A new site called MormonsSecret.com is using the Romneys to sell “magical Mormon underwear”—and it’s already receiving backlash. Jeesoo Park talks to its mysterious (“ex-Mormon”) founder.
When Ann Romney appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno late last month, she wore a figure-hugging leather skirt and jacket by Boston designer Alfred Fiandaca. New York magazine called it “exciting and preposterous.” But for many fellow Mormons (particularly the bloggers) the more pressing issue was whether Romney could have worn her traditional Mormon undergarments under so tight a skirt.
With the Romneys in the national spotlight, one new company has sought to capitalize on the Mormon moment. Enter Mormon’s Secret—a play on Victoria’s Secret—that sells Mormon underwear by using Photoshopped images of Ann and Mitt on models’ bodies. Started by an “ex-Mormon” named Ann Jackson (which, she tells us, is an alias used for reasons of “personal protection”), the site officially went live on Sept. 13—and is apparently making money from its Romney marketing ploy.
On the website’s homepage, Mitt’s head is glued on to a model’s body, dressed in a white T-shirt and what looks to be tight white briefs, with the following thought bubble: “I’m just glad they didn’t release the secret video of me dancing in my Magic Mormon underwear!!!” On another page, Ann is clumsily Photoshopped onto the body of a model wearing a very sheer white T-shirt, leaning against a dressage horse.“I wish they had Magic Mormon underwear for horses,” the horse thinks.
Although the garments sold on Mormon’s Secret appear to be made in exactly the same way as traditional Mormon underwear—items that essentially look like long underwear, made in fabrics like cotton or polyester with special stitching and embroidered with Masonic symbols—the site is marketing them in a somewhat blasphemous way. It features the garments on models in various states of undress, ultimately fetishizing what is typically considered to be sacred in the Mormon community: purity. And apparently, it’s working.
Jackson—who is reportedly an ex-Mormon who formerly worked in the “clothing division” for the Church of Latter Day Saints—tells The Daily Beast in an email interview that since the site’s launch, sales have been steadily rising: “The site has been selling a modest number of pairs each week. We have, however, noticed a serious uptick with the impending Halloween holiday coming up. Customers are sending us a lot of emails full of preelection excitement. we’ve had dozens promise to take pictures of themselves/friends in the magic Mormon underwear, and post those pictures on our Tumblr wall.”
And while the rage over dressing up Mormon started in 2011, with “Mormon” making TIME’s list of “10 Best (Topical) Halloween Costumes,” there are members of the religion who consider mockery in the form of dressing up as Mormon disrespectful. As reported by LDSliving.com, Sue Perdue says, “It would be like dressing up as a Muslim—I think it would be in bad taste.”
“The intent behind a site like this should be obvious to anyone who sees it,” a church spokesman named Eric Hawkins told The Los Angeles Times. “There will always be those who want to ridicule and demean something meaningful to another. Hopefully, we might yet reach a point in society where that is not acceptable.”
Hawkins may have his opinions, but no one from the Romney camp has yet to release any statements in response to the site. According to Jackson however, there are laws in the US that offer a website like “Mormon’s Secret” substantial protection, not the least of which are those safeguarding free speech and the right to parody. But Jackson told The Daily Beast that she would love to become a talking point of the election season. “In truth, it would be fabulous if the Romney campaign got their magic panties in a bunch and took the time to attack Mormon’s Secret!” she tells us. “What business wouldn’t want that kind of sales-boosting attention? Not that getting a reaction was ever the goal, but that wouldn’t be so bad either.”
The website sells items like Magical Men’s Cotton Tops for $36 (material: “Magical Mormon Cotton”) and Women’s Magical Bottoms for $42, marketing them as: “Comfortable, breathable, and crafted with moisture-wicking cotton, these undergarments are a not only fun and kinky, but also a hilarious and talk-of-the-town Halloween costume idea for 2012. Order yours today, and your magic garment top will arrive packaged with a description of the actual Mormon underwear initiation ritual that includes nudity, biblical references, and magical expectations.”
There is no doubt that www.mormonssecret.com is religiously controversial—but it’s also clearly quite politically charged, as it currently references Mitt Romney’s infamous statements on its homepage, promoting a coupon code called, “IAmThe47%,” that if used at checkout in the next 47 hours, gets you 47 percent off your entire order.