Victoria's Secret Angels are officially a relic of the past. On Wednesday, the lingerie brand announced a new ambassador initiative, swapping Fantasy Bras, bedazzled wings and bombshell aesthetics for what it refers to as the "VS Collective," a group of seven famous, successful women — not all of whom are (just) models.
In a dramatic attempt at a re-brand, the company — which has been criticized for years for its narrow, unrealistic beauty standards, for catering to a hyper-specific, male-gaze-focused definition of what is "sexy" and for lacking diversity, among other things — is seeking to change its consumer perception and modernize its marketing approach. This development comes two years after Victoria's Secret called off its annual fashion show in 2019 amid public criticism. The company has experienced its share of internal struggles as well, with controversial longtime executive Leslie Wexner departing in May of last year and an impending spinoff from parent company L Brands in the works.
The seven "founding members" of the VS Collective include model Adut Akech, who is also a mental wellness supporter and refugee; Amanda de Cadenet, a journalist, photographer and equality advocate who is also the founder of GirlGaze; World Champion Free Skier Eileen Gu, who is also a youth and women's sports advocate and model; professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe, a pay equity advocate and LGBTQIA+ activist; model Paloma Elsesser, who is also a 'body advocate' and 'community creator'; actor, producer and entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra Jonas; and actor and model Valentina Sampaio, who is also an LGBTQIA+ activist and was the first openly transgender model to pose for Victoria's Secret in 2019.
Per the company's press release, "the VS Collective is an ever-growing group of accomplished women who share a common passion to drive positive change. These extraordinary partners, with their unique backgrounds, interests and passions, will influence and shape the future of the world's largest and most recognizable brand for women." As part of the VS Collective roll-out, the women will share their stories via a podcast hosted by de Cadenet.
"I am humbled to join this group of incredible women to drive change within the Victoria's Secret brand and beyond," said Rapinoe of her role in the VS Collective via a press statement. "So often I felt myself on the outside looking in with brands in the beauty and fashion industry, and I'm thrilled to be creating a space that sees the true spectrum of ALL women. I believe in the power of authenticity and community and am excited to show what can be done through The VS Collective."
Victoria's Secret also announced a new philanthropic initiative on Wednesday, The VS Global Fund for Women's Cancers, a partnership with Pelotonia focused on eradicating women's cancers. Per the brand, "This groundbreaking initiative will fund innovative research projects aimed at progressing treatments and cures for women's cancers and investing in the next generation of women scientists who represent the diverse population they serve." As part of the commitment, Victoria's Secret has pledged to grant and award at least $5 million annually to "examine and address racial and gender inequities and unlock new innovations that improve cancer outcomes for all women."
The brand will also be partnering with designer and Breast Cancer Awareness advocate Stella McCartney during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to help provide access to information and education (though it's unclear exactly what that partnership will look like or whether it will include a design collaboration).
"At Victoria's Secret, we are on an incredible journey to become the world's leading advocate for women," said Martin Waters, Chief Executive Officer, Victoria's Secret, via a press release announcing the news. "This is a dramatic shift for our brand, and it's a shift that we embrace from our core. These new initiatives are just the beginning. We are energized and humbled by the work ahead of us."