The 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show may be over, but the controversy around it is not.
As the show began to air on Sunday night, the singer Halsey, who had performed at the pre-taped event, posted a statement on Instagram that reignited outrage over comments made to Vogue last month by Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret. In an interview, Razek said he didn’t think Victoria’s Secret should cast transgender or plus-size models in the annual fashion show, “because the show is a fantasy.” His controversial comments were published the same day the show taped.
Halsey, who is bisexual, said on Instagram, “I have no tolerance for a lack of inclusivity. Especially not one motivated by stereotype,” and encouraged her followers to donate to GLSEN, an organization that focuses on LGBTQ+ youth.
In addition to concern over the lack of diversity in the cast of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the brand has been criticized for the potentially dangerous regime of dieting and exercise it expects models to follow in the lead-up to the performance.
A statement from Razek was posted on the Victoria’s Secret Twitter account a few days after the Vogue interview was published and the outrage ensued. He said his remarks “came across as insensitive.” He said Victoria’s Secret “would absolutely cast a transgender model;” in fact, transgender models had auditioned for the show, and—like so many other hopefuls—they hadn’t made the cut. But their rejection, he said, “was never about gender.”
The continued criticism of Razek’s comments is a headache for Victoria’s Secret that comes after sales dipped in the third quarter, prompting L Brands to announce it will halve its annual dividend in 2019. The fashion show used to be a bright spot for the brand, but in 2017 only 5 million viewers tuned in, down 30% from the previous year.