The Higher You Climb: The Disturbing Past of Victoria’s Secret, According to a New Documentary - Lifestyle Asia

Hulu’s Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons reveals the brand’s owner’s connection to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.  

The new Hulu documentary Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons premiered last week. Directed by Matt Tyrnauer, the three-part series follows the rise and fall of the globally successful lingerie brand.

During its peak, in the early nineties to the 2000s, Victoria’s Secret became the largest lingerie retailer in the US, with 350 stores in the country and sales topping $1 billion. In 1995, their famous annual VS Fashion Show was launched. Four years later, the band premiered the show online and garnered 1.5 viewers, which crashed the site. 

READ ALSO: The Shape Of Things To Come: Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS Are Worn By Legendary Angels In Its Latest Campaign

The rise

The lingerie show birthed a new era of supermodels: Tyra Banks, Gisele Bündchen, Ming Xie, Adriana Lima, Heidi Klum, Miranda Kerr, and Alessandra Ambrosio. For twenty years, the high-octane event, which featured performances by the hottest musicians at the moment, had a tight grip on pop culture. However, show after show, models wearing the $1 million Fantasy bras and 12-foot angel wings remained the same—exclusively svelte women with legs for days.

For young girls, the shows triggered eating disorders, the same struggle VS models faced. On her website, former Victoria’s Secret model Bridget Malcolm said she had starved herself “for decades.” While controversy sparked, chief marketing officer Ed Razek defended the brand but ultimately made things worse.

The fall

Razek to Vogue that he didn’t believe “transsexuals” belonged on the brand’s runways “because the show is a fantasy.” He added that plus-size models had no place in their runways. 

But by 2018, a year after the Me Too movement, it suffered the worst ratings in its broadcast history. The hashtag Me Too raised awareness of women’s sexual assault and harassment globally—from the workplace after hours to the streets in broad daylight. 

The documentary revealed the brand’s connection to hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, a now convicted sexual offender. Les Wexner, the billionaire owner of The Limited, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, gained connections from Epstein’s powerful circle to grow his business. 

Epstein took Wexner as a client at the time (the eighties), and the latter gave complete access to his assets. This gave Epstein control of Wexner’s 20 companies, including Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, and Ambercrombie & Fitch. 

Problematic past

As the lingerie brand’s popularity soared, young women aspired to join the fleet of glamorous (and high-earning) Victoria’s Secret angels. Epstein used this to lure girls around New York, telling them he worked for VS and was recruiting models. 

Former executive Cindy Febus-Fields reported this in 1993. Wexner then assured employees that the incident wouldn’t repeat; however, Epstein did not stop. In 1997, he lured Alicia Arden, a model, and actor who reported him to authorities. 

Despite this, Wexner and Epstein remained good friends. The former even described the sex offender as a “loyal friend” to Vanity Fair in 2003.

Per their recent activities, VS has been working hard on rebranding. Last year, they launched VS Collective starring a diverse group of women: plus-size model Paloma Elessar, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, US football star Megan Rapinoe, African-Australian model, transgender model Valentina Sampaio, and journalist Amanda de Caden, to name a few.

Banner photo from Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons Hulu trailer.

Download this month's LIFESTYLE ASIA digital copy from:
Order your print copy of this month's LIFESTYLE ASIA Magazine:
Subscribe via [email protected]