Victoria Secret Angels are heavenly advertising mascots for Victoria’s Secret based in Columbus, Ohio and owned by L Brands,, Inc. company. The tagline for their sheer, seamless lingerie with a heavenly fit: “Good angels go to heaven, Victoria’s Secret angels go everywhere.”
Among the “Angels” used in the original promotion were Argentine model Maria Ines Rivero, Brazilian beauty Adriana Lima, German enchantress Heidi Klum (pronounced “Kloom”), feisty American Rebecca Romijn, and the luscious Tyra Banks (the first black model to make the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue).
The Angels campaign was fairly straight forward. Barely dress-up a bunch of hot supermodels with fanciful angel wings and have them cavort down a catwalk clad in seductively-styled lingerie.
According to supermodel Stephanie Seymour, “The angels are basically a concept that came from a line of bras that were very pure, very seamless, very…sort of transparent.”
The Angels debuted on a live 15-minute Valentine’s day “webcast” of the 4th annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that broadcast from the expensive Cipriani Wall Street restaurant on Wed. at 7:00 pm EST, February 3rd, 1999.
The program promised “An Evening of Fantasy and Myth,” the music of Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana, and a bevy of lovely supermodels who walked through a mythical landscape wearing angelic wings. The show ended with a spectacle of flying angels (Wings by Martin Izquierdo).
The models on this webcast included Adriana Lima, Anna Claudia, Carmen Kass, Daniela Pestova, Elsa Benitez, Eugenia Silva, Eva Herzigova, Frankie Rayder, Gisele Bündchen, Heidi Klum, Hollyanne Leonard, Ines Rivero, Karen Mulder, Kiara Kabakuru, Kirsty Hume, Laetitia Casta, Leilani Bishop, Natane Adcock, Trish Goff and Tyra Banks.
This cybercast (believed to be the largest streaming video broadcast up to that time) was the world’s first virtual fashion show and it nearly brought internet servers to a crashing halt as over 1 and half million people logged on to watch the glamorous event that was configured to handle only 500,000 visitors.
The overwhelming demand to see the Victoria’s Secret supermodels taught event handlers some valuable lessons and they were better prepared to accommodate the two million-plus computers that logged into Victoria’s Secret May 2000 Fashion Show broadcast live over the internet from Cannes, France on May 18, 2000 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.
The event showcased the latest lingerie designs from the Victoria’s Secret 2000 collection worn by such supermodels as Tyra Banks, Stephanie Seymour and Heidi Klum.
In 2001, Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show moved from its traditional Valentines day slot to the pre-Christmas holiday slot on November 15th on ABC TV.
Taped live (on November 13) in a large tent in Bryant Park in the heart of the fashion district in New York City, the Angels flew over the crowd while a gospel group wailed out “Hallelujah”
The first-ever network broadcast of this annual event – hyped as the “sexiest night on television” – featured a performance by blind Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and appearances by such fashion luminaries as Tyra Banks, Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum, Rhea Durham, Bridget Hall and Daniela Pestova.
To hype the event, Victoria’s Secret models were seen on Episode No. 132 “The Wedding Scammer” of the sitcom SPIN CITY where Paul’s childhood friend-turned-Victoria’s Secret model, Rhea Durham, invites Paul and a guest backstage at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show.
According to Washington Post television columnist Lisa de Moraes, the show was a ratings winner with 12.4 million viewers, (slightly more than half of them female). More men watched the program than watched the “WWF Smackdown!”
But not everyone was a fan of the Victoria’s Secret Angels. One source called the event a “one-hour glorified infomercial for the underwear trafficker.”
Pat Center, of the morality watch group American Family Association (AFA), reviewed the Victoria’s Secret special and reported the show was promoted as the “sultry super bowl of underwear.” And that the event was filled with “soft-core porn, and models posed sensuously and seductively throughout the hour,” as well as “scantily-clad models wearing angels’ wings while background music sang, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah!”
In addition, the National Organization for Women staged a protest at the 34th Street Victoria’s Secret during the broadcast. Sonia Ossorio, the vice-president for public information for NOW in New York, said that “she has a drawer full of Victoria’s Secret lingerie, but that she chose to protest what she sees as an emerging status quo of hyper-sexualized images of women.”
The Parents Television Council complained to the Federal Communications Commission saying the event violated decency standards.
In March 2002, US federal regulators ruled that a racy Victoria’s Secret fashion special that featured supermodels strutting around in underwear did not violate indecency regulations.
Charles W. Kelley, head of the FCC’s investigations and hearings division concluded “Based on the information you and others provided to us, you have not demonstrated that the sexual aspect of the material was, in context, so graphic or explicit as to be patently offensive.”
Undaunted by their detractors, the next installment of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show aired on November 19, 2003 on the CBS Network. The annual program opened with Sting singing his single “Englishman In New York” as Heidi Klum descended from the ceiling with outstretched Angel’s wings.
Later, other Victoria’s Secret Angels modeled the world’s sexiest lingerie as a tribute to the bright lights of Broadway in an extravaganza entitled “The Victoria Secret Lingerie Show.”
Taped the previous week at the Lexington Avenue Armory in New York, the event featured a Cirque-du-Soleil-style winged acrobat who descended on wires to open and close the show and then disappeared into a column of fire.
Runway models like Adriana Lima, Naomi Campbell and Eva Herzigova along with Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and Delish Karolina sported Victoria’s Secret trademark angel wings (some resembling bird or insect appendages).
5-foot-11-inch, Czech beauty Delish Karolina admitted to Entertainment Tonight, “I had little spiky wings [last year] dangerous wings…This year they gave me little, sweetie, angel wings. They’re very comfortable. When you walk it’s a little heavy, but we have to suffer a little bit for beauty, don’t you think? For such beautiful wings, I don’t mind to suffer!”
To entice viewers, CBS conducted a sweepstakes that offered winners a trip to New York to watch Gisele Bundchen and Tyra Banks — on stage and backstage.
“The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” returned to CBS on Tuesday December 06, 2005. Tyra Banks made her last walk down the runway as she retired from modeling to pursue a career in TV as the host of the daily talk show “American Next Top Model”.
The Victoria Secret Angels also appeared on the runway at MTV’s show HOUSE OF STYLE hosted by Rebecca Romijn.
As Rebecca revealed in an June, 1998 interview for Maxim, “I got Heidi Klum to pretend she was picking her nose. I got Tricia Helfer to poke herself in the bellybutton. And Tyra Banks promised she was going to slap her ass for me. But she’s one of the Victoria’s Secret angels, and so she was wearing these enormous, eight-foot wide wings. Then she went the wrong way accidentally and these big, stupid, clumsy wings were hitting everybody in the face, and anyway…she forgot to slap her butt. But I forgive her.”
The popularity of the Victoria’s Secret Angels theme inspired “Dream Angels,” a Victoria’s Secret product line for cosmetics, perfume, lotions that featured images of pure and innocent female angels naked but for their white feathered wings.
The bottom of the ad states, “Scent from above. A celestial blend of soft florals and earthy warmth creates sheer heaven on earth for the wearer. Your skin will be fabulously fragrant and blissfully cared for. Choose from among the full Dream Angels Heavenly Collection.”
In 2007, Victoria’s Secret Angels were chosen to be part of People magazine’s annual “100 Most Beautiful People in the World” issue.
NOTE: Victoria’s Secret is part of L. Brand Inc. (formerly known as Limited Brands Inc. and The Limited Inc.) that includes The White Barn Candle Company, New York & Company, and Express.
In 1982, Les Wexner, chairman of L. Brand Inc., was in San Francisco when he noticed a small lingerie shop that reminded him of a European boutique. He acquired the store that same year, but it wasn’t until 1993 that Victoria’s Secret ventured into national advertising.
In February 2002, Wendy Burden, executive vice president of operations and administration, spoke at Syracuse University. During a question-and-answer session she revealed just who Victoria really is. “She’s not a person or an embodiment, but an aspirational client envisioned for the brand…She’s in her late 20s, has lived in Europe, has a job, and is very fashionable. She’s a woman, not a girl, and is somewhat worldly and interested in traveling.”
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