It’s the first week of December, and Dr.INK café’s WeChat group is blowing up with photos of Victoria’s Secret angels. Ah, it’s that time of the year again, when all of humanity sets aside its differences and gathers to watch 50 liquid-dieting models blow kisses and stomp down a blinding LED runway in Paris, girls who are wearing next to nothing except massive, glittering wings clipped to their bony backs.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is the type of shit-show extravaganza that is against EVERYTHING the Peace Corps stands for. There’s just something about the blatant objectification and sexualization of women, and the costumey, fetishy, cultural appropriation aspect of the show that clashes with the goals of Peace Corps: GEWE (Gender Equality, Women Empowerment) and fostering deep, long-lasting, intercultural exchange beyond “exotic” headdresses, necklaces and other disposable accessories.
But as a PCV I’m here to observe, not judge. So I join the guys at the café when they tell me they are streaming the show this year, which is a really big deal to them because FOUR Chinese models made the cut for 2016! Yes, it looks like He Sui, Liu Wen, Ming Xi, and Ju Xiao Wen are joining three dozen white girls and a few other token minorities on the runway.
Victoria’s Secret is clearly making moves to dominate China’s $18 billion lingerie market… ‘cuz the company opened the show with this little gem of a costume:
A pitiful looking dragon, a symbol once reserved for the Emperor of China, is wrapped around Elsa Hosk’s tiny waist (probably to cover her up so she can get past China’s censors). The guys in Lanzhou are eating it up: “It’s a dragon! It’s so Chinese! So awesome!”, not realizing that this is not cultural appreciation, but rather a lame attempt to get them to shell out 700 RMB on bras and panties for their non-existent girlfriends.
I feel a bit better when Liu Wen comes out wearing some “Asian Inspired” whatever, because she’s actually Chinese. I mean it’s still fucked up, but a little less so (similar to how it’s cool for Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj to use the n word, but the rest of us can’t)
But I get off my pedestal and watch the entire show with them, and it is kind of fun. The guys cheer every time one of the Chinese models makes an appearance. Ming Xi made some cute poses at the end of the runway (it looked like she was blowing out a smoking gun, but I can’t be sure), and the rush to see these photos almost crashed China’s WeiBo and social media servers. I think she’s going to be the new “It” girl in China after this, good for her! Cash in on being skinny while you still can, honey!
I must admit, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is oddly addictive. We ultimately watched the entire 2015 and 2014 shows too. And we agreed that 2014 had the best musical guest performers, since Taylor Swift has the height and proportions that could rival any of the other models on stage. Though as one of the guys pointed out, “she acts all innocent and friendly, but you can tell that inside she’s a total 绿茶婊!!”
Disclaimer: All opinions shared in this blog are the author’s own, and do not represent the views of any outside organization, including but not limited to the United States Government and the Peace Corps.