The Victoria's Secret brand has been positioned as an example of femininity and sexuality for years. Everyone was dreaming of looking like Victoria’s Secret models. However, intimidation, harassment, and misogyny reigned within the company. Models were harassed, and in the case of a rebuff, they lost their jobs.
Several models, as well as former and current Victoria's Secret employees, said that misogyny, intimidation, and harassment took root in the company's culture decades ago.
The main complaints were directed to Ed Razek, the President & Chief Marketing Officer at Victoria's Secret, who left the company in August 2019. He invented the annual shows of the Victoria's Secret "Angels," which became a cultural phenomenon.
Models claimed that he tried to kiss them; he asked them to sit on his lap and invited them for private dinners. Also, Razek liked to remind the girls that their career was in his hands. Razek's son, who worked for Victoria's Secret, was also accused of inappropriate behavior.
Model Andi Muise, who participated in Victoria's Secret shows, said that once Razek invited her for dinner, and on the way to the restaurant in the car, he tried to kiss her. She rejected him, and then she found out that she was not hired for the next Victoria's Secret show.
It was also stated that during one of the fitting sessions before the 2018 show, Razek was making obscene comments about Bella Hadid's chest. Then Razek put his hand on the crotch of one of the girls, who was wearing underwear.
Models and company employees have repeatedly complained about Razek, but none of it had consequences for the top manager. Models who made complaints against him were no longer invited to participate in shows, and some employees were forced to leave or were fired.
Razek was very close to Leslie Wexner, an American billionaire businessman and the founder and CEO of the L Brands corporation. Because of it, many employees of the company considered Razek invulnerable. Some argue that Wexner was aware of how his associate behaved but did nothing. Besides, there were rumors of inappropriate behavior of Wexner himself. The owner of the brand was also distinguished by a sharp rejection of transgender and plus-size models. Once he even claimed: "No one goes to a plastic surgeon and says, ‘Make me fat.’"
There were also complaints about Victoria's Secret photographer Russell James who had a good relationship with Razek. Sometimes he asked models to pose completely naked – it was not a part of their contracts and was not paid separately. James included some of these photos in his photobooks, which cost from $1,800 to $3,600, depending on the version. The photographer's lawyer told that the models gave their consent to the use of the pictures.
Due to all the scandals, the company was unable to escape from the financial collapse. It didn't even help that Victoria's Secret invited a transgender model.
The company's shares fell by 75% from the peak value of 2015.
In 2019, the brand canceled the annual show for the first time in 25 years. At the end of January, Wexner was considering selling the company. The company’s top managers claimed that they tried to get rid of the brand’s "porno" image but met the resistance, and some were forced to leave the company.