Why did Victoria's Secret brand black models 'wild things'?
Dear Victoria’s Secret,
Congratulations on another amazing show of beautiful women wearing fantastically impractical lingerie. This year your fashion show brought 9 million American viewers to CBS — your largest audience in seven years! There was a breath-taking brigade of 34 models, six of whom were of color (and I’m including lone Asian model Liu Wen as a numbers boost). I’m not complaining — Chanel Iman, Selita Ebanks, and Lais Ribeiro contributed an impressive 18 percent of boobs of color to your show. Lord knows how “difficult” it is to find decent models of color, so one behalf of the colored population of the world, I thank you.
And what a theme! “A Night of a Thousand Fantasies” featured six different themes to represent different types of women: heavenly bodies, pink, country girls, game on, tough love and wild things. The costumes were wonderfully creative and inventive, but one of the more notable scenes in your show was the “wild” segment, where, no doubt coincidentally, the models of color were prominently featured.
That was an accident, right?
It was interesting, because in your “country girls” segment, your blonde-haired, blue-eyed models were featured on a set resembling a barn while country music blared down the runway. There was one woman of color, but much like the rest of the segments in the show, she seemed to be thrown in as a placating nod to “diversity.” However, somewhat mysteriously, all of the ethnic models got to walk the runway in the wild things segment, replete with “tribal” body paint.
But that must have been an odd coincidence. Because honestly, who in their right mind would bunch all the ethnic models in that category on purpose? If someone were do to that, and in no way am I suggesting you did, but that very absentminded individual could be accused of stereotyping, cultural insensitivity, and plain old lack of creativity.
When someone sticks all the models of color into a segment called “wild things” it just subliminally reinforces the racist rule that all non-European cultures are abnormal, odd, wild, and deserving of any and all exoticism. It comes off culturally insensitive and pandering, a cheap way of feeling ethnic and diverse without contributing anything concrete. Better to not single out the small collection of models of color and label them “wild.” What makes them so different from any of the other leggy beauties? In the end, they all have boobs, and isn’t that what we’re here for?
But I’m not saying you did that Victoria. No, you’re much too smart for that type of short-sighted foolishness. Though I must ask — what was up with the, um, “native” dancers?
Perhaps it was an indigenous tribe of beautifully sculpted male models heretofore undiscovered by modern anthropology? Maybe it was carefully thought out choreography meant to do justice to the many forms of artistic expression found in this world? Or maybe it was just to drive home that your interpretation of “wild” actually meant non-European indigenous culture.
Can I tell you want it felt like you were doing in that moment? More pandering. The wild native “ooogah boogahs” were damn near audible. Thank God one of those mouth-breathing Neanderthals didn’t snatch a model off the stage and hold her hostage in his prehistoric cave. That would have been a PR nightmare!
Anyways Victoria, good to know that you’re always conscious and aware of your social responsibility as a multi-billion dollar international company. It’d be frightening if you didn’t realize the social impact you have on the millions of impressionable eyes that tune in to your annual show! I can’t wait to see what next years show will bring…maybe, gasp, seven models of color? Or a theme highlighting wealth disparities? I bet I know what segment the black models would star in…welfare mommas!
Just kidding, I know you’re not that insensitive. Besides, we should be glad so many models of color got to be in the show, and got their own segment. Lord knows you didn’t even have to do that. You know us coloreds, we ain’t neva happy! Guess I was just being a lil’ sensitive. All is well until next year’s culturally ignorant show!