How Victoria’s Secret impacted my Body Image

Victoria's Secret Angel

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was canceled this year. I was shocked and relieved at the same time. It kind of feels like an era is coming to an end. So, I thought it would be a great time to tell you a little bit about my experiences with the lingerie brand and how it totally messed with my body image.

I first heard about Victoria’s Secret when I was around 14. Already infected by the body dysmorphia bug back then (thanks Fashion TV), seeing these gorgeous ‘angels’ (that what VS calls their models) certainly didn’t help.

My already self-conscious teenage mind took a hit once again by looking at a standard that was neither attainable nor healthy. But still, I was totally hooked and when I moved to America a few years later, VS became my favorite place to shop.

I would spend hours on end and, of course, money there. My host sister from Thailand would always say ‘Victoria steals my money’ and she was totally right. But I didn’t care because I actually liked the clothes. Like for real! For years, I thought they had the cutest most comfortable underwear. And for years, I did not shop bikinis anywhere else but VS. I would buy anything I could get my hands on from clothes to body lotion. I was obsessed.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion marked the beginning of the Holiday season for me

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show airing in December would always be the highlight of the year, and also marked the beginning of the Christmas season for me. I would look at all these beautiful women in awe, walking down the runway in just breathtaking lingerie. Seriously, the little princess inside of me screamed to be one of them (and I’m probably not the only one).

Victorias Secret Fashion Show cancelled in 2019

Everytime I watched the show, I would feel enchanted but also crappy about myself. I would swear to myself to not eat another piece of chocolate ever again. I would read every piece of information on how they worked out or what diet they followed I could get my hands on. It was slowly turning into an obsession…and not a healthy one!

When I moved in with my boyfriend 3 years ago, I had reached my peak breaking point. I created a vision board with pictures of VS models on there, determined to finally achieve my dream body and be casted for the show.

That’s where the shit show began. I started working out excessively and created a very strict dogma around food. When I spend my day only eating salad, it was a good day, when not and only the tiniest ‘unhealthy’ food would make its way on my plate and into my mouth, the day was over.

my vision board did not help with a healthy body image
My vision board still hangs on my wall. But now just as a reminder to appreciate my body.

I would develop some serious gut issues. I was constantly bloated and had the biggest cramps. Life wasn’t fun anymore. My entire day revolved around food and exercise.

Striving after the ‘perfect’ body put a lot of stress on me

My first thought when I woke up in the morning was how I could move my body to earn breakfast. I would tell myself that I wasn’t hungry because I hadn’t moved yet and my body couldn’t seriously need calories right now if I hadn’t burned any yet.

I felt stressed ALL THE TIME!

I did not enjoy weekends at my parents’, my aunt’s or my in-law’s house because I knew I would be constantly tempted by delicious but in my opinion ‘fattening’ food. I would stress out days beforehand and go through all the options in my mind on how to retain myself from falling into the food trap and rather stay hungry than eat anything that could made me fat!

You can imagine that my stress levels were through the roof! But still, I thought walking down that runway would be my dream and the key to happiness. I didn’t realize how unhealthy this entire dream had become. So unhealthy that I wasn’t living anymore, I was merely existing.

Every Body is beautiful

Clearly, I had set myself up for failure from the beginning on because going after this ‘perfect body’ turned into a never ending story. Once you are in this mindset, even if you achieve your goals, it will never be enough. You will never be satisfied with yourself and there will always be someone who is taller, thinner, or prettier than you.

Let alone the constant changes a woman is naturally going through. One day you are bloated, then you hold water, than you are running low on energy and so on and so forth.

Victorias Secret needs to market a healthier body image

Yes, VS created a fantasy (as Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek once stated) but a very toxic one that has negatively affected thousands of women all over the world. And in my opinion, it’s time for a change. It’s time to show a wider range of bodies in fashion shows (not only the VS one) and market a healthier body image. The fashion industry needs to become more inclusive.

The fashion industry needs to become more body inclusive

So yes, the cancellation of the VS fashion show was sad for me at first, as it has been a stable for such a long time and always meant the beginning of the holiday season for me. But at the same time, it is a great relief that finally something is moving in the right direction in the fashion industry.

Sales had already been dropping in the recent years. Something that also reflected in their collections.

In the last two years, their designs had consistently been getting worse. In January, I visited the VS store in London and was shocked how they had filled three floors with the same styles over and over. The angel clearly had spread its wings and flown away. The sparkle that once surrounded this brand was gone.

Ashley Graham as the first plus size VS model would be the right step towards a healthier body image
Ashley Graham as the first plus-size VS angel would be a step in the right direction but also showcases another extreme. Why not show women of all shapes and sizes?

So what’s next? Is the cancellation of the show only the result of the internatisation of TV meaning more and more people are turning to streaming services and youtube to get their content fix as stated in a CNN article or is it a real shift in society yearning for more diversity in the media world? I seriously hope for the latter.

Until then, I will continue to work on myself toward a healthier body image and towards more self love. I still have a long road to go (undoing over 15 years of programming can’t be fixed in a matter of days) but I think a shift towards more body inclusivity and a healthier body image in the media landscape will definitely help.

Also only using real woman in my activewear collections is definitely the change I want to see in the world for a future where my daughter has not to fight with demon.

What do you think about the cancellation of the VS show? Had VS a similar impact on your body image? I would love to chat about it! @madeleinestanev

Signatur Madeleine

2 responses to “How Victoria’s Secret impacted my Body Image”

  1. […] health conscious. Not for the health benefits but to look a certain way. Actually, like all these skinny models in my fashion magazines (as if that was any […]


  2. […] if I was actually making all this up? If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably read about my past struggle with my body and how I never felt skinny enough. Maybe my body was reacting this way when I ate certain foods because I subconsciously labeled them […]


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