trans or plus-size models? Because it’s not the thin-cis-tits-out-fantasy that they’re selling. Duh!
So, naturally, Razek and Victoria’s Secret had to walk back the comments. And to do so, the company issued a… very confusing statement!
My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive. I apologize. To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the 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 essentially says that he and his crew has not cast trans models because they “didn’t make it” — that is, they weren’t who the people charged with casting were looking for.
Oh, why is that you ask? Because Razek, who is, as he said, trying to promote the “fantasy” of the brand, says they didn’t make it! The models did not fit Razek’s idea of a Victoria’s Secret model. Ergo, they are not Victoria’s Secret models. Decoupling that truth from their gender is disingenuous and honestly, nonsensical.
Razek’s statement was clear and honest. Victoria’s Secret “absolutely would” cast a trans model if she made the cut. But, the unspoken implication based on the company’s brand and past actions dictates that she would never make the cut, because it’s people like Razek deciding what is sexy, what is part of the fantasy. And as Razek stated previously, that doesn’t include trans women.
Here’s the thing: let’s not allow the opinions of men like Razek nor the business objectives of corporations decide what is sexy.
It would be a “statement” — perhaps even a victory — if Victoria’s Secret cast a transgender model in its iconic runway show. It would say, yes, you are part of the “fantasy” of what we think is sexy, too. And that could mean a lot to a lot of people.
But perhaps that attitude sustains the power of Victoria’s Secret, when what we really should be doing is continuing to deflate that authority — shrinking its power alongside its fast-falling sales. Courting Victoria Secret’s acceptance of trans models implies that the company can, does, and should have the power to decide what is sexy. Why do we still allow them to have this power?
We know what Victoria’s Secret stands for; people like Razek, and the dozens of near-identical bodies they put on their runways, make that very clear. That runway no longer gets to be an arbiter of what is sexy.
Who the hell needs Victoria’s Secret’s approval when we’ve got Rihanna?