Over the past few years, we’ve all been witness to the great cultural reckoning that has made its way through society. Finally, the attitudes towards aspects of culture like sexuality, race and gender politics have begun to shift, and people are waking up to the fact that the way we were doing things in the past just isn’t going to cut it anymore. After years of peddling the same images of standard beauty norms (namely, models who are typically white, cis-gendered, thin and blonde), brands are changing their ways to reflect greater diversity due to pressure from people like ex-Victoria’s Secret model Bridget Malcolm, who has become an advocate for a healthier, more inclusive and accepting fashion industry.
The Dark Side of the Fashion World
As part of a greater cultural reckoning, the dark side of the fashion world has been coming to light. One brand that’s been forced to reinvent itself and change its toxic ways is the world-famous lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret. Through recent podcasts, news stories and documentaries like Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons, society is learning more about the misogynistic, unhealthy and elitist perspectives the brand was operating from for so many years.
Bridget Malcolm, the now-30-year-old Australian model, has bravely shared her story via social media and mainstream media, speaking out against the mistreatment and abuse she and the other models faced while working for the brand.
Bridget Malcolm: Working for Victoria’s Secret Was “Exploitative”
In a bombshell interview with 60 Minutes Australia, Malcolm revealed that during her time working as a model for Victoria’s Secret, she saw firsthand the “exploitative” culture at the company, which was designed to shrink women down, both mentally and physically.
“I had an eating disorder, I was relying on anti-anxiety medication, I was having panic attacks constantly,” Malcolm said of her time working with the brand back in 2015 and 2016.
During the interview, she also revealed that she had been once been rejected from a modeling job because her measurements had increased by half an inch. The pressure that was put on her by Victoria’s Secret execs led her to go to extreme measures to stay ultra-thin, which caused exhaustion and malnourishment: “I got a very interior glimpse at the machine that was running at that time and it was really sick. It was really unhealthy.”
Bridget Malcolm Says Recovery is a ‘Slow, Life-long Process’
Today, Malcolm is still recovering from the eating disorder she suffered from for so many years during her modeling career. She recently shared on Instagram that she was able to do her first pull-up since she began her journey towards recovery — a milestone she never would have imagined she’d be able to reach when she was in the throes of anorexia.
“Recovery done right is a slow, life-long process,” she wrote in the Instagram post. “I spent a few years at a size that took some getting used to. I was unable to be active. All I could focus on was maintaining my weight, and learning how to eat again. And through this discomfort I learned to embrace my new body, and the process of eating. This was when I began to write about my recovery, and to connect with others who knew what I was feeling.”
The model has adopted a much healthier lifestyle now, and she’s using her voice to speak up against the harmful effects the fashion industry can have on young girls.
She recently signed on as an ambassador for Aerie’s “anti-shapewear” collection, which is designed to fit bodies without squeezing or restricting.
Spreading Awareness About Mental Health
Malcolm has also taken to TikTok to spread awareness about mental health, the dark side of the fashion industry, and how her experiences as a model shaped have shaped her perspective.
Thanks to the advocacy work of models like Bridget Malcolm and the overall shifts in societal structures we’ve been seeing over the past few years, Victoria’s Secret has rebranded to be more inclusive and accepting of different body types, races and gender identities.
Long-time CEO Les Wexner and CMO Edward Razik, who has been accused of fat shaming and sexual abuse in the past, both stepped down in recent years, and the brand has hired a new roster of role models including tennis pro Naomi Osaka, Black trans model Emira D’Spain, and plus-size model Paloma Elsesser.
While some may argue the rebrand is just another gimmick and the brand has only hopped on the bandwagon to sell more lingerie, others believe the company is indeed making strides towards a more positive future.
Lead image by EdNurg/Adobe Stock.