Title: Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons
Director: Matt Tyrnauer
Cast: Frederique van der Wal, James Scully, Tyra Banks, Ivan Bart, Sharleen Ernster, Michael Gross
Where: Streaming on Lionsgate Play
Sometime in June 2021, the Indian media was abuzz with Priyanka Chopra Jonas being named the brand ambassador for the US lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret. Now, after seeing this docuseries, you’ll realise why she was roped in for the role.
This three-episode series, directed by Matt Trynauer and augmented by interviews with former executives of the organisation, models, designers, author, journalists, and a casting agent, chronicle the growth of the brand- Victoria’s Secret, highlighting its popularity with the masses, and it also delves into the dark side of the business that tainted its image.
Moreover, the series is notable for its insight into the moment in which the undergarment brand shaped not just the market but also the very culture of America.
Episode One, titled — ‘Inventing Victoria,’ begins by telling us how the brand was founded in 1977 by Roy Raymond, a former marketer when he felt uncomfortable buying lingerie for his wife. After that, it gives us an insight into the life of Leslie H. Wexner, a.k.a. Lex Wexner, the mall-retail pioneer behind The Limited, which purchased Victoria’s Secret from Raymond in 1982. The series tells us how this man, born with humble roots, “developed clothes from cradle to grave,” and managed to build the iconic fashion empire.
The second episode, titled, ‘The Secret Friend,’ introduces us to Jeffrey Epstein, a financial consultant who had a strange hold on Lex Wexner and how he took advantage of his position. The episode also acquaints us with Ed Razek, the former Chief Marketing Officer at Victoria’s Secret, who made strategic plans of how the models looked, walked, and even promoted themselves for the brand to forge ahead.
The final episode tells us how the brand which Wexner built started slipping on the market front and what the company has done to rectify its tarnished image.
The narrative has an easy and educative flow, often jumping back and forth between concepts, periods, and subject matter. It tells us how Victoria’s Secret, more than any other icon or cultural product, was the brand that defined what sexuality in the late 1990s and early 2000s looked like and how it made ‘beauty’ unattainable while confining female sexual exploration to the realm of male fantasy.
While the telling is smooth and persuasive in its argument, the episodes are far from taut. Each episode suffers from an overdose of repetition and, at times, abrupt digression, making it appear bloated, shallow, and faintly glossy. Some reiterations appear to be flogging the dead subject. Moreover, the series does not dig up anything substantially new in its investigation into Wexner’s outlook or its expose of the rich, powerful men behind it who inevitably connect to Jeffery Epstein and his abuse of power.
In the end, the series leaves you pinning for more, especially with how the Epstein scandal exposed the dark side of the billionaire class and his mysterious death.