If fashion had its own Olympic games, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show would be right up there with all the must-see events. More than just a collection of lingerie strutting down the runway, the VS Fashion Show is an international celebration that includes some of the most famous super models on the planet – all in one place. From Alejandra Ambrosio to Adriana Lima to Gigi Hadid and even Kendall Jenner, this is certainly the most star-studded runway in the world.
The show has evolved quite a bit since it first started in 1995, each show even more chock-full of stunning runway theatrics and chart-topping musical acts (we're talking Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, and The Weeknd). As the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show heads to Paris in November, 2016 promises to be no exception. Ooo la la!
Like all of its grand productions, there's way more that goes on at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show than we get to see when the show is nationally-aired in December. Here are just a few of the secrets from behind the runway.
The models are spoiled backstage
The Victoria's Secret models work hard, but they play hard, too. According to Adriana Lima, the ladies are spoiled backstage before the show with pizza and cupcakes. There are also rumors that the models enjoy a few cocktails to loosen up before hitting the runway. Not a bad deal at all.
These girls need muscle
They make it look easy, but being a model in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is no easy feat! Besides keeping their balance in some very high heels, many of the elaborate costumes that come down the runway require some major muscles to hold up. Back in 2011, VS Fashion Show regular, Alessandra Ambrosio, wore a set of jewel-encrusted wings that weighed a staggering 60 lbs, all while being four months pregnant. Talk about skills.
They fight over costumes
While it's mostly all love between Victoria's Secret Angels, the super models have been known to get competitive when it comes to costumes at the fashion show. "During fittings, we fight over who gets the biggest wings," Adriana Lima admitted during an interview with Buzzfeed back in 2014. And who could blame them, some of those wings are to die for.
They do two shows, not one
If getting away unscathed after one show wearing those heavy costumes isn't enough, try having to do it twice. That's right, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show happens not once, but two times. "We actually tape two identical fashion shows and they are edited together from different angles," said Lima.
This is where lipgloss goes to die
According to the fashion show's team of makeup artists, the models go through about 150 tubes of lip gloss in a single runway show, which equates to about three tubes per model. It's safe to say there's plenty of retouching going on backstage.
Some models try to gain weight for the show
While there's certainly plenty of detoxing in the months leading up to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, others try to beef up in order to fill out those tiny bikinis. In fact, Chanel Iman said she tried to gain weight for the 2011 show. "I worked out two hours a day for two weeks before the show," she told us. "For me, gaining weight doesn't happen over night. I have to really work at it," she said in an interview.
Like her fellow Angel Iman, Bahati Prinsloo also focuses on being healthy rather than thin. "You can't always follow the diet because you lose too much weight and you mess up your whole system," she explained.
It takes hours to get runway ready
Forget all the time it takes getting into those costumes. That's nothing compared to the time they spend getting dolled up for the show. Hair extensions, spray tans, and lash extensions, are just part of the process. "It takes five hours of hair and makeup," said Lima.
Taylor Swift may have had a model banned from the show
Don't mess with T-Swift. After admitting she didn't think Taylor Swift was a good fit for the 2014 VS Fashion Show, freshman model Jessica Hart sparked an alleged feud between VS and Taylor Swift. "Bless her heart," Hart said in an interview with WWD, "I think she's great… But, I don't know, to me, she didn't fit."
We're not saying Swift took the diss personally, but we couldn't help but notice Hart missing from the lineup when T-Swift did perform on the show. Uh-oh.
Security is always in high alert
We suppose that such a star-studded event would naturally have quite the security in place, but the VS fashion certainly takes things up a notch. Before entering the premise, photographers, journalists, and yes, even models, have to have all their belongings checked out by bomb sniffing dogs.
Social media is banned
Anyone who attends the Victoria's Secret fashion must adhere to some pretty strict rules, which include no photos, no videos, and absolutely no social media. In fact, according to one editor for Cosmopolitan, security gave out plastic baggies for phones, and were very serious about the anti-social policy. Albeit strict, some people seemed to appreciate the rules. "It really forced me to stay in the moment," said one editor.
There's only one bathroom backstage
Fourty-seven zazou models. Dozens of makeup artists, crew members and journalists. One bathroom for everyone to share … and it was unisex. "That meant a photographer could be standing at the urinal doing his business when in would walk Stella Maxwell in her pink-and-white striped mini-robe to take care of some business of her own," one editor wrote in Cosmopolitan." I'm not saying that is definitely what happened, but he went in, then she went in. They were definitely in there at the same time."
They travel in style to get to the show
This may not come as a huge shock, but when Victoria's Secret Angels get on a plane to head to the show each year, they don't fly coach. In fact, according to Florence Kane of Glamour, who traveled alongside the models to the 2016 show in Paris, their chartered jet not only featured a delicious breakfast complete with mimosas, but it was also full of swag, like "Max Factor Epic Lash mascara," which at the time wasn't even available in the U.S. Once the ladies arrived in the City of Lights, the VIP carpet treatment continued as police escorts zipped their charter busses through town, not even stopping for red lights.
The show didn't air in 2004 because of Janet Jackson
After the incredible backlash from Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's notorious half-time performance during Super Bowl XXXVIII, many networks became wary of any kind of suggestive programming. In Elle's review of the history of The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, chief marketing officer Ed Razek admits that the lingerie company agreed to skip the broadcast that year because, "Everybody got very cautious — including us."
Instead, they sent several Angels on the "Angels Across America" tour in which they traveled by bus "to New York City, Miami, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles to meet fans." Adriana Lima was among them. Of the tour, she said, "I got to meet and connect with people from all over the country. So many people came out to meet us, give us gifts, tell us they admired us and wanted to grow up to be just like us. It was a very humbling experience."
The show's ratings have dipped in recent years
Despite the fact that The Victoria's Secret Fashion show is a television event usually on par with major awards shows, in recent years the show's popularity has been waning. According to Variety, the 2015 show suffered a record low 2.1 rating in the 18-49 demographic, despite a slight uptick in overall viewers from the previous year for a total of 6.65 million. But the big drop really occurred from 2014 to 2015 when the broadcast lost 2.45 million overall viewers, and a full ratings point, down from 3.3 to 2.3. So, what happened? We're guessing Victoria's Secret would love to know the answer to that question as well.
Jourdan Dunn and Cara Delevingne do nothing to prepare
Most of the models who walk in the show stick to some kind of diet and exercise program in order to keep themselves runway ready. Elsa Hosk sticks to juice cleanses. Martha Hunt confesses to a brutal-sounding pilates workout using a Megaformer, which she describes as "a torture machine."
But Jourdan Dunn and Cara Delevingne take a decidedly less active approach. Dunn told StyleCaster, "I don't really do anything [to prepare], I'm really bad, I'm probably the worst. Cara [Delevingne] and I do nothing." She also said, "We were saying maybe we should sneak in some McDonald's and KFC and eat it front of the girl's—but then we thought they might come after us or something." Probably a good call to not follow through on that one.
The show survived a surge of indecency complaints filed with the FCC
In 2001, The Victoria's Secret Fashion show aired on ABC for the first time. According to Variety, "scores of citizens flooded the FCC with complaints after the show aired," which triggered an investigation into whether the show met "the definition of indecency — material that depicts or describes 'sexual or excretory activities or organs in a patently offensive manner as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium." But the broadcast regulatory agency ruled that it did not.
The following year, the show moved to CBS, and FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps sparked a new round of controversy, complaining that "too many truly indecent broadcasts are falling through the cracks." His remarks came shortly after the broadcast of the fashion show, which had also been protested by "two women's groups and a media watchdog organization" who called it "a soft-core porn infomercial," according to CBS. And though Copps never specifically called them out, a spokesman for CBS issued a statement in their defense. "We are confident that the Victoria's Secret special was completely within acceptable boundaries for broadcast television." The show has aired on the network ever since.
It was a livestreamed on the web before going to television
Before it became a staple of holiday television programming, The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show broke ground as a live webcast. According to chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, the show was first livestreamed in 1999. Two million people logged on to watch it, despite the fact that it appeared on screen as "the size of two postage stamps in the middle of your computer screen."
The following year, the show was webcast live from The Cannes Film Festival, which meant that it aired during work hours in the U.S. Razek claims that the Treasury Secretary "estimated it could cost American business a billion dollars from lost productivity." There's no word on whether that actually happened, but the show did raise.5 million dollars for the Cinema Against AIDS charity, according to Teen Vogue.
One man decides who walks in the show
Though he of course works with a team from Victoria's Secret over a period of several days, fashion industry veteran, John Pfeiffer, has the final decision on who gets to strap on the Angel wings for the big show. Speaking with Vogue ahead of the 2015 show, Pfeiffer admitted, "At this level of casting, we're nitpicking physically because they're all gorgeous." Although, he does go on to say that it's a girl's personality that will set her apart. Ultimately, whether a model makes it into the show depends on "those last few days of casting" when they are put on camera in a room with Victoria's Secret higher-ups watching. "What you're looking for," Pfeiffer said, "is who captures your attention, who stands out from the crowd. If you can't do it in that room, you're not going to be able to do it on the runway."
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