Wilson Charles finds that the most intriguing parts of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show aren’t the half-naked supermodels.
For six months after college, I worked at a secret, high-end bar in New York. I scrubbed tables, dropped drinks, drank for free, and once almost convinced Kate Hudson to try my favorite cocktail. (She didn’t; she wanted what Scarlett was having).
Hands down, the highlight of the whole experience was the night Marisa Miller came by. I was working the door, feeling all smart in a shirt and tie, and at first all I saw was her hair. This blond cotton candy cloud thing that just … billowed. I thought there was a fan in front of her. It was probably my mouth-breathing.
I quickly cleared a table and as she walked by in her skinny, skinny jeans and her tight leather jacket, with some dudes in v-necks and necklaces and pointy shoes, I sniffed. Just a little. Just to see.
Do you know what she smelled like?
Let’s get something out of the way: I’ve never wanted to be anywhere more than I’ve wanted to be at the 2011 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show After Party. It’s not because I’m naïve enough to think that anything other than a one-sided starting contest would happen between the Angels and me. It’s something about watching those women walk down the runway, with each step crossing over the centerline of their body to the opposite side so powerfully, so gracefully. I just wanted to be nearer to them.
Perhaps this is how crazy people think.
The second point of note: these girls are skinny. Like, real skinny.
My dad has an odd but sincere way of saying that he loves it when a woman eats. More often than not this is about my mother, who has always been thin and rarely has seconds, but it has on occasion been about girlfriends, aunts, and the hot counselor from summer camp I’ve always had a crush on. I would bet that immediately after the show most of the Angels engaged in a primal act of feeding, the sheer ferocity of which would have pushed my father’s heart stents to their limits.
Goddamn these women are tall.
I found it an odd experience watching the VS Fashion Show. Not because I’ve never watched women in little clothing and enjoyed it, but because I’m normally more confident that’s the total point of whatever it is I’m watching.
Perhaps I’m over thinking this—it’s women in bras and panties, so what am I complaining for?—but I couldn’t help but feel I was watching some bizarre cross between a Miss America Pageant, a Beach Volleyball game, and a WWE Bra & Panties match. All of these events demand the application of noble qualities—personality, intelligence, athleticism, discipline, etc.—and yet promote their participants almost entirely as objects of physical desire. With the VS Fashion Show, I was never entirely sure through what lens, or at what exactly, I was supposed to be looking.
Was there a winner? A loser? Was I supposed to be impressed at their skill? Was there skill? Is there skill in being tall and beautiful and unendingly leggy? Why did they keep saying thank you? And winking? And what’s with all the hands in the air all the time? Am I supposed to have a favorite? And what’s the guy from Maroon 5 whose name I actually know doing all up in my models? Get out of there, Maroon 5 guy!
Is it possible for anyone to pay attention to anything beyond the Angels’ bodies?
Are we even supposed to?
The people running the show seemed conflicted too. The interweaving of runway action with segments about the girls themselves—what they wanted to be when they grew up, what they looked like when they were younger—was a valiant attempt to temporarily ground the Angels for us mere mortals, but it was sketchy at best.
As I was being told that there was more to the models than met the eye, I realized that nearly everything about the models was entirely for the eye. I mean not that what I saw was visual, as in the way the eye perceives sight, but that the models were complete and utter eye candy.
Whether or not Behati takes the most amazing pictures (and she does), there has to be better evidence than photographs of the other models in their lingerie, or video of her running around backstage in her little pink robe holding a camera. The very proof of her talent was sexualized.
Was I supposed to look at her talent? Or the talent on display?
Similarly, while we learned that Erin was a huge nerd and is really intelligent, the next shot was of a scantily clad Erin in glasses. The same cool round ones your friend with the tie bar wears, and the same metaphorical ones Rachael Leigh Cook wore in She’s All That.
The kind that aren’t real.
One really wonderful bit was when we met first time VS runway walker Karlie Kloss (19!) as she was prepped and made up as the newest and latest Angel. She’s tall (really tall), thin, and the very definition of “legs for days.”
Someone asked Karlie a question along the lines of how she feels having made the VS cut, and she talked about how she grew up in St. Louis and really felt like she was living the American dream by being here, about how happy she was to be doing this. How it was literally a dream come true.
At various points in the VS show the camera would cut to people in the audience, and most of the time it was to handsome and successful male celebrities. I wondered (not for very long): why are they there? What are Stephen Dorff and the werewolf guy from that vampire show doing there?
Two words: After Party.
Two more words: Target Market.
I realized this show wasn’t for me, or for other men and women—for whom the models are unattainable in every way—or even really to promote the VS brand. It’s really just a very public viewing party for Stephen and werewolf guy and Leo, who arrived later, to pick which one they like the best so they can talk to them at the After Party, to which we’re not invited.
Wooderson said it best: “I get older, they stay the same age.”
Needless to say, I found my appropriate lens later during the Kanye West and Jay-Z Watch the Throne performance. As the camera cut away to the Amazonians backstage shaking their derrieres, I realized I was watching the same girls I have always watched from across the party, or the dance, or the club, and been too afraid to talk to. Only this time, it was through a screen. These girls, and the Angels by extension, are what they are every time: unattainable, and still not very good at dancing.
—Photo Brad Barket (AP)/fashionfile