Victoria's Secret lingerie catwalk shows have become the holy grail for many in the modelling world, being deemed good enough to become one of their ‘Angels’ an accolade much sought after.
But to earn their wings, the models have to make sure their bodies live up to notoriously strict standards, and one former Angel has opened up about the effect it had on her – and how she questioned herself on the impact of promoting such an ideal.
Speaking to Motto, Erin Heatherton says she was told she “had to lose weight” for her last two shows, in 2012 and 2013, but while eating healthily and working out twice a day, realised her body “just wouldn’t do it”.
“I was really depressed because I was working so hard and I felt like my body was resisting me,” she tells the website. “And I got to a point where one night I got home from a workout and I remember staring at my food and thinking maybe I should just not eat.”
The model, 27, left the company soon after, and in March this year, spoke of a “breakdown” in a post on Instagram, writing: “I was struggling with my body image and the pressures to fulfill the demands of perfectionism upon me. I am not perfect. Through this struggle, however, I found the strength to love myself […]
“This feeling I once perceived as ‘failure’ was, in truth, a powerful awakening for me to stand behind my purpose in life. I stepped away from hiding behind a fabricated version of myself.”
The ideal Angel stats are said to be a height of 5ft 9 or taller, a 24-inch waist and body fat below 18%, while casting director Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou revealed in 2013 that even contracted models have to audition each year by walking a gauntlet under harsh lighting while a team of people scrutinise their body.
The breakdown to breakthrough moment in my life has allowed me to become the truest version of myself. In my moment of “failure,” I stood in the face of adversity. I was struggling with my body image and the pressures to fulfill the demands of perfectionism upon me. I am not perfect. Through this struggle, however, I found the strength to love myself. I stood in my power. I thought of one of my favorite quotes, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a men’s character, give him power” - Abraham Lincoln. I look back on that moment now, and I embrace it. This feeling I once perceived as “failure” was, in truth, a powerful awakening for me to stand behind my purpose in life. I stepped away from hiding behind a fabricated version of myself. I no longer put actions behind my fears and insecurities. I made a choice to redirect my energy to be a catalyst for change. To create a channel for women to become the truest versions of themselves, along with me. (Stay tuned for more...) In the end, if you aren’t being true to yourself, then what the fuck is the point. #rebelwacause #empowerment #womensempowerment#empoweredbyyou
A photo posted by Erin Heatherton (@erinheathertonlegit) on
“The final decision is made by the whole team, sitting at this long table in a room with really harsh lighting and they have to walk towards us and away from us,” she told Vogue in 2013. “They all have to do it – even the contracted girls – and it's incredibly nerve-wracking for them.”
Heatherton added that she no longer wanted to contribute to a body image that was unobtainable for a lot of women. “I realised I couldn’t go out into the world – parading my body and myself in front of all these women who look up to me – and tell them that this is easy and simple and everyone can do this.”
In 2012, Victoria's Secret favourite Adriana Lima made headlines after being honest about the extreme diet she embarked on before the catwalk: cutting out solid food for nine days beforehand and, torturously, admitting that 12 hours before the show she would have “no liquids at all so you dry out, sometimes you can lose up to eight pounds just from that”. Something few health experts would ever recommend or endorse.
The brand is no stranger to controversy. After criticism of a 2014 advert showing models with identikit shapes in front of the slogan “The Perfect ‘Body’” (something they promptly dropped after thousands signed an online petition), last year's show was at pains to point out the strength and athleticism of the training the models underwent before the show.
Read the interview at time.motto.com.
Images: Rex Features