Snapshot: Revealing Victoria’s Secret

(Photo Credit: Models of the World)

It was the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show last night, a glittering extravaganza of pink lipgloss, bronzer and dazzlingly ornate wings. I know because I saw the photos on Instagram while I was trying to quietly eat a gingerbread man in the library, a situation glamorous enough to induce envy even in the heart of Adriana Lima.

Earlier this week, Instagram celebrity Essena O’Neil exposed the harsh realities of trying to maintain the illusion of perfection on social media. The 19 year old Australian model had almost 580,000 followers on Instagram and recently deleted the majority of her photos. Of the photos that remained, she gave “real” captions: she described on one bikini photo how she would take “100 photos in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good.” She repeatedly started her revised captions with the phrase “not real life,” emphasising how the line between reality and unattainable ideals is often blurred.

For example, backstage at Victoria’s Secret, amongst the clouds of hairspray and perfume, there is also  “butt make-up.” Yes, butt make-up. Former Victoria’s Secret Angel Selita Ebanks has described how "It's all about creating the illusion of this amazing body on the runway. People don't realize that there are about 20 layers of makeup on my butt alone.” And that’s just it, we don’t realise.

When we look at the Angels, we see an unattainable standard of beauty because it is just that – not real. Of course the models are tall, devastatingly beautiful and not at fault here, but we are given the illusion of perfection, which is not the same thing as acknowledging beauty. An unattainable ideal of perfection differs in that it has the capability to damage the self-esteem of the impressionable girls and young women who comprise Victoria’s Secret’s target audience. That’s the key difference between VS and other high fashion models and shows – the fluffy pink spectacle targets girls in a friendly, approachable way that high fashion doesn’t. Therefore it arguably has a greater impact on their body image and their goals.

A cynic might argue that this is a clever marketing strategy from Victoria’s Secret. They try and make you feel a little insecure so you see their Angels as embodying your dream body image, which is somehow simultaneously both unattainable and achievable. This makes you more likely to buy their products in an effort to recreate their looks and effortless runway confidence. This year in particular there appears to have been more of a focus on “Pink”, their brand aimed at teenagers, with the backstage photos showing the Angels posing with various items of “Pink” merchandise (including a wonderfully bedazzled dog cuddly toy).

Additionally, Jourdan Dunn who has appeared in several previous Victoria’s Secret shows recently referred to VS as “BS” in a hastily deleted tweet, perhaps alluding to something less sparkly beneath Victoria’s Secret’s seemingly perfect veneer. This was in stark contrast to the gushing social media posts of newly appointed model Kendall Jenner.

Despite all of this, the show is undeniably great fun to watch. It’s something akin to a carnival with all of the outfits with their bright colours and exotic feathers, where you can marvel at the intricacies of the extravagant costumes. But the thing is, I know I don’t look like the ethereal Angels and I’m fine with that. We shouldn’t measure our worth based on the physical ideals of the models we see on the runway - we need to remember that we aren’t Angels, we don’t have butt make-up on and we should just be able to enjoy the show if we want to. That’s the key thing to remember – it is just a show: a spectacle of sequins and feathers and everything that sparkles. So I’ll be tuning in when it’s broadcast, most likely with another gingerbread man in tow.