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Adriana Lima Responds: Does the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Empower Women?

On December 9th, Victoria’s Secret’s longest-serving Angel, Adriana Lima, told her 11.5 million Instagram followers that she “will not take off [her] clothes anymore for an empty cause.”

💜I had received a call for the possibility of filming a sexy video of me to be posted and shared in social media. Even though I have done many of this type, something had changed in me, when a friend approached me to share that she was unhappy with her body, then it made me think…. that everyday in my life, I wake up thinking, how do I look? Was I going to be accepted in my job? And in that moment I realized that majority of woman probably wake up every morning trying to fit in a stereotype that society/socialmedia/fashion etc imposed…. i thought that’s not a way of living and beyond that…. that’s not physically and mentally healthy, so I decided to make that change….. I will not take of my clothes anymore for a empty cause…..💜✨ #Embraceyouself #natureisbeautiful #naturalissexy #LOVEYOU 💜✨

A post shared by Adriana Lima (@adrianalima) on

The declaration incited confusion, considering that the post was published just a week after the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai, where Lima had announced to PEOPLE that she does not plan to retire until she reaches the 20-year milestone with the company.

A spokesperson quickly shut down rumors that Lima had decided to terminate her involvement with the lingerie powerhouse. “Adriana is blessed to be able to work with all of the brands she does including Victoria’s Secret,” the spokesperson told PEOPLE.

It has since been confirmed that Victoria’s Secret is not the “empty cause” that the 36-year-old had referenced and that the post had been written with the intention of spreading the message of woman empowerment.

In the original post, Lima states that she had been approached to film a sexy video of herself that would be posted and shared on social media. There is no mention of the brand that had reached out to her but it has been speculated that the proposed job would have been for LOVE Magazine’s advent calendar. Lima turned down the opportunity following the realization that “we ‘as [women]’ can’t be continuing living in a world with such superficial values, it’s not fair to us… it’s physically and mentally not healthy.”

Lima’s remarks have been met with both positive and negative reactions. Many are supporting the supermodel’s efforts to expose the dark side of the fashion industry while others are accusing her of hypocrisy, questioning how she can claim allegiance to woman empowerment yet continue to parade around in lingerie year after year.

“Their [Victoria’s Secret] runway shows are a celebration of women, and the models look like they are having fun on their terms, so it’s aspirational and empowering to see,” fashion psychologist Carolyn Mair told The Guardian. “It’s when you see women in sexually provocative images, wearing just underwear, that it feels like they are being objectified. And that changes the meaning: it’s no longer empowering.”

Points have been made that contradict the stance that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show is empowering for women. Body activist and model Ashley Graham exposed the lack of plus-size representation in the fashion show in a recent Instagram post and inspired a critical response to the physical uniformity of the 55 models featured in the Shanghai show.  

For years, people have been fascinated by the fitness and dietary guidelines followed by Victoria’s Secret models. The often unrealistic body expectations are problematic to impressionable viewers and to the models themselves. Former Victoria’s Secret model, Erin Heatherton, has been very vocal about her experience with body dysmorphia and eating disorders while working with the brand.

Lima explained why she believes that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is empowering for women during an interview with AOL. “We embrace women no matter where you are from, how old you are,” Lima said. “We have the opportunities to have our own personalities and be who we are… If you want to dance on the runway, dance on the runway.”

A year later, as she prepared to dance down the runway sporting a pair of angel wings for the 18th time, Lima’s opinions about the fashion show remain steadfast as she told PEOPLE that walking the catwalk makes her feel “happy, sexy, like an angel, excited and bubbly!”

For some, the freedom and sexiness of the models instills a sense of confidence, while others feel dejected by the apparent idolization of a body type that is largely unattainable for most people. Whether the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is empowering or the complete opposite appears to be a question that can only be answered individually.

Does the catwalk provide a platform for women’s empowerment, or is it another way to define a woman by the way her body looks?

Featured Image by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

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