Plus-size, trans women speak out against Victoria’s Secret telling them they aren’t good enough

On Thursday, Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer for L. Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, gave an interview with Vogue in which he justified the brand’s lack of casting of transgender and plus-size models.

“Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should,” he said. “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”

The backlash was immediate from people within the fashion community and those outside the industry, all of whom are affected by the perpetuation of beauty standards often dictated by powerful brands like Victoria’s Secret. Many spoke out on social media airing their disgust and frustration. One current employee of Victoria’s Secret, who spoke to Mic under conditions of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said she finds it “very hurtful that the company I work for would say something like this, especially since I’m a larger girl.”

Mic spoke to dozens of plus-size, transgender and gender nonconforming models and non-models about their reaction to Razek’s statement — and the message they hope people take away from this.

Munroe Bergdorf

“Discriminating against any model on the basis of wanting to provide a fantasy is ridiculous, as a fantasy can be whatever you want it to be. If you only want that to include very beautiful, very thin, very cisgender, very femme models then you should say that — not make an excuse for the fact that you are actually transphobic and fatphobic.”

Sonny Turner

“The world is moving on and VS is getting left behind. The show is losing popularity due to no one being able to relate to it. Times are moving on and people are realizing that there is not one beauty ideal anymore! The fact that he said that shows his backwards thinking.”

Leyna Bloom

“This is the moment where all trans people should abandon this brand, this is the problem of our society today. Change is happening, stand up, embrace it and feel it. Missing links in society — we gotta fight for our place. The moment is now. We are the past the present and future.”

Felicity Hayward

“We are all angels, every single human on this planet, no matter what gender, age or size. Edward’s comments have just thrown his brand under the bus once again and to be honest I’m glad. Look at what Rihanna did with Fenty — that’s the way forward and that’s where everyone will be going to spend their dollars. I have no more time for his ignorance.”

Geena Rocero

“Growing up in the Philippines, I used to dream that one day I can be like the VS angels that I idolized, like Tyra, Naomi, Giselle and others. But after reading the blatant transphobia and erasure of trans and plus size individuals by Mr. Razek, I’ve felt one of my childhood memories was being shattered. Trans identities and inclusion is not a trend, it is the new world. The consumer demographics have changed so either adapt or dissolve. Trans people are some of the most inspiring and sexiest people I know so I’d rather celebrate and work with brands that creates spaces for women like me. To my trans siblings and allies, thank you for speaking up. We will keep on shining!”

Isis King

“I would have rather him almost take the Trump approach with a false blanket response like ‘We are working on diversity within the shows each season,’ but barely do it, rather than dictate what the ‘fantasy’ is. If it’s about the measurements... we have them, the looks... we have them, the walk... Oh baby do we have those. Trans women and curvy women are the fantasy for so many, and more importantly we are the fantasy for ourselves. Currently looking to spend my dollar towards a more inclusive lingerie brand. Suggestions?”


“It’s no secret the fashion and beauty industry set standards that decimate individuality, diversity and equality while simultaneously celebrating ‘cookie cutter femininity’ and imposing unattainable, unnatural and sometimes unsafe practices. These insidious practices go beyond the runways and fashion magazines and negatively affect people in and out of the industry. Trans bodies and plus-size bodies already are unique, desirable, real and undeniable. Companies like Victoria’s Secret can walk with a 70-year-old gatekeeper along the repetitive, predictable path to irrelevance or they can come with us into the future.”

Dexter Mayfield

“Unfortunately, Edward Razek represents a generation of men who simply choose to perpetuate an ignorant, and honestly dangerous, stigma of outdated thinking that goes beyond the scope of beauty standards at this point. This is the same stigma that continues to allow men to view women as sexual objects whose sole purpose to is to please men. His comments towards plus-size and trans women are not only offensive and absolutely unacceptable, but they honestly act as a statement of blatant sexual harassment towards all models currently representing Victoria’s Secret itself. If this man is allowed to continue to make any decisions in regards to the brand, it is a slippery slope in which Victoria’s Secret will not be able to recover from.”

Becca McCharen-Tran

“Close-minded statements like Razek’s refusal to see transgender and plus-size babes as desirable reveal a greater company culture of unchecked white hetero cis-male perspectives. There are many problematic aspects within the show, especially with cultural appropriation — the models have often worn cultures as costumes. This shows how important it is to have women and people of color in positions of power, to challenge his singular perspective.”

Violet Chachki

“By ‘fantasy’ I assume he means a world where trans people don’t exist. The fact that the CMO of a major company said this, out loud, and to the press, seriously blows my mind. How out of touch can a person possibly be? Companies no longer influence us in the way they used to, now we as consumers influence companies. So what he said is totally idiotic from a business standpoint ... but beyond that I just find all of this totally exhausting. In 2018, trans people shouldn’t have to constantly fight to find some peace and respect, to be heard and seen. I think that should be obvious.”

Love Bailey

“It’s unfortunate that Ed Razek of Victoria’s Secret made that statement. But like Madonna said, not surprising. This statement enforces the old beauty stereotype that women have been victim to for many years. What this statement says to plus-size and trans women is that they aren’t beautiful enough to be considered a supermodel. There are plenty of trans and plus-size goddesses out there who VS would be honored to have walk their shows. Models like Teddy Quinlivan, Carmen Carrera, Amanda Lepore, Yasmine Petty, Maxim Magnus and Ashley Graham are all fine examples of women living their supermodel fantasy. In fact, these women define the word fantasy. So ladies, if VS isn’t willing to change, I think it’s time we burn those tacky ass bras and invest in some real Rihanna Fenty fantasies.”

Mila Jam

“It is a new day. It is time to give the people what they want: to reflect a reality that has been fantasy forever. The trans community is no longer a secret demographic to be ignored, quieted or pushed aside. There have surely been stealth trans models on that runway, and VS has the perfect opportunity to break new barriers with inclusivity. Sales are down; they need to level up.”

Jenny Rieu

“Every time they announce the Victoria’s Secret fashion show line up, they essentially remind us all of a beauty ideal that most of us cannot relate to. In an era of body positivity and inclusivity, Victoria’s Secret consciously chooses to cultivate a stereotypical and unattainable beauty ideal. It is troubling to me as it often brings out that feeling of not being good enough and not fitting with their vision of what  the perfect woman should be like. Every body type deserves representation, unfortunately that is not what Victoria’s Secret stand for.”

Gia Gunn

“We want to move forward and encourage people to know that they are enough in this world, as is! As someone who fights for the trans community and human rights I believe women come in all different sizes, colors and different identities. This is an act of bullying and although brings visibility to the transgender community it’s also quit transphobic. If it wasn’t for women, you would not even have an existing business! Let this be an eye opener for all us.  It’s 2018 but racism and sexism still exist. Wake up!”

Gogo Graham

“I think it’s safe to say that this comes as no surprise to anyone who belongs to either of these communities. The fashion industry is fatphobic and transphobic and always has been, so hearing it admitted explicitly isn’t news.”

Shay Neary

“For generations, Victoria’s Secret has been at the forefront, of making some women feel very sexy. Some meaning any woman that fits into society’s narrow and extremely excluding standards of how women should appear. We are at a time in the world where feeling sexy has far more to do with how you accept your own personal identity and truths and far less to do with unacceptable discrimination, coated in layers of satin and lace, to hide its true biased representation.”

Billie Lee

“Ed Razek’s words cut deep. The recent political attacks on trans people in America has left me feeling broken. I’m so sick and tired of men telling women how to think feel and now fantasize! I will not let a man in our Oval Office define my gender nor will I let a man from Victoria’s Secret define my beauty and self worth! I believe as a society we are more aware of these types of men and we won’t stand for it! Your time is up!”

Arisce Wanzer

“Isn’t it funny that Ed Razek tries to retract his bigoted statements as soon as people start cutting up their VS credit cards in mass? I call bullshit; the damage has been done boo. Keep your trash apology. Apparently, trans and curvy dollars matter to your bottom line, so why doesn’t our representation reflect that in your shows and ads? A dated beauty standard is not my fantasy. But I can think of quite a few people that think trans and curvy women are. And as for letting trans girls audition, I want to see the receipts and know the names of whose time you wasted since you don’t have an open casting. Each girl is selected by VS themselves from their agencies. Proof please?! Victoria’s Secret is canceled.”

Kelvin Davis

“We are currently living in a hateful time in this country. We all dream and fantasize of living in a world where sex, gender, race and religion unite us. This nation is so divided right now. What we need now more than ever is the media, brands and companies to show people of color, trans people, plus-size people and anyone else that feels underrepresented in a positive light. That should be the 42-minute fantasy. I hope they have learned how much their words impact people both positively and negatively.”

Mia Violet

“Obviously every trans person is valid regardless of appearances, but across the industry and mainstream media any trans woman who is visibly trans is ignored in favor of maintaining the cis-normative status quo. It’s something that’s deeply troubling when you see the impact it has on the trans community too, with heartbreakingly high levels of self-loathing. It’s not surprising when you realize that there’s practically no representation that presents the diverse beauty of visibly trans women as desirable, or worthy of respect in any way. The comments in that interview just played right into that harmful belief, but trans women deserve a lot better. It’s 2018. There’s no excuse to dismiss us like that.”

Liris Crosse

“Walking in a Victoria’s Secret show has always been a model goal for me. But instead of trying to get them to realize I can sell the fantasy that they sell I’d rather focus on the brands that do create lingerie for plus-size women. I would love Curvy Couture Intimates, Lane Bryant and Elomi to join forces to produce a network TV special that shows plus models can sell lingerie and fantasy too! The average-sized woman in the world deserves this type of representation moment!”

Alysse Dalessandro

“When I read the statements from the CEO of Victoria’s Secret saying that trans and plus-size women aren’t featured in their fashion shows because the show is about fantasy, it was clear to me that Victoria’s Secret plans to continue on their path of losing relevance in today’s society. As a plus-size, queer model, I have walked in runway shows and modeled in photo shoots alongside my trans sisters, and we have always brought sex appeal, confidence and empowerment while we work to disrupt the tired beauty standards that Victoria’s Secret is so desperate to hold onto. I can see that the tide is shifting and beauty is no longer viewed as aspirational. Brands and audiences alike are seeing the value of showcasing models who represent a diverse and inclusive range of beauty.”

Jeremy Moineau

“Up until Ed Razek’s interview with Vogue, I was invested in VS. This was a personal favorite of mine’s (Winnie Harlow) first VS runway, and I was looking forward to watching her slay that catwalk (which that queen did, by the way). But after seeing the news come out that VS has no intention of including trans/nonbinary folk on their cloud it kind of threw me. Now, I understand that not every angel shares in the views expressed by Mr. Razek, but the silence from their side of eden really has said it all. Are these girls champions for the world, or smiling faces pushed forward onto a catwalk set too high for us to even see their lips sewn shut? I hope I never arrive at a point where my voice is worth less than next season’s runway or my next brand endorsement. In 2018, can we really afford monies to brands that would have us buy their clothes, but wouldn’t have us seen in public in them? It’s been sad watching the skies crumble this week, as one angel after another falls to the earth. Luckily my trans/nonbinary sisters and brothers were never trying to be angels. We’ve always known that we were goddesses instead, now get off of our cloud VS.”

Logan Alcosiba

“Victoria’s Secret needs to be shown that their ‘fantasies’ have nothing on our realities. I’ve just recently gotten into the modeling industry and I can tell you as a multiracial transgender woman of color, things are gonna change. And I couldn’t be more ready.”

Maxine Voidt

“I’m a plus-size trans woman who was planning on doing modeling up until I heard about this Victoria’s Secret thing. It really shook me and made me feel like I had no chance in this industry. But it’s forced me to work harder and become more involved in visibility. It’s already hard enough since most clothing isn’t catered to plus-size/trans women but now knowing that they don’t even want us as the face of their brand? That stings.”

Diana Sirokai

“I feel like we shouldn’t keep chasing something where we are clearly not welcome. So thank you, next.”

Clarra Pakpahan

“What Victoria’s Secret said is just degrading and harassing. What a big mistake for such a big brand. Not respecting at all.”

Nicole Shirman

“I’m 16. All my life I’ve been a ‘bigger girl.’ I struggled to find clothing aimed at my age group that actually fit me. Being plus sized has always had, and unfortunately continues to have a stigma associated with it. We are largely ignored. That’s why I’m competing as a curvy competitor in Miss New York Teen because we need to be the ones to initiate change, because Victoria’s Secret and similar close-minded brands sure won’t. When the average American woman is a beautiful size 16, why does Victoria’s Secret still refuse to cast plus-size models? What message are they sending young viewers, modeling hopefuls and otherwise? I want to be able to look at the Victoria’s Secret catwalk and feel represented. That’s why I’m doing my little part and I hope that the wave of body positive and inclusivity that I am joining by doing so continues to grow into a tsunami.”

Indy Keningar

“I’m not a model but I’ve been facing fatphobia. Honestly, VS excluding women who don’t fit their narrow beauty standard doesn’t surprise me. All I think is we should be focusing on throwing our money to companies that cater to us like Savage Fenty. If VS keeps not being asked to widen their target market, it’s their loss.”

Taylor Peer

“It’s incredibly sad to hear one of the biggest companies say I couldn’t be someone’s fantasy at a size 10 or a transgender model couldn’t someone’s fantasy. Because it isn’t true. They are setting the standard for women’s bodies and modern beauty once a year with a million dollar show and can’t seem to wrap their head around the fact that we as the consumer are not striving to be like these models anymore. We want to see ourselves represented. I’ll be taking my money to Aerie. Thank u, next.”

Emily Clewell

“I will never understand how such a major fashion brand has the nerve to say they won’t hire anyone plus-size or trans, anyone that’s not up to the ‘typical model standards.’ I’ve been trying to model for years, but I now am considered plus size only being a size 7/8 pants. We need to show the normalization of the human body and for VS to totally go against that disgusts me. Models of every shape, size, ethnicity, trans, tatted, short, tall, anyone is beautiful. I always hear women say ‘I think I’m pretty but not Victoria’s Secret model pretty.’ The VS runway causes women to feel insecure because of its showcase of ‘how the normal runway model should look.’ When it being one of the biggest, most popular runways shows should be showing everyone that everyone is beautiful. Such a shame to see VS going down this path. Time for a major change.”

Ericka Hart

“Victoria’s Secret participates in prison labor, has operations in the West Bank, has been anti-black, fatphobic and transphobic for years. They will not be put out of business (like their counterparts) as there is no accountability for any of these companies or the individuals who run them.”

Brylee Williamson

“I want to point out yes you mention curvy, trans and GNC models discriminated against but I think many agencies forget height is also discrimination. As a woman who is 5’2”, I have less than a chance of a curvy model walking in Victoria’s Secret. I think the industry needs to realize most normal women are not 5’9”, they are around 5’5”. Don’t let the petite models be forgotten.”

Allison Glasgow

“I think Victoria’s Secret represents the work we still have to do as a diverse pool of consumers who aren’t in line with their unwarranted ideological view of beauty. I am a size 16/18 and I wear their clothing because their grading fits women bigger than their catwalk models. They’re cool with taking money of the masses but aren’t willing to have diversity represented in their branding. We need to be more vocal and present with protest to set a standard they’re not willing to encourage.”

Valerie Toussaint

“I once went to buy some lingerie to wear for Valentine’s Day and instead of the sales person helping me out she looked at me up and down with a cringe and had a very unpleasant attitude. Of course, I ignored her because that’s just pure ignorance but not everyone has tough skin and that reaction could have made another women my size feel less than she is. It’s so unfair.”

Victoria Beltran

“We have to let the media know that not only have trans women supported Victoria’s Secret as a staple for padded bras in transition, but we are just as fierce as any of those girls. Those words from the executive are not only hurtful but in a time we’re we need the most support for our community is uncalled for. When these moments come up it’s like a dose of reality that makes me realize that the fight is not over and has just begun.”

Bree Wijnaar

“The Victoria Secret fashion show is a living display of how flawed the fashion industry still is today. We should not be exposing young boys and girls to this illusion of a beauty standard. It is not an accurate reflection of women today and frankly at this stage it is offense. VS continues to proceed with blatant disregard for body diversity. You do not get to throw in a few women of color and call it a day. Shame on you VS. Shame on you!”