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Do you find this PIC offensive, cruel and irresponsible? Why I don't want my daughter to see this advert, writes SARAH VINE

  • Lingerie brand Victoria's Secret has launched billboard advert featuring ten super-skinny models in push-up bras
  • Women are billed as ‘perfect’ with tiny tummies, perky breasts and small bottoms, as well as prominent 'thigh gaps'
  • Models - known as 'Angels' - also appear to have been made thinner by Photoshop, giving them Barbie-like proportion
  • Three British students are demanding the American company apologise and alter the wording on the advertisement

The thing that struck me most, when my daughter started secondary school in September, is how different all the girls in her year look. All shapes and sizes, from teeny-tiny waifs who look like they’re barely out of reception, to big strapping ones, taller than me, and with all the accessories to match.

Or, as my daughter herself put it with great excitement: “Mummy, some of them have got even bigger boobs than you!”

Tall, short, stocky, skinny, sporty or speccie, they are all special in their own way. All starting out on life’s long journey; no longer children but not yet women. And still, for the most part, mercifully unaware that their appearance matters much.

Sure, they might admire someone’s pretty hair, or blue eyes, or cheek dimples; but that nasty little worm of self-doubt that afflicts so many older girls and women has yet to burrow its way into their hearts and minds.

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American lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has launched a new billboard advert featuring ten super-skinny models in their underwear

American lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has launched a new billboard advert featuring ten super-skinny models in their underwear

As a mother, I am keen to keep this little parasite at bay for as long as possible. I don’t have women’s magazines in the house, and I do my best to suppress my own deep-rooted feelings of negativity about my own shape and size, and to promote a positive attitude towards healthy eating and exercise.

But I know, deep down, that I’m fighting a losing battle. Because whatever good I may be able to do, the body fascists will always find a way of undoing it — whether through pop music, fashion or the media.

The latest example of this comes from American lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, currently intent on a British invasion. Ten super-skinny models in push-up bra and pants pout, simper, giggle and hair-twirl their way across a billboard by way of promoting VS’s new so-called ‘Perfect Body’ range.

And there’s no mistaking what they mean by ‘perfect’: perky of bosom, tiny of tummy and negligible of behind — with a thigh gap wide enough to park a bicycle in.

As if that weren’t enough, the girls appear to have been stretched even thinner with a little help from that digital miracle device Mr Photoshop. One of them, a dark-haired girl in a purple set, appears to have the proportions of a Barbie doll, which, as we all know, is anatomically unfeasible. All have visible ribcages and wrists like sparrows.

Of course, no one expects a brand like Victoria’s Secret to advertise its wares on ordinary women. But there is a line between aspiration and thinspiration, and this campaign clearly oversteps the mark. As for their use of the word ‘perfect’, it’s not only offensive to the 99.9 per cent of the female population who don’t share the models’ ‘perfect’ proportions, it’s also deeply irresponsible, if not downright cruel.

Especially given the brand’s target market. Which is obviously not me. Or indeed anyone over the age of 22 or bigger than a size 6.

Only the other day I saw a gaggle of 14 and 15-year-olds scuttling out of Victoria’s Secret in London’s Westfield shopping centre, laden down with garish bags presumably containing various items of microscopic and sexually precocious underwear. When I was their age, my mum was still buying my pants, and rightly so.

Hurrah, then, for the three British students who are demanding that the company — which is the largest American lingerie retailer — apologise, and alter the wording on the advertisement.

Like other overtly body-conscious brands of this ilk — from American Apparel, with its adverts awash in demeaning pornographic imagery, to Jack Wills, which imagines all girls as salty-haired surf sirens — they’re aiming squarely at all our daughters.

Alessandra Ambrosio
Adriana Lima

Young women who are picked to model for Victoria’s Secret, including Alessandra Ambrosio (left) and Adriana Lima (right) - who claims she only consumes liquid protein nine days before a show - are nicknamed 'Angels'

That’s right: those same happy girls who start off being all shapes and sizes, unaware that there is any aspect of themselves that is wrong, and who end up hating their bodies half to death.

Who look upon the likes of Martha Hunt and Adriana Lima and all the other so-called ‘Angels’ (young women picked to model for Victoria’s Secret are nicknamed Angels) and find themselves so lacking in the fundamental virtue of extreme thinness that they lose all sense of reason and proportion.

This advert — and all the others like it — is not just harmless titillation. It’s a deliberate projection of an ideal of female beauty so narrow as to be virtually unattainable.

 There’s no mistaking what they mean by ‘perfect’: perky of bosom, tiny of tummy and negligible of behind — with a thigh gap wide enough to park a bicycle in

It is also deeply damaging. And that is exactly how Victoria’s Secret and their buddies like it. Because what these companies are really peddling is not underwear; it’s a lifetime of body insecurities.

Why? Simple. That’s how they maintain demand and ensure that consumers keep coming back for more. Treat them mean, keep them keen. First create the problem . . . then provide the solution.

Because, let’s face it, if all the women in the world suddenly woke up tomorrow miraculously happy and comfortable in their own skins, what need would there be for push-up bras? Female self-loathing is the commercial cornerstone of the fashion and beauty industry.

Every woman who looks in a mirror and hates what she sees is a potential customer, lured by the prospect of finding the ‘perfect’ answer to her imperfect appearance. When a woman declares she has nothing to wear, what she really means is: ‘I hate myself for not being thin/pretty/young/busty enough’.

Successful commerce is all about profit margins. So if you’re Victoria’s Secret and you make cheap, rather nasty mass-produced underwear that normal women wouldn’t dream of buying because it fits so badly and makes you itch, it’s in your clear financial interest to detract as much attention away from the actual product as you can, and to sell an image instead.

You put on super-glamorous fashion shows, hype up your models, hire pop stars, build a buzz. You get every hot-blooded male lusting after your ‘Angels’ and every impressionable young girl wanting to be one. You ruthlessly exploit every weakness of the naive young female mind — and then you sit back and watch the cash roll in.

Of course, when you’re old and wise and a bit grumpy, like me, you can see through these shameless tactics and make your buying choices accordingly.

But when you’re young and naive and inexperienced, and all you want to do is please others and be accepted by your peer group, it’s so much harder to be rational.

Shoppers are pictured at the Victoria Secret store on New Bond Street, central London, which attracts teenagers in droves 

Shoppers are pictured at the Victoria Secret store on New Bond Street, central London, which attracts teenagers in droves 

When you see ten girls in bikinis like this, you don’t think: ‘My goodness, they look like they could use a bowl of beef soup and a buttered bun.’ You think: ‘If only I looked like that, all my problems would be solved.’

No matter that to get this way, these models, the Martha Hunts and Erin Heathertons of this world, have to spend weeks on end eating nothing but shredded kale and protein shakes. Or that they have to give interviews in which they gush about the joys of juicing and ‘drinking lots of warm water in the mornings’.

‘Angel’ Adriana Lima, for example, claims she consumes only liquid protein for nine days before a show — and then stops drinking completely 12 hours beforehand, because, as she enthusiastically explains ‘sometimes you can lose up to 8lb just from that!’ Great!

This advert — and all the others like it — is not just harmless titillation. It’s a deliberate projection of an ideal of female beauty so narrow as to be virtually unattainable 

Young girls don’t read things like that and think: ‘She’s clearly mad.’ They think: “Oh, excellent. If I do that, I too can be a supermodel.” Except they almost certainly can’t.

No one can lead a halfway normal existence existing on nothing but warm water and protein shakes. Certainly not teenage girls, whose bodies are still developing and need a sensible, nutritious diet.

And even if they did, there’s no guarantee they’d end up a size 000, in their underwear on a billboard.

I know, because when I was young I tried very, very hard to be super-thin. But even at my thinnest, I could never make the grade because I’m simply not built like that. I have huge hands, even bigger feet — and a pair of shoulders like an ox.

The fact is these girls — these so-called ‘perfect’ girls that Victoria’s Secret are encouraging women to emulate — are not normal. It’s not just that they lead obsessive, narcissistic lifestyles, in which the only thing that matters is the way their bottom looks in a thong. It’s also that they belong to a species all of their own.

The difference between these girls and your average female is the difference between a solid little Welsh pit-pony and the winner of the Grand National; or a sausage dog and a whippet.

Same species, worlds apart. Nothing wrong with either, of course. What’s wrong is the relentless and totally demoralising message that one is ‘perfect’ — and the other not.


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Comment by Keeta Lee on November 12, 2014 at 5:08pm

Mainstream can't define what's beautiful and perfect for me...although I'm small framed like these women. if I had the option of choosing what I consider "The perfect Body" I would choose to be shaped more like Beyonce' or Tina killer legs Turner in her hayday's

Comment by Ayinde Adelaja Sankofa Sr. on November 3, 2014 at 6:53pm

Hasina what you wrote may suffice for some; However, this type of propaganda has literally be going on for several hundreds of years; And I truly mean several hundreds of years; Secondly, people of color have been bombarded with this type of propaganda; So, when you are constantly bombarded by something on a daily basis, it is virtually impossible for it not to have some impact on the way you perceive things and one's spirit; And we may not always be aware how something has impacted us;

Another example of this is the version of hip hop music that's negative and destructive; A good number of our children and young adults are exposing themselves to this ugliness on a daily basis, and it is negatively impacting them; Look at how some of the young people dress and conduct themselves.

Comment by hasina zuberi on November 3, 2014 at 4:37pm

I do believe that as the word BODY is in inverted commas indicates that is the name of the underwear NOT a reference to the shape of a PERFECT BODY SHAPE. Please let us stop getting in a frenzy sisters. What matters ids that we should be confident in our own body and mind. Pictures are always going to be there and can brainwash, but what to do? If you feel insecure by this then it is time to seek treatment/counselling, seriously. Mothers, if your daughters are suffering from being insecure then it is your job to de-brainwash them. Also remembering that this is a stage of development all youngsters go through and later on will lern to love themselves. It is just the way God planned it. PANIC OVER.

Comment by Nell T. on November 3, 2014 at 4:26pm

Them shinny noassatall chicks, please! Perfect to who????? I love a thick women. Love you Tall Island Girl!!!!

Comment by RoADRaCER on November 2, 2014 at 2:02pm

They're too skinny!



Comment by Ayinde Adelaja Sankofa Sr. on November 1, 2014 at 12:15pm

It's true that there are more important things to be concerned about; However, Caribbean Fever asked that we comment on the ad; Secondly, there is a historical and global context; This has been going on for literally hundreds of years; The name of the lingerie line is "The Perfect Body"; Come on; The people who created this ad knew exactly what they were attempting to communicate.

Everyone has the right to their preferences, and that's the point; No one has the right to dictate their standards onto someone else.

I'm tried of this crap; I've lived in this country since the 1600's; We live in a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society; So, lets celebrate that!!!

I have no interest in celebrating somebody else's "Perfect Body" crap.

Comment by Niceness Grant on November 1, 2014 at 9:18am
There's nothing wrong with the ad... Vs models on display for a vs ad....the perfect body.... An improvement on the existing lingerie line... Stop being so damn sensitive....things going on in the world yet people find time to kill a company on how it advertises its own products... Don't buy the damn bra then and move on.... Stewwwwwps
Comment by Lloyd Samuels on November 1, 2014 at 2:51am
Lee, I agree with you 100%.
Comment by marc simon on October 31, 2014 at 10:49pm
The ad is just an opinion nothing wrong with that
Comment by Baseman1974 on October 31, 2014 at 10:11pm
Lee, describe wats eating healthy

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