Bella Hadid Victoria's Secret
SHANGHAI, CHINA – NOVEMBER 20: Bella Hadid attends 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show In Shanghai – Show at Mercedes-Benz Arena on November 20, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Overnight Bella Hadid appeared in a Valentine’s Day campaign for the newly-relaunched Victoria’s Secret. The move from Hadid raised eyebrows given past criticism on the brand’s lack of diversity, poor stance on body positivity and even bullying claims from the model. According to the 25-year-old, she rejoined the lingerie giant in a bid to gain back some of her past confidence.

“Another way that I realised my growth—which was super important for me—was being able to be in a setting that I once felt unempowered, and to now feel so empowered and so reassured,” Bella told E! News this week.

“I don’t know if people understand that just as much as you would feel that it’s uncomfortable to be in your underwear shooting a commercial, it is that uncomfortable,” she continued. “So the thing about Victoria’s Secret for me now is that they really, really care about us.”

In 2021 the brand launched the “VS Collective” which features Priyanka Chopra, football star Megan Rapinoe, Adut Akech, freestyle skier Eileen Gu, Brazilian transgender model Valentina Sampaio, plus-size model Paloma Elesser, and journalist Amanda de Caden. Just recently, Hailey Bieber joined the “movement” to front a new campaign. It is hoped the new roster of talent helps rewrite the brand’s problematic past.

Former CMO Ed Razek was largely to blame for the diminishing public opinion of Victoria’s Secret in 2018 when he made claims that “transsexual models” would not be cast in the show as it was “a fantasy”. It followed earlier comments to Vogue where he claimed he had “no interest” in seeing plus-size models on the VS runway.

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 08: Bella Hadid walks the runway during the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on November 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Victoria’s Secret)

For former VS angel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the cultural shift is too little, too late. “I do feel Victoria’s Secret really missed the boat with broadening themselves out in the past few years and really listening to the cultural shift of what people are looking for from their brand,” she said in a 2021 interview.