Victoria's Secret has cast its first transgender model. Brazilian mega-babe Valentina Sampaio shared the news on her Instagram page, but the timing of the announcement is raising eyebrows. 

In late 2018, L Brands Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek told Vogue, "Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy." Controversy ensued, and many boycotted Victoria's Secret (Razek later issued a flimsy apology). 

Is this casting a genuine attempt to inject much-needed diversity into the brand's model lineup? Or it a tokenizing attempt guiding the brand's ship toward more profitable waters? Let's undo this problematic bra strap together.

First, let's congratulate Sampaio on her accomplishment.

For any model, joining Victoria's Secret is a coveted, highly visible, and lucrative job. Sampaio is a stunning, talented model, and she wouldn't have landed the gig without displaying professionalism and commitment. Regardless of her gender identity, she should be lauded for this accomplishment. Slay, baby, slay!

Sampaio has appeared on lots of magazine covers and campaign ads.

Sampaio was a face for L'Oréal's collaboration with Balmain along with Grace Bol, Soo Joo, and Lara Stone. She's also graced the covers of Vogue Brasil, Elle Brasil, and L'Officiel. She also was Spanish Elle's "No Gender" issue cover star. Her other modeling credits include shoe brand Pollini and Moschino x H&M.

Razek's comments get worse the more times you read them.

"...[Victoria's Secret] has a specific image, has a point of view...I don’t think we can be all things to all customers...It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special...I’m always asking myself: If we do that, what is the reason we did it? Why did we include that person? And did we include them to shut up a reporter? Did we include them because it was the right thing to do or because it was the politically correct thing to do?"
These are all things that Razek really said in that Vogue interview.

Victoria's Secret faced intense backlash over Razek's comments.

The Model Alliance, an advocacy organization, slammed Razek's comments about transgender and plus-size individuals after the Vogue interview was published. Numerous other publications and celebrities decried the comments, including Karlie Kloss and Lily Aldridge. Kloss later ended her relationship with the brand, telling British Vogue that she "didn’t feel it was an image that was truly reflective of who I am and the kind of message I want to send to young women around the world.

The brand might be also be desperate to get the Jeffrey Epstein/Les Wexner connection out of the press.

Victoria's Secret may also have another motivation to scrounge up some good press. Since Jeffrey Epstein's crimes have been exposed by the Miami Herald, leading to his subsequent arrest on charges of sex trafficking and the raid on his $56 million New York City mansion, where investigators found photographs of nude women and possibly underage girls, L Brands (Victoria's Secret's parent company) CEO Les Wexner himself may be trying to get out of the kitchen while the stove is burning. 

Wexner has a long, detailed history with Epstein, and was the original owner of that NYC mansion, where Epstein allegedly abused girls. Wexner sold the mansion to Epstein for $0. Epstein also allegedly procured women and minors for sexual abuse under the guise of getting them a Victoria's Secret modeling contract.

Sales are way, way down at Victoria's Secret — and its lack of diversity is a big reason why.

Literally no one is grieving over the slow, eventual death of Victoria's Secret. It's no, uh, secret that the company's profits have sunk over the past few years, in large part because it has failed to diversify its idea of sexiness. Rihanna's Fenty x Savage line picks up that slack to resounding financial and critical success.

Still, folks are lauding Sampaio for her success but not necessarily the brand itself.

Visibility matters. And while it's debatable whether Victoria's Secret is cynically using Sampaio's casting to get back into the public's good graces, the fact that a trans model is so openly visible is important, and she deserves recognition for her new role.

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