It says something about the current state of Victoria's Secret that, for months now, the name most closely associated with the brand does not belong to Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Candice Swanepoel, or any of the all-star "Angels." Instead, headlines have been dominated by the company's chief marketing officer, Ed Razek—aka the one who sent the brand into turmoil last fall when he told Vogue that he didn't think "transsexuals" or plus-size models had a place in the annual spectacle that is the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. By the time he apologized, admitting that his remark "came across as insensitive," it was already too late: ratings of that year's show plunged to a record low.
Now, nine months later, Razek is back in the news. On Monday night, the New York Times reported that the 71 year-old, who joined the company in1983, is retiring. And yet, that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recent Victoria's Secret news. Catch up on all of it, from the uncertain fate of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show to the brand's appointment of its first-ever openly transgender model, here.
The Jeffrey Epstein connection:
It took a minute to emerge amidst all of the other horrifying news about Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who was arrested last month and charged with sex trafficking underage women, but it turns out Epstein and Victoria's Secret have a past. For starters, according to several models and executives who spoke with the New York Times, one of Epstein's techniques for approaching women as young as 14 was to pose as a Victoria's Secret talent scout. At the same time, Epstein was developing what the Times described as an "unusually strong hold" on Leslie Wexner, the CEO of Victoria's Secret's parent company, L Brands. Eventually, Wexner reportedly began handing "sweeping powers" over to Epstein, including making hires and allowing him to borrow money on his behalf. There's much more where that came from, which is detailed in the Times's investigation published in late July.
The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show:
In May, L Brands announced that the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show—which has reliably taken over the media for nearly two decades—will no longer air on network TV. Last week brought an update that it had reportedly been cancelled altogether, but, in a true testament to the chaos, it came not from L Brands, but from none other than the model Shanina Shaik, who gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph. Victoria's Secret has yet to comment on her announcement, though that seems to be their modus operandi as of late...
The "Angels" (and various other models):
There is, however, one bit of good news: On Monday, the New York Times confirmed that Victoria's Secret has booked 22-year-old Valentina Sampaio for a catalog photo shoot, marking the first time that the brand has worked with an openly transgender model. And yet, once again, Victoria's Secret was not the one to break the news. Instead, it was Sampaio's agent who confirmed as much to the Times, which also noted that a Victoria's Secret representative did not respond to its requests for comment.
To be clear, Sampaio has yet to join the elite ranks of the brand's so-called Angels. Only 40 models have made the cut since Victoria's Secret introduced the role in 1997—none of whom, by the way, are Asian, and just six of whom are black.
Then again, it's no secret that Victoria's Secret is ruthlessly rigorous when it comes to casting. In 2017, Alessandra Ambrosio told W that she spends "the whole year" training in preparation for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which even once rejected Gigi Hadid.
Ambrosio has since retired from walking the show, and, like other notable alums, seemed to leave the brand on a positive note. But that might soon change for those whose contracts eventually run their course, thanks to one Karlie Kloss, who got suprisingly candid about working with the industry powerhouse last month. "The reason I decided to stop working with Victoria’s Secret was I didn’t feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful," Kloss told British Vogue. "I think that was a pivotal moment in me stepping into my power as a feminist, being able to make my own choices and my own narrative, whether through the companies I choose to work with, or through the image I put out to the world."