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What It’s REALLY Like To Attend The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

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Shallon Lester

As an editor in New York City, there’s something I know for sure: if you’ve seen one runway show, you’ve seen ‘em all. I opted out of Fashion Week years ago because between the crowds and traffic, it became a boring headache for 15 minutes of watching people tromp down a catwalk.

But even the most jaded, over-it editor starts singing a different tune when the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show rolls into town, clamoring for a coveted invite starting weeks if not months before the Angels hit the airwaves.

I was lucky enough to get on the list, so here’s an inside look at what it’s really like to go to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show!

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Shallon Lester

First of all, getting an invite is not easy, and getting backstage access to interview the models beforehand is even harder thanks to an insane vetting process that almost feels like a job interview. Who do you work for? What questions will you ask? Sample of your work? Report card from middle school?

I skipped the backstage melee this year (PMS led me to decide I didn’t need to be quite that close to such flawless creatures) and focused on the show, which was held at NYC’s Pier 94 — basically a big warehouse/events space that was converted just for the night.

Security was tight: wanding, bag checks, and several stern warnings about taking photos once the show started.

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Shallon Lester

They even handed you a tiny plastic bag to put your phone in so you wouldn’t be tempted to yank it out once the models started! Once inside, the space and the people were equally gorgeous. All the women there seemed poised to jump on the runway should anyone need a last-minute replacement Angel.

I hate being at events by myself, but luckily I ran into other editors I know and we did our best to guzzle as much Krug as possible since we couldn’t bring it to our seats. Clearly, other people had the same idea — behold the “chug table”:

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Shallon Lester

Once inside, celebs were mingling with the other guests and editors — at events like this, none of us “citizens” ever dare to ask a celeb for a picture or autograph, we all interact as equals, not fans. But the celebs definitely fan out over each other! The Weeknd caught up with Trevor Noah, (who looked SO sharp and foxy in his suit), while Future and Wiz Kahlifa (who was there to support girlfriend Winnie Harlow) switched seats so they could sit together. Dylan Sprouse, on hand to cheer for his GF, model Barbara Palvin, sent me into overdrive when he walked in, but everyone was buzzing most about Kris Jenner, who chatted with fellow model mom Yolanda Hadid in the front row.

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Shallon Lester

Fiiiiiinally the show was underway — after four more warnings about taking photos — and kicked off with a montage of the girls during the interview portion of their audition.

“It’s important that women stick together,” one said emphatically, while another insisted that the VS brand is about “sisterhood and empowerment.”

It was nice, but seemed to be trying too hard to bandwagon onto the inclusiveness trend we’re seeing in fashion and certainly lingerie, thanks to brands like Aerie and ThirdLove. Look, VS is and has always been about aspiration — not relatability.

Which is fine! But, Victoria’s Secret: please just own it. The last thing we women need is a company pandering to us and pretending to be on the inclusive, when only ultra thin, ultra leggy, ultra genetically blessed ladies are allowed in their clique.

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Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2018

Opening the show was a performance by an incredibly talented black lady — no idea who she is since she’s not mentioned in any of the performer lists, hmmm — singing “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. It’s a song about circus freaks, not stunning models but okay. Backing up her vocals was a chorus of other black women, also nameless, and for some reason left out of the VS makeover that every other performer received. These poor backup singers were literally in black long-sleeved shirts and jeans and LOW BUNS. I honestly thought they were stagehands. They deserved so much better.

So for each performer, a new collection and cluster of models would debut, with themes like tartan, boxing, and celestial. Halsey looked and sounded great, ditto with Kelsea Ballerini, Bebe Rexha and Rita Ora, even though she annoys me. I’ll think of a reason later.

As a die-hard member of the Mendes Army, Shawn Mendes’s performance of “Lost In Japan” kicked off my own personal lust spiral, and I hadn’t heard of The Struts, but they closed the show and were legit the highlight. The female performers were great, but it was nice to have that masculine energy balancing out the femininity of the show and costumes.

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Shallon Lester

But despite the A-list acts, the show was pretty low energy. Every other model was flapping her hands as she walked down the runway, urging us to clap or make noise. It rarely worked, save for Winnie’s debut, which drew a standing ovation!

Maybe the show was too long and people were bored. Maybe the fashion world, in general, is bored of this spectacle. Who knows.

But overall, the models did an incredible job. Between the nerves, the wings, the shoes and the cameras to play to, these women truly are super models.

However. I’m just gonna say it: Kendall Jenner should stick to print modeling. Her walk just isn’t up to par, and it stuck out. Bella and Gigi also strutted their stuff, but it was newbie Josie Canseco, the blonde offspring of baseball legend Jose Canseco, that blew me away. Josie came bouncing out, singing along to Rita’s song, full of energy and seemingly not an ounce of anxiety. Keep and eye on her, she’s going to be the next big thing.

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Josie Canseco/Instagram

But the evening’s It Girl was Adriana Lima walking in her 19th and final VS show, garnering cheers and a sweet montage.

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Adriana Lima/Instagram


Finally the hour long spectacle — 45 minutes longer than your average NYFW show — was a done deal, and everyone filed out to the after party, held there at the venue, but without a photobooth, food, or champagne (THEY RAN OUT), most people didn’t stick around long.

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Shallon Lester

Overall this is my takeaway: VS will always be an iconic brand who throws a great event… but this wasn’t exactly a festival of body positivity or diversity. Most of the models were still white and/or blonde, and ALL of them were incredibly thin and fit. Maybe Victoria’s dirty little secret is that there’s only one type of beauty?

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