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Victoria’s ‘Dirty Secret’

Epstein connections hurt the brand

Isabell Rivera ow contributor | 3/12/2020, midnight

The popular lingerie brand, known around the world for its top models dressed like angels, might not be so heavenly after all. As The New York Times (NYT) recently reported, Victoria’s Secret, although a female-oriented brand, didn’t cater much to the female audience, but more to their male counterparts. And it is dealing with some behind-the-scenes controversy.

Victoria’s Secret (VS) was founded in 1977 by Roy Raymond, in an attempt to help other men avoid embarrassing experiences while shopping for lingerie for their wives. Although his business was relatively fresh in the retail world - until he sold it to business mogul and owner of L Brands, Leslie H. Wexner in 1982 - the concept remained the same; catering to men.

Women became the subjects in front of the lens. They were carefully selected and dressed up like Barbie dolls with angel wings to entertain a crowd of powerful businessmen such as Jeffrey Epstein.

Victoria’s Secret saw its heyday in the early ‘90s. It was the ticket for the careers of many big name top models, such as Tyra Banks, Giselle Bündchen, Adriana Lima and Heidi Klum, who all rose to fame through the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows. But behind the scenes, the light wasn’t always that shiny.

The Victoria’s Secret commercial from 2010, shot by director Michael Bay, known for directing movies such as “The Transformers,” didn’t favor the models or focus on the product, which was designed for men, by men. The motto “sex sells” certainly applied to Bay’s explosive commercial.

But women weren’t just being sexualized in commercial shoots. They were also being sexualized on the runway, and sexual advances were made behind the scenes, in dressing rooms, by the powerful men in charge, according to more than 30 witnesses.

Various models, current—and former executives, employees, and contractors, as well as documents and court filings display a culture of sexual harassment, misogyny, and bullying.

But this is just the tip of the crumbling, male-dominated empire which had to cancel its 2019 Victoria’s Secret fashion show, and is dealing with decreasing sales. There has been related controversy because of the Epstein case, and VS former chief marketing officer, Ed Razek’s alleged sexual advances and bullying toward models and employees.

Razek, who was known for airbrushing, sexualizing, and keeping the look of the Victoria’s Secret models analogous, resigned in August 2019.

Former VS model Andi Muise came forward and talked about the allegations with the NYT, Razek’s behavior toward women, and her own experience with Razek, who invited her to private dinners. The first invitation occured in 2007, when Razek picked the then 19-year-old up in a limousine to go to dinner. While inside the car, he made unwanted sexual advances towards Muise, who rejected him. After that incident, many more emails followed (Muise kept them as proof) and responded to them with a professional demeanor to protect her modeling career. But the dream of continuing as a model for Victoria’s Secret ended with her angel wings being taken away from her—she no longer received bookings with VS.