fashion

Model Robyn Lawley is furious with Victoria's Secret. And she thinks you should be too.

At size 14, Robyn Lawley is what the fashion industry calls a plus-size model. But the in-demand Australian prefers another term: curve model. Or better still, just model.

After all, she’s appeared in campaigns for Ralph Lauren, within the pages of Vogue Australia and Italia, the Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit edition and on the cover of Cosmopolitan.

But there are some brands who remain strangely reluctant to reflect the 29-year-old’s body or bodies like hers. Chief among them, juggernaut lingerie label Victoria’s Secret; a label famous for its big-haired, big-breasted, tiny-waisted supermodel ‘Angels’.

Lawley has had enough. The Sydney-born woman recently circulated an online petition ahead of the brand’s annual fashion show on November 8, which called for the public to boycott the internationally televised extravaganza.

Speaking to Mia Freedman on Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast, Lawley explained why it’s time for fashion to change and how we can help. This is a small snippet of their chat.

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ROBYN: I cast for Victoria’s Secret six years ago. I actually was really happy that I was casting. So it was a good [step] in the right direction; I thought they were actually going to change.

MIA: What size were you back then?

ROBYN: Same size I am now, which is an Australian 14 to 16. [Former Victoria’s Secret Angel] Tyra Banks was a little bit more curvy, and so I was like, ‘Yeah, this is going to happen, this is going to work out.’ This was just for their catalogue. I don’t think it was for the show, because that’s renowned and recorded, and even more embarrassing.

MIA: How do you prepare for an underwear casting?

ROBYN: You fake tan and you try to amp yourself up, like, ‘You can do this’. I had everything lasered that I could think of. I was thinking that they were embracing curvy, so I didn’t cut down on eating; I love food and I can’t not eat, because I’m six-foot-two and need to eat every day. So I didn’t do that. I worked out probably a little bit more…

I didn’t book the job none the less. And they didn’t use any curvy girls. So obviously it didn’t go that well.

 

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MIA: And that’s just in the catalogue… There have been a number of models, including the Australian Bridget Malcolm, who said when she worked for Victoria’s Secret she felt terrible about herself and was forced to starve. They don’t ‘force’ you, but the expectation is that you’re going to be a certain way and look a certain way.

ROBYN: Yeah, I mean things like liquid diets and not eating for six days just kind of sounds gross to me, in so many shapes and ways… I don’t understand it. I feel like that’s the whole problem I have with it. It’s [placing] this really unrealistic expectation on the girls, and so they get into their head that they have to have this body, because otherwise they get canned. What’s so wrong with sending down [the runway], say, a pregnant lady? Lily Aldridge right now is pregnant, but she can’t do the show. Or let’s put just a little bit more curve on there.

MIA: Some people would say, ‘Look, why is it Victoria’s Secret’s job to make women feel good about themselves? If you feel bad about yourself after going to a casting or watching the show, don’t watch it. Why is it their responsibility?’

ROBYN: They stock my size. They have my size in their shops. So if they stock my size and make money from that size, why not put it on the catwalk? That’s what my problem is with that.

I think they would have such a positive impact on girls watching that show. Because when you’re younger, you watch and aspire to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel and that could have such a positive effect if they just include a bit more diversity.

It took so long for different ethnicities to come onto the show, even [different] ages because Adriana Lima is in her 30s, which – shock horror – is apparently in the older, ancient years in the model world. So they’ve only got one more step, and they could easily do it and have such a big impact. And girls, I think, would really fall back in love with this brand.

MIA: Whose sales are declining. That’s a little bit like magazines – you know, women just aren’t putting up with it anymore.

ROBYN: Well they shouldn’t put up with it anymore. That’s why I’m saying boycott it.

I did get a lot of feedback, a lot of people were like ‘don’t tear a company down because you don’t like it’. But unfortunately change doesn’t happen that easy. Look at Vogue. We never thought Vogue would ever feature a curvy girl years ago, and it did. It changed; they woke up and they featured multiple women, and it was such a massive shake-up in our industry. And then Sports Illustrated did it, and have been repeatedly doing it since. I think it’s going to take a brand like Victoria’s Secret to be like, ‘This is the end game. This is where we finally include diversity on such a platform.’

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