Victoria's Secret retires its Angels, deciding they're not 'culturally relevant'

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The Victoria's Secret Angels are gone, and we didn't even get a chance to wave goodbye.

The lingerie and loungewear company, which has been struggling for years with declining sales as underwear brands like Third Love, True and others that emphasize comfort and all-sizes fit have risen, announced the change late Wednesday.

"We are proud to announce an exciting new partnership platform, #TheVSCollective, designed to shape the future of Victoria’s Secret," the company said via Instagram, where it has been introducing each of the new ambassadors individually.

"These extraordinary partners, with their unique backgrounds, interests and passions will collaborate with us to create revolutionary product collections, compelling and inspiring content, new internal associate programs and rally support for causes vital to women."

U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe and Indian actor-singer Priyanka Chopra Jonas are perhaps the most recognizable of the VS Collective faces.

Others include South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech, British photographer-journalist Amanda de Cadenet, Chinese American skier Eileen Gu, British plus-size model Paloma Elsesser and transgender Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio.

"So often I felt myself on the outside looking in with brands in the beauty and fashion industry," Rapinoe said in a release, "and I'm thrilled to be creating a space that sees the true spectrum of ALL women."

Chopra, meanwhile, revisited her history with the brand, saying she could "vividly remember the thrill at 16 opening a gift from Victoria’s Secret given to me by my aunt." The 38-year-old said she was looking forward to making the brand more inclusive.

"I believe in the power of The VS Collective and know that together, we can raise our vibration and catalyze positive change throughout the world," Sampaio said. "Being a trans woman often means facing closed doors to people’s hearts."

Compare the new crew to some former Angels whose names might be familiar: Gisele Bundchen, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Miranda Kerr, Karlie Kloss and Behati Prinsloo, to name but a few. It's a much different vibe, one that doesn't scream "$10-million Fantasy Bra" or "I might've dated Leonardo DiCaprio when I was in my 20s."

Megan Rapinoe celebrates on soccer field.
Soccer star Meghan Rapinoe now represents Victoria's Secret. (David Vincent / Associated Press)

“This is a dramatic shift for our brand, and it’s a shift that we embrace from our core," Martin Waters, CEO of VS, said in a release Wednesday. "These new initiatives are just the beginning. We are energized and humbled by the work ahead of us.”

The brand promises new collaborations, business partnerships and cause-related initiatives: Akech is described as a mental wellness supporter. Gu is a youth and women's sports advocate. Rapinoe is a pay-equity crusader. Elsesser is a body advocate and Sampaio, like Rapinoe, is a LGBTQIA+ activist.

All the women will share their stories, the company said, in a recurring podcast hosted by De Cadenet. Also on tap: the VS Global Fund for Women’s Cancers, which will fund research.

It's a far cry from runways full of sparkles, legs and angel wings, but the shift has been long in the making.

In a new interview with the New York Times, Waters said, "I’ve known that we needed to change this brand for a long time, we just haven’t had the control of the company to be able to do it." Referring to the Angels, he added: “Right now, I don’t see it as being culturally relevant."

The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, for years an attention-getter on network television, was canceled in 2019. That came amid declining attention for the winter special and dwindling sales for the brand.

It also followed a 2018 Vogue interview with the company's former chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, who made poorly considered remarks when discussing why plus-size and transgender models hadn't been included in the annual undie fest.

In early 2020, as sexual harassment aallegations bubbled among the VS models and business ranks, the CEO of parent company L Brands stepped down as part of a deal with an equity firm that took the lingerie brand private. A month later, the pandemic hit, shutting down Victoria's Secret's mall-based locations for unexpected amounts of time.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.