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Several former Victoria’s Secret models are coming forward in a new documentary that explores how the popular lingerie brand took a dark turn under former owner Leslie Wexner.
Hulu’s three-part docuseries, “Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons,” which became available for streaming on Thursday, details the launch of the company’s PINK line in the early 2000s. The brand, which was targeted toward tweens and teenagers, made some staffers and models uncomfortable as they believed it was an unusual change in the company’s marketing.
Former Victoria’s Secret model Lyndsey Scott said she was required to wear a child-like costume during the 2009 fashion show that had nothing to do with the collection.
“I was wearing balloons,” she recalled. “They were not clothes, they were not sold in the stores. It wasn’t about the clothes as much as it was about the models fulfilling this idea of this fantasy that Victoria’s Secret wanted to fulfill.”
“I realized there were a lot of bad people who allowed bad things to happen,” she added.
Dorothea Barth Jörgensen, who appeared on the 2012 runway show, also spoke out about the problematic outfits the models were required to wear on the catwalk.
“I had this dress with toy things [all] around and the whole set was pretty much based on toys,” she said. “My sister’s children were so excited that I’d be going on the runway with Justin Bieber. They were so obsessed with him, and they were like 10 and 12 at the time, so I think definitely they hit the target.”
One former employee felt PINK made young people feel insecure and excluded.
“For me, that’s when I felt like things were going in the wrong direction because PINK was targeted at teenagers and tweens,” said the staffer. “So, that did not feel good.”
Victoria’s Secret was founded by the late Roy Larson Raymond in the late 1970s after he felt embarrassed about purchasing lingerie for his wife. Wexner, the founder of Limited Stores Inc., purchased Victoria’s Secret in 1982 and turned it into a powerful retail force. By the mid-1990s, Victoria’s Secret lit up runways and later filled the internet with its supermodels and an annual television special that mixed fashion, beauty and music.
According to the documentary, it was Wexner who invented the marketing story about a mythical founder of the brand, an English woman named Victoria, who lived in London and whose husband was a barrister. The story was so convincing that some staff members even wondered when they would get the chance to meet her.
Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and convicted sex offender, started managing Wexner’s money in the late 1980s and helped straighten out the finances for a real estate development backed by Wexner in a wealthy suburb of Columbus, Ohio. Wexner has said he completely severed ties with Epstein nearly 12 years ago and accused him of misappropriating “vast sums” of his fortune.
“Wexner had the money that Epstein was seeking. Wexner got from Epstein the glamour and smoothness that he was seeking. I’m not at all inferring that it was a sexual need, but there was something there,” said Cindy Fedus-Fields, former CEO of Victoria’s Secret Direct.
Epstein later purchased Wexner’s townhouse for $20 million. The business owner moved back to Ohio while Epstein shared control of Wexner’s 20 companies, 19 trusts and different charitable foundations. According to the documentary, the pair were known to do business until at least 2007.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting a person under 19 for prostitution. He was sentenced to 13 months in jail but served much of the time in a work release at his office in Palm Beach, Florida. He was required to register as a sex offender. In 2019, Epstein was arrested after being accused of sex-trafficking girls as young as 14. He was found dead in his New York jail cell that August before his case could go to trial. He was 66.
That year, Wexner released a statement, stating Epstein was “given power of attorney as is common in that context, and he had wide latitude to act on my behalf with respect to my personal finances while I focused on my company and undertaking philanthropic efforts.”
Allegations emerged that Epstein said he was a recruiter for Victoria’s Secret. However, a spokesperson for the company told CNBC “he was never employed by nor served as an authorized representative of the company.”
Wexner maintains he cut ties with Epstein in 2007. Following Epstein’s death, Wexner told shareholders he was “embarrassed” to have had any connection with him.
“Being taken advantage of by someone who is … so depraved is something I’m embarrassed I’m even close to,” Wexner said to a room of investors at an L Brands investor meeting in September 2019. “In the present, everyone has to feel enormous regret for the advantage that was taken of so many young women.”
The last Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show happened in 2018. The 2019 show was canceled amid rising concerns about the brand’s marketing strategies.
In 2020, L Brands announced it sold a 55% stake of Victoria’s Secret for approximately $525 million. They also revealed that Wexner, now 84, would step down from the role of L Brands chairman and CEO.
Following the documentary’s release, Victoria’s Secret issued a statement to Fox News Digital noting it has evolved since revamping as a company in 2021.
“The company featured in this docuseries does not reflect today’s Victoria’s Secret & Co. When we became a stand-alone company in August 2021, we set out to regain the trust of our customers, associates and partners,” said a Victoria’s Secret spokesperson. “Today, we are proud to be a different company, with a new leadership team and mission to welcome, celebrate, and champion all women. This transformation is a journey, and our work continues to become the Victoria’s Secret our customers and associates deserve — where everyone feels seen, respected, and valued.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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