Victoria’s Secret Needs a Makeover: Former Models Speak Out

Written by Nikki DuBose & Cherise Shaddix

We are Nikki DuBose and Cherise Shaddix, two former models working to be role models for the next generation.

And if there is one thing we know all too well, it’s the pressure to be perfect and climb the ladder of success in the fashion business at any cost.

(Nikki recently spoke out about the dark things she experienced in the fashion business in her new memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. Cherise left the industry after an agent said things like, “your pictures make me want to kill myself,” and “oh yeah…they kinda make me want to slit my wrists, too.”)

For a model, the epitome of her career is booking the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and campaign, but to get there, she has to kill herself in the process and risk everything – including her health – for the so-called “coveted” spot in supermodel fame.

And, even once she’s made it, she’s left pining away, competing with herself and many other models to maintain a highly unrealistic body standard, all for the sake of…what?

Money and fame.

But does her career extend any further?
With her platform, is she standing for anything truly important and helping others?

Every year, millions of young girls gather together in droves and watch the show on television, the Internet, and scroll through the thousands upon thousands of images of Victoria’s Secret models plastered on social media.

This gives VS the opportunity to influence vulnerable minds with body-positive media, however, every year, the comments on social media are the same:

“OMG, her body is goals.”

“Why can’t I look like that.”

“Guess I’m not eating now.”

“Look at how much weight she’s lost,”

In reality, the brand is contributing to the negative self-esteem of young girls everywhere.

A reported 69% of American girls who looked at fashion magazines said that those images influenced their ideal body shape, and 47% indicated that the photos made them want to drop weight.

The same goes with social media, when comments are slung left and right on Victoria’s Secret models accounts stating,“I’m not eating now,” and “Her body is goals.”

Imagine the psychological and ultimately, physical effects these images and comments are having on girls.

Remember, boys are not immune, either.

Examining Victoria’s Secret’s current marketing strategy, it appears that they have become more about promoting the models and less about spotlighting the products.

Remember how in high school you wanted to be associated with the popular girl because you wanted to feel accepted, but secretly couldn’t stand how she treated other people? In a way, that is the image that VS is projecting.

“If you want to be accepted, you have to like us and buy our products, even though you will never measure up to our models’ standards of beauty.”

Is the company doing anything to help women be confident in themselves? Doesn’t look that way.

Then there is the other side, from the models’ perspective.

So many models want to be in their campaigns and shows. Why? Because once a girl is booked, she becomes more of a household name, the ultimate “IT” product which translates into more money and notoriety.

This, however, has changed recently as the industry seems to be a sinking ship.The girls don’t reach iconic supermodel status anymore like Cindy and Naomi, and Instagram has only added to the decline and oversaturation.

Now, the modeling business seems to be a popularity contest more than anything, and with the lack of diversity in Victoria’s Secrets advertising campaigns and shows, what are you left with?

Popular girls on social media, with similar looks, wearing skimpy underwear and posing provocatively – what messages are sent here?

Guess it doesn’t matter because, at the end of the day, it’s all about profit.

So, as two women who once went through those grueling processes to achieve those VS contracts, “failed,” and now understand that we have much higher missions in life: to be role models, we have some advice for the company:

  • We would love to see body diversity.
    Women are beautiful at EVERY size, but your brand currently screams the message that,

“Hey, you are only beautiful if you are this body type, mainly, a hip size of 34 inches.”

  • Most women are not naturally proportioned to have a 34-inch hip, and if you are dead set on advertising that, then those images can negatively influence some people.
  • Think eating disorders, depression, body dysmorphic disorder, and so on.
  • Please put women of all shapes and sizes in your advertising campaigns.
  • It’s time to turn models into role models.

If we were running VS, we would pick girls who don’t appear to be self-obsessed, but rather, girls are more focused on becoming world changers.

True beauty does lie within, and if you think you can’t sell that, you are wrong.

  • By empowering others, you show them how beautiful they are instead of making them feel insecure about themselves to turn a profit.
  • Hire a girl from every country. Are we living in 1925?

Many of the models are American and European, so representing women from all over the world just makes sense!

It is imperative that as one of the largest retailers in America, you become educated about mental health and how your advertising can positively and negatively affect millions of consumers.

  • This can only work to your advantage as the more educated you are, the more powerful you can become.
  • Change the clothing.
  • The brand could use a makeover: make the clothing classier, more affordable and of higher quality.
  • The fit must be excellent and must look good on different skin tones.

Thoughts? Got a message for the company? Write to us.
For Nikki DuBose email or tweet @TheNikkiDuBose.
For Cherise Shaddix tweet @CheriseShaddix

Photo By: Samantha Marx from Johannesburg, South Africa (Victoria’s Secret store) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Categories: FeaturedWomen's Issues + Awareness

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Nikki DuBose

Tara Nicole DuBose was born in 1985 in Charleston, South Carolina to Sandra Pierce and Wayne DuBose. Her mother was an artist and her father was a delivery salesman for local food companies. Sandra named her “Tara” after the fictional plantation in the film, Gone with the Wind, directed by Victor Fleming. Despite Sandra’s love for the name, she and Wayne often referred to Tara as “Nikki,” short for Nicole, and so the name stuck. After her parents divorced when Nikki was two, she and her younger brother were raised by their mother and stepfather. Her upbringing was filled with problems; Nikki suffered abuse of all kinds and was a witness to domestic violence. Her mother, Sandra, was afflicted with severe mental health conditions and drank heavily. As a result, Nikki suffered for over seventeen years from a wide range of mental health conditions. Nikki wrote her first short story in the third grade and was a staff writer for the Odyssey in her senior year of high school. Her mental health conditions, however, hindered her from writing for many periods of her life. Although the ability to write was taken from Nikki for many years, through the gift of recovery, writing is what helped Nikki to heal and gave her her voice back. Washed Away: From Darkness to Light explores her life from the ages of two to twenty-seven, and her recovery from the mental torments that threatened to kill her. Nikki currently lives in Los Angeles, California and enjoys reading anything by Stephen King in her spare time. She is working on a poetry book about the Gullah culture, which heavily influenced her growing up.

  1. I find this article disheartening. I understand that you and Cherise used to models, but I doubt you or her ever have been asked to leave a store because a salesperson think you weigh too much and will rip and stretch the clothing. I once went to the same church as Cherise and I knew of her and had talked to her a couple of times. We didn’t run in the the same group of friends. She had friends while I had no friends. I wasn’t surprised that she ended up being a model. As for me I was the invisible nerdy 5’3 180 young woman who felt self conscious about herself. I will never be able to be a supermodel because of my weight and my height.

    Modeling isn’t for people who look like me or anything like me and it will never be. It’s for pretty, exotic, thin, and tall men and women. Plus size models are taller than 5’3 and they may weigh about the same as but they have an advantage because they are taller.
    I don’t weigh 110 lbs and haven’t in a long time. I don’t think there will ever be plus size petite models, because that’s not what the world considers beautiful. They consider skinny women in cleavage revealing, skimpy bikinis as beautiful. I would be shocked to see a plus size petite model on the cover of a magazine. Why I ever thought, I might want to be a model, is beyond me.

    I will never fit into that mold and even if I lost the weight, I still would be inadequate because I am tall. At least God loves me. I see why some teenage girls who look at fashion magazines feel terrible about their bodies. It’s sickening that companies like Victoria’s Secret use people who have the exact body shape to model their skimpy clothing. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing any of their bras or underwear. I find their “fashion” shows laughable, but hey sex sells.

  2. Enormously enjoyed this article :), keep up the great authorship and I’ll keep coming back for more.
    Will be sharing this with my instagram followers and I’m sure they’ll love it as well!

  3. Excellent Nikki! Well done! I’ve often had the same thoughts myself. It’s up to all of us women to change things. Not easy when this country is run by men, but not impossible. Thank you for writing this.

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