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Culture > Entertainment

“Victoria’s Secret: Angels & Demons” Shows How The Lingerie Giant Lost Its Power

In terms of legacy, people remember the great villains more than they remember the great heroes,” says Les Wexner, founder and former CEO of Victoria’s Secret, in the new documentary series Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons, released on Hulu on July 14. 

Following the polemical and shocking documentary series, White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, the leading lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret is also getting its spotlight for revelations. Directed by Matt Tyrnauer, known for his work in the documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor, the new series includes investigative research on the rise and fall of the lingerie empire

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which was annually anticipated in the fashion industry, got canceled in 2019 after backlash in the media regarding the representation and inclusivity of the brand image, alongside internal company issues involving the CEO, Les Wexner, and the CMO, Ed Razek. But there’s more to the story, and that’s precisely what the new documentary series aims to showcase in its three parts. Here are the most shocking revelations about Victoria’s Secret from Angels and Demons.

1. The “angels” concept has a dark history.

Throughout the three parts of the documentary, the audience can expect a thorough understanding of the company from its start as a garment manufacturer to the leading lingerie company in the world

“Les had a compelling vision. … His idea was to take an everyday commodity, and romanticize it, fantasize it, make it something bigger than it was,” explained Cindy Fedus-Fields, the former CEO of Victoria’s Secret, in the series.

As part of their marketing, the company built a storyline behind the brand name, where people shopped to feel beautiful, sensual, and part of the glamorous world of runways and catwalks as much as the Angels did in the annual fashion show. Since the company’s beginning in 1977, women would ask themselves, “Would Victoria do this?” as an imaginative figure the company created to set their brand personality in the market.

Wexner saw an opportunity to drive up business after any current event. When President Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky in 1998, Wexner realized the shift in American popularity as the President went up the polls even after such allegations. Wexner decided to shift the Victoria’s Secret brand perception. Cindy Fedus-Fields stated in the series that “that’s why he chose to drive the brand imaging into a sexier mode.” After this decision, the Angels concept was created.

Beyond the roaring success of Victoria’s Secret Angels, however, Wexner had connections to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein’s supposed role as a model scout for the brand led to an investigative piece published in the New York Times, which was further reported in the series. Epstein held a woman captive on Les Wexner’s property, while he was still the CEO of the company. 

The documentary also guides the audience through a closer look at Wexner, including exclusive interview pieces with himself, and former CMO Ed Razek, among other employees, revealing issues in the company’s culture. Testimonials from models and other employees also spoke shocking truths about not only the company, but the fashion and modeling industry itself, as an environment that could sometimes be unhealthy. Stories about exploitation, abuse of power and physical assault involving the heads of the company are just a few of the serious issues covered in detail in the series.

2. The series digs deeper into Stereotypes the brand held about beauty.

Victoria’s Secret is known for being a brand that promotes sensuality and power. However, with the rise of movements such as #MeToo starting in 2017, what the brand marketed did not comply with the reality of a woman’s life. Feminist movements started to encourage equality and body positivity while questioning what is considered beautiful. 

Following such movements in society, controversial comments from spokespersons from Victoria’s Secret caused a twist in their lingerie empire, leading to a failed ability to gain favor among Gen Z women. In an interview for Vogue, Ed Razek was asked why the annual fashion show does not include a more diverse range of models, including plus-size and transgender models. Razek answered that such women do not showcase the “fantasy” the brand is trying to sell.

3. The brand’s exclusivity, which initially made it successful, was its downfall.

In parts two and three of the documentary, more stories behind the company’s scenes are revealed, including severe cases involving women and the company’s leaders. 

In 2014, Victoria’s Secret released an ad called “The Perfect Body,” backfiring in their business. As a former Victoria’s Secret Model, Frederique van der Wal, shares in the series, “Over the years, Victoria became something unattainable.”

Following this campaign, competitive brands started to release campaigns surrounding body positivity, diversity, and body sizes. A new era had taken up the space once owned by Victoria’s Secret.

Eight years later, the company is still trying to regain its space in the market, changing the brand image. Current measures to switch the gears in their marketing game include retiring the title “Angels” and partnering up with influential individuals like Priyanka Chopra and Megan Rapinoe.

To redeem value online, Victoria’s Secret posted pictures with models representing more diversity in size and background. However, other lingerie brands are gaining space for being more transparent in their campaigns and purpose, like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty and Aerie. 

With social media, models are now spokespersons of their own personal brands and do not have to feel silenced by an influential brand or depend on other outlets to raise their voices. 

Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons is now available on Hulu.

Giuliana is a Contributing National Writer for Her Campus, and the former Editor-In-Chief and President of Her Campus at Lynn. She recently graduated from Lynn University, with a BS in Marketing, Fashion & Retail and International Business Management. Among a lot of passions, Giuliana shows a high interest in the Publishing and the Marketing Industry. She is the author of the latest book "Brand You: How to Achieve Success through Personal Branding," which was published in May 2021. The book provides a new perspective on personal branding and personal marketing. One of her biggest dreams is to continue growing her own brand and help other people achieve success through their uniqueness. Giuliana is also a sister of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, and member of Golden Key International Honour Society and Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society for Business, Management and Administration.