Victoria’s Secret Angel and top model Barbara Palvin showcases mind and body, lensed by James Macari in Costa Rica in the 2019 Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Issue. Barbara poses in I.AM.GIA, Dolores Cortes, Beach Bunny Swim and more as the issue makes its new May 2019 debut. / Makeup artist Christine Cherbonnier
Writing for WWD, Kali Hays asks swimsuit issue editor M.J.Day the fundamental question: Is the Sports Ilustrated Swimsuit Issue Still Relevant? (Note that Conde Nast, WWD’s parent, is asking the same question.) The fact that Victoria’s Secret revenues and profits have plunged in recent years give the question sustenance . Victoria’s Secret fashion show viewership has also plunged, as an ultimate symbol of global ‘camp’ and perhaps even American decadence and decline on a planet fighting for its very existence.
Day deserves high marks for trying. The 2019 cover girls include entrepreneur and model Tyra Banks; US Women’s Soccer player Alex Morgan, and SI Model Search winner Camille Kostek. Day argues that they represent plenty beyond being a female posing for a largely male audience.
“Look, you have Tyra, who is the epitome of success from this franchise, she’s the absolute definition of model to mogul,” Day says. “She is what I hope for every woman period and for every woman who is a part of this brand. Just because you’re a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model doesn’t mean you can’t teach at Harvard or get an MBA.”
“I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ve worked with athletes for so long, and in the past, they’d often be like, ‘Oh, make sure my arm doesn’t look too big,’ or ‘I don’t want to look too ripped or too masculine.’ I would get a little frustrated, but I always let the talent guide me,” Day explained. “What I noticed this year, which is so incredible, [Morgan and two teammates she posed with inside] were like ‘I want you to see my abs!’ ‘Look at my leg definition!’ They were so proud of themselves. It was a very rewarding moment.”
Some changes are obvious. As this year’s covergirls. Banks, Morgan and Kostek are all posing much less suggestively than in past covers. Their bikinis are on. No arms being used as nipple covers, as Jennifer Aniston does in this month’s Harper’s Bazaar — giving bloggers and websites the headline that Aniston is posing topless in hopes of attracting web traffic.
No bottoms are being pulled off or untied or untied in the new Sports Illustrated. And thank Goddess, no one is posing in sultry fashion, eating a banana for Terry Richardson.
In the age of Trump, I would like to throw the expression “we can walk and chew gum at the same time” out the window. Used to describe Democrats’ efforts to advance legislation and investigate Trump at the same time, it’s now said 30 times a day on cable news on just one network.
The phrase begs a key question, though, around the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the Victoria’s Secret brand. Being an advocate for strong female sensuality, AOC watches the question at play in our own page views.
Can men appreciate female sensuality view a sexy woman as a brainiac and effective legislator, manager, athlete simultaneously? Does one impression triumph the other? Do men care about learning how to do both?
All the research I’ve read says “no”. Men lead with their libidos, however we package the research results.
AOC will be digging deep on this topic in the coming months, because I founded this website on the concept of the Smart, Sexy Woman With Heart: the Smart Sensuality woman. AOC is a strong advocate of female sexuality with each woman creating her own sensual image.
If the vast majority of men can’t change their primary perceptions around sexy women, the other important part of the convo is whether women need the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and the VS brand as it’s currently defined. Or do we have more important issues to deal with like the planet’s environment and its people, our children, social justice, racism, feminism, white nationalism, almost no women in Republican politics and Donald Trump.
It’s women, not men, who will determine the future of both the Sports Illustrated magazine and the Victoria’s Secret brand. AOC has no answers right now, but plenty of thoughts are going through our minds.
What’s gone is a cherished belief that the vast majority of men can walk and chew gum at the same time. Women can, but men are very invested in power, position, and their patronage of women. Most men don’t welcome complexity in their lives.
Yet, #MeToo and #TimesUp have struck a global chord among all women, and there’s no turning back.
Where this road takes us, nobody knows. But women are on the move. If women’s brands created from the male perspective want to keep us as customers, give us good reasons as to how you advance the larger questions of women’s empowerment in ALL aspects of life and not only on beaches and bedrooms. Are you a friend to women or a foe?
We are in tumultuous territory in global gender relations, and this time, women will not yield. We’ve watched us accomplish comparatively little in the past 70 years — and the backlash against women’s empowerment is in motion, even in America. Trumpian forces want to strip us of our rights, and women of color are using decades of DNA-inbred resistance to lead globally at this critical moment in human history.
From a branding perspective, do we need the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 2019 to help protect us and advance our rights? And what about young people who don’t even view sexuality on binary male-female spectrum?
At least M.J. Day understands the heart of the sexuality identity and empowerment conflict, which is more than I can say for Victoria’s Secret lingerie. And I write these words as the former VS Fashion Director and Director of Product Development, who loves the world’s biggest lingerie brand. #TimesUp, my friends. You should sit down with M.J. Day and get her input on this very tricky topic in American business and culture — with repercussions worldwide. ~ Anne