Victoria’s Secret isn’t exactly known for casting diverse models. Quite the opposite, in fact. As Mic points out, only two of the lingerie retailer’s 14 Angels are black — and none are above a size 14, or even a 10. However, we will give the loungewear giant this: behind the scenes, they’ve tried. In a recent interview with Refinery29, an ex-Victoria’s Secret retoucher who, for obvious reasons, chose to remain anonymous, had this to say for the brand: “They tried different models and different body types all the time.” Unfortunately, consumers did not respond and the absence of money talked: “One time, during a swim season, they had these two girls come in that had abs and thick thighs and busts. They were really toned and their skin was amazing. They were still obviously models. But they were a different look. But, they didn’t sell anything and so they stopped using those girls.”
While we doubt we’ll see any plus-size Angels anytime soon, Victoria’s Secret is diversifying (slightly) when it comes to race. Recently, the brand announced Zuri Tibby as the first black spokesmodel for Victoria’s Secret Pink.
Tibby’s fans were thrilled at the model’s groundbreaking gig.
zuri tibby is the first black spokesmodel for VS pink! FINALLY!!!!
— vanessa. (@maIikfenty) August 24, 2016
— KAI KAZI (@kai_kazi) September 15, 2016
The 21-year-old is well aware that she represents more than just a brand: “I feel very proud and honored that a lot of other women of color look up to me,” Zuri told Cosmo. “It’s so important to inspire people. When young girls look at magazines and advertisements, it’s important to see girls that look like them. It’s very encouraging.”
In addition to championing women of color, Zuri’s also an advocate for natural hair. She’d be more than happy to follow in the footsteps of Maria Borges, the first model to showcase her gorgeous fro on the Victoria’s Secret runway.
“In most of my photo shoots, I wear my natural straight hair. I think my hair is beautiful either way,” Zuri shared. “Natural hair is something everyone should embrace. It’s celebrated more now than it ever has been before.” Very true — natural beauty is in, whether that means nontouring or wearing your hair as nature intended. Earlier this year, model-slash-activist Ebonee Davis made waves when she gave up her extensions and straighteners. “I’ve booked more stuff with my hair curly and natural. Well, maybe I won’t say ‘more’ but clients have opened the door to work with curly and natural hair, and some of my previous clients have allowed me to make the transition as well without complaint — and with encouragement, actually,” Davis affirmed.
VS Pink has been around since 2002, and while those intensely cozy pajamas pretty much sell themselves, the teen and coed-targeted line should’ve had women of color modeling its wares all along. But change is coming — in addition to hiring Zuri, Pink recently brought on Filipina model Janine Tugonon. Janine made her debut in Pink’s new #CollegeLife campaign (below), which also features another model of color, South African beauty Cheyenne Depree.
As evidenced by Victoria’s Secret’s recent hiring choices, the slow march towards diversity continues on. Stay tuned to see how the rest of the industry is doing on the model diversity front when we release our latest NYFW diversity report next week.