The numbers are in. Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which aired yesterday on ABC, had its lowest ratings ever. It was seen by 3.3 million viewers, down from 5 million last year.
This may come as a surprise to Ed Razek, the CMO of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company and one of the architects of the show. In an interview with Vogue last month, Razak talked proudly about the show, which features a cast of tall, skinny supermodels wearing nothing but underwear and angel’s wings. For years, Victoria’s Secret has faced criticism about its body negativity and its overly sexualized branding, but Razek kept making the case that the brand still had its finger on the pulse of culture.
Among a litany of insensitive comments, Razek said:
Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader. They don’t talk about each other. I accept that. I actually respect it. Cool. But we’re nobody’s third love. We’re their first love. And Victoria’s Secret has been women’s first love from the beginning.
From comments like this, it does not seem like Victoria’s Secret has fully come to terms with how young people feel about the brand. In addition to the show’s low ratings, women are not buying the brand’s products. Sales are down and it is losing market share to startups like ThirdLove, Knix, and Lively, which are targeting millennial women with brands that are much more focused on comfort, inclusivity, and female empowerment.
To make matters worse, Halsey, the singer who headlined this year’s show, criticized the event with a viral Instagram message. She said she was offended by Razek’s comments above, about trans models. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have no tolerance for a lack of inclusivity,” she wrote.