A good rule of thumb when doing press for your product — be it a movie, an album, or even a lingerie fashion show — is that you don’t want your brand to come out of the interview looking worse than before. L Brands’ Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek, one of the primary executives on the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, did not exactly keep to this rule of thumb recently.
In a Vogue interview ahead of this year’s Fashion Show, Razek spouted off several transphobic and fatphobic thoughts about why there would be no trans or plus-size models in the show. “I don’t think we can be all things to all customers,” was one such quote. “It is a specialty business; it isn’t a department store.”
Most disturbingly, though, Razek said that the motivation behind not casting trans models — who he refers to as “transsexuals” — is that “the show is a fantasy.” In other words: Being trans automatically excludes you from being part of the Victoria’s Secret fantasy.
Many were quick to slam Razek’s comments online, including actress Trace Lysette and America’s Next Top Model alumna Isis King.
I, as a transsexual woman and model have a @VictoriasSecret credit card and over 30 pair of panties from them. Sad that I can no longer support the brand since these undergarments were not created for my kind of woman from my understanding. I don't fit the "fantasy". Cool.
— Isis King (@MsIsisKing) November 10, 2018
Not including plus-sized or trans models in your fashions shows is super uncool!
I’m both trans and plus-sized and I work a bikini as well as any one of your models can.
Don’t be on the wrong side of history! We deserve runway representation! pic.twitter.com/k0YGoNmpoC
— Ophelia Brown (@opheliajcbrown) November 10, 2018
— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) November 10, 2018
For inclusive, high quality alternatives to Victoria’s Secret head over to @lingerie_addict’s timeline…AND BUY HER BOOK DAMNIT!
— Blair Imani (@BlairImani) November 10, 2018
Of course, after the interview went viral, Razek had to release an apology statement on Victoria’s Secret’s Twitter account. “My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive,” the statement reads. “I apologize.”
But then Razek goes on to claim that while they’ve had trans models come in, they’ve not been cast. “Like many others, they didn’t make it,” the statement continues. “But it was never about gender.”
Please read this important message from Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer, L Brands (parent company of Victoria’s Secret). pic.twitter.com/CW8BztmOaM
— Victoria's Secret (@VictoriasSecret) November 10, 2018
Which sounds fishy and very much not like what he said in the interview! If trans women aren’t part of the Victoria’s Secret “fantasy,” how was their gender orientation not what disqualified them when they auditioned? Somehow we’re doubtful that Razek truly does “admire and respect” trans models.
Advocacy group Model Alliance seems to agree. Saturday afternoon, the group posted a statement to their Instagram account denouncing Razek’s comments. “Such comments create a hostile work environment for people who do not conform to Victoria’s Secret’s mold — one that enforces an idea of female beauty that is predominantly white, cisgender, young and thin,” the group wrote in their statement. “In addition to the brand’s issues with lack of diversity and inclusion, Victoria’s Secret photographers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct by models, which have yet to be adequately addressed.”
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We are disappointed by the recent comments about trans and plus-size models made by Ed Razek, CMO of L Brands, Victoria's Secret's parent company. Such comments create a hostile work environment for people who do not conform to Victoria’s Secret’s mold – one that enforces an idea of female beauty that is predominantly white, cisgender, young and thin. In addition to the brand’s issues with lack of diversity and inclusion, Victoria’s Secret photographers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct by models, which have yet to be adequately addressed. If Victoria’s Secret is truly a leader, it will join the RESPECT Program so that models and their colleagues can work in a respectful, accountable and inclusive environment. The RESPECT Code requires that all be treated with dignity and respect on the job, regardless of race, size, or gender identity. This is not the “PC” thing to do – this is best business practice. When any part of our industry is excluded or oppressed, abuse is able to flourish and hurts us all. We can and need to do better. #Time4RESPECT #VictoriasSecret
“If Victoria’s Secret is truly a leader, it will join the RESPECT Program so that models and their colleagues can work in a respectful, accountable and inclusive environment,” they said, referring to the model protection initiative they launched earlier this year. “The RESPECT Code requires that all be treated with dignity and respect on the job, regardless of race, size, or gender identity. This is not the ‘PC’ thing to do — this is best business practice.”
Image via Getty
This story has been updated.