Victoria's Secret released images of a model with stretch marks. That's hardly progress.
Victoria's Secret doesn't usually pride itself on showing the most realistic depictions of women.
Walk into any one of its more than 1,000 stores and you will be surrounded by images of models with tight tummies and gravity-defying breasts. Watch the annual VS Fashion Show and you won't see any cellulite or rolls or bumps or lumps. And, despite the average American woman being a size 16, Victoria's Secret has never cast a plus-size woman on its website, catalog or fashion show.
But because they apparently just caught wind of how women respond to unretouched images (hint: We love it) and the growing success of brands that forgo retouching its images (like Aerie), Victoria's Secret has released untouched images of a Victoria's Secret model.
The images are of model Jasmine Tookes wearing this year's fantasy bra, a bra encrusted in diamonds and emeralds and valued at $3 million. (Tookes, it should be noted, is only the third model of color VS has ever had wear the fantasy bra for its fashion show, which has been going on since 1995.)
On the upper part of her left thigh, if you squint, there appears to be a series of stretch marks. In another image, there appears to be a birthmark — if you squint — on her thigh, which would surely be erased if these images were indeed digitally augmented.
Compared to the images we're usually fed of Victoria's Secret Angels, which are chock-full of young, thin women with absolutely no stretch marks at all, this was exciting.
There are a few things to consider with these images, though. The images aren't found on VS's website or social media, but stored on Getty Images. So while VS isn't outwardly using them in advertisements or campaigns, it's obvious they wanted them to be seen by the press, but not necessarily all their customers.
An indicator of this is that Tookes posted an Instagram from the photoshoot and in that image, she is airbrushed with waxy, perfect skin. The birthmark is gone, as are any stretch marks on her thighs.
Those unretouched images we saw are clearly the "before" image, to Tookes' Instagrammed "after."
It's almost like, by getting attention for these images, VS wants people to believe they are trying to present a more truthful idea of what women look like, but then not actually do it.
And for a brand like VS, there's a lot more they have to do to be considered body positive than sneakily release untouched images.
VS could, for example, cast a plus-size woman in one of its ads. Or, it could cast a plus-size model in its fashion show, which draws an audience of more than 6 million. Or, it could just merely cast a model who is, maybe, larger than a size 8, or maybe not 5-foot-7 or taller. VS could also start to wean back on the airbrushing and proudly show its (still very beautiful and talented) models with some freckles, birthmarks or stretch marks.
So although it's perfectly understandable to be excited at the mere idea that Victoria's Secret wants us to know that its models aren't superhuman and made of wax, don't forget that it still has a ton of work to do in its quest to be perceived as even a little bit body positive.
Mic has reached out to Victoria's Secret for comment.