Andrea Smith: How the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is destroying every woman's self esteem
By now, most of us are already sick of pictures of last night’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show - the annual glittery knickerfest that is treated like some sort of hallowed, celestial event all around the globe.
The whole heavenly vibe is enhanced by the fact that 15 selected supermodels are known as ‘Angels,’ and actually wear fluffy wings as they glide down the runway in their smalls and killer heels.
Competition to be chosen is fierce. Only 44 of the leanest, hottest models on the planet are deemed suitable to take part in the most talked-about and highly-anticipated fashion show in the world. This year, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner made their debut in the New York show, alongside established VS Angels, Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Lily Aldridge and Candice Swanepoel.
Those of us who are confident in our own un-model-like skin looked at the gorgeously pictures this morning and admired the winged beauties sashaying down the runway in the stunningly-executed lingerie extravaganza.
We marvelled at the Fantasy Bra worn by Lily Aldridge, which featured 6,500 gems boasting 1,364 carats, such as diamonds, blue topaz, yellow sapphires and pink quartz, which is worth a cool $2 million.
We flicked through the gorgeous images online while idly munching on our lunch, and reflected that most of us would look like an overstuffed sausage in the rhinestone-encrusted body stockings sported by the Angels and fellow models.
When I say most, I mean 99 per cent of women. Let's face it, the rest of us haven’t been hitting the gym multiple times a day to #TrainLikeAnAngel.
Most women who are bit older and wiser will understand that these women look absolutely amazing, but even Adriana Lima doesn't look like that every day. This tiny group of women won the genetic lottery, but even they have a full-time job maintaining their looks and meeting very exacting standards.
Almost every former model I have ever met has spoken of the pressures and and self-loathing they indulged in to meet the high physical standards that were required of them. Most couldn’t stick it for long, and on that note, the average age of retirement for a VS Angel is 28.
That's what I know, as an adult.
However, for our young and impressionable girls, the ones who look up to 20-year-old Kendall and Gigi as role models, how do we tell them long locks and legs for days shouldn't be your main life goal?
How do we explain to them that while attractive looks and a great appearance are lovely - a happy, healthy, ambitious, curious and ever-expanding mind and heart are the most attractive things of all? And that rather than focusing on the external, life would run a lot more smoothly if they concentrated on improving what goes on inside their heads instead.
How do we explain any of this to them when our media and society insists on making superstars out of people who were merely fortunate enough to be born beautiful?
As a fat and ordinary 47-year-old, my career and, thankfully, my self-esteem has never hinged around how I look.
But I’m constantly surprised at how much obsessing some adult women do over their appearance. I regularly meet the most talented, capable and impressive women who have achieved great things, but are simply fixated e over aspects of their physical appearance.
What hope is there then for the young girls, who are taught by the out-of-proportion worshipping that goes on around VS? That that there's something extremely special and unique about being thin and tall and looking good in your pants?
After all, it was a fortuitous roll of the genetic dice that gave Kendall Jenner her slender bum and not her sister Kim’s, when it came to being chosen as an underwear model last night.
I thought there was something very sad (and a bit creepy) about the video clip of renowned 20-year-old Gigi falling to the ground in her underwear and sobbing as she was told by grey-haired, older man Ed Razek (senior creative at Victoria’s Secret) that she had made the grade for the show.
Her pitiful gasps of relief and gratitude spoke of her desperation to be part of the one show on earth that signals to women of even extreme beauty that they are "good enough."
It reminded me of the story that Meryl Streep (66) told Graham Norton about how she auditioned for a part in Dino De Laurentiis’s remake of King Kong 40 years ago, and the director remarked “che brutta,” which means “how ugly” or “what an ugly woman” in Italian.
Meryl explained that it hurt her feelings, but it taught her an incredible life lesson and spurred her on to success instead.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous if women of all ages took their cues from the likes of Meryl, and stopped obsessing about physical appearance, which most of the time is out of our control anyway?
Wouldn’t it be great if our young women ignored the hype and focused their energy on improving their minds, and furthering the talents that will actually make more of a difference to the world than any $2 million bra will ever do?
And who knows, maybe now and again, they could even stop and enjoy a delicious sausage sandwich!