Valentina Sampaio is Victoria’s Secret’s first openly transgender model, a decision which creates hope for a more inclusive future of the brand. The famous lingerie brand has often been under fire for its narrow representation of women.
Valentina Sampaio en coulisses de la campagne Victoria’s Secret Pink

Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio, 22, has become Victoria’s Secret first openly transgender model. On Monday, she posted a behind the scenes picture of a Victoria’s Secret Pink campaign on Instagram, and her agent confirmed the following day that she was working with the lingerie brand for a campaign to be released mid-August.

Offensive comments from a top executive

The decision comes almost a year after Ed Razek, chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company L Brands, said in a Vogue interview that “transsexuals” models should not walk the runway during the annual Victoria’s Secrets angels TV special because “the show is a fantasy”. He added that plus-size models were not hired because “no one had any interest in [a television special for plus-sizes in 2000], still don’t.”

Razek had later publicly apologized through a statement on Twitter, declaring that “we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show” but that none of the models that came to previous castings had made it, “like many others”. A company email on Monday announced that Ed Razek would retire by the end of the month. 

Valentina Sampaio, who has previously made the cover of famous fashion magazines such as Vogue Paris and Vogue Brasil, has not been hired for the TV special. The company is currently considering whether to even have a special or not, following the very disappointing ratings of the last show.
Barbara Palvin, Yasmin Wijnaldum, Winnie Harlow, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner et Alexina Graham au défilé Victoria’s Secret 2018

A struggle for more diversity in lingerie fashion

Ed Razek’s comments were not the only source of criticism towards Victoria’s Secret. The general lack of diversity, especially in a world which turns to bodypositivity, has changed the image of Victoria’s Secret into an out of touch brand. Karlie Kloss, one of the high-profile Angels of the brand, left Victoria’s Secret in 2015. She revealed early 2019 that she did not renew her contract because the portrayal of women did not fit her ideas as a feminist.

Victoria’s Secrets sales have also been disappointing, especially as new high profile lingerie brands have hit the market. Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty underwear label has put diversity at the core of its creations and marketing (pregnant model Slick Woods even walked the runway). Transgender models have also been featured on the covers of famous magazines such as Playboy in 2017 and taken part in campaigns for clothing brands such as H&M or Calvin Klein.

Celebrities have acclaimed this move towards diversity for the underwear brand, including transgender actress and model Laverne Cox would commented “Wow finally!” on Sampaio’s Instagram post. 

Article by Juliette Cardinale.

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