With all of the challenges we’re currently facing, it’s easy to take our fundamental rights for granted: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and an annual fashion show where the most beautiful women in the world teeter under the weight of mammoth angel wings and diamond encrusted push-up bras. While the ability to see Gigi Hadid in lingerie and heels is an essential component of our democracy, other nations don’t take the right to bear wings quite so seriously. According to a string of recent reports, the Chinese government is running serious interference on the upcoming Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, set to air on November 28 from Shanghai. With less than two weeks to go, shit is really starting to hit the fan.
On Wednesday, Page Six reported that the People’s Republic of China was wreaking havoc on the mammoth event. The article painted a picture of Fyre Festival-style chaos: “We’re told fashion bloggers booked to cover the glitzy event are canceling their trips because the Chinese government won’t give them visas; TV producers are grappling with bureaucrats over permission to shoot outside the Mercedes-Benz Arena, where it’s being held (‘If you’re going to China, you want to show that you are in China!’ fumed an insider); and Victoria’s Secret staffers in China can’t send out press releases because they have to be approved by government officials.” The breathless reporting continues, “We’re told that producers charged with coordinating the coverage for various outlets are ‘on the verge of nervous breakdowns.’”
TMZ has also reported that scam artists are selling tickets to the show for thousands of dollars on “the Chinese equivalent to eBay,” despite the fact that actual tickets to the event are available by invitation only.
Much like Blink-182 fans forced to survive on Costco hamburger buns, there’s something funny about a mess of fashion bloggers and TV producers frantically trying to navigate the complicated bureaucratic landscape of modern-day Shanghai in order to deliver G-string updates to the global masses. Unfortunately for Victoria’s Secret, this behind-the-scenes chaos has quickly devolved into a very public nightmare, with some of the biggest names involved with the show unable to get anywhere near the Mercedes-Benz arena.
The biggest blow to the event so far has been the apparent banning of multiple models. These “angels” are the carb-free, lactose-averse bread and butter of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Without supermodels, the show simply can’t go on. As of publication, four Ukrainian and Russian models had been reportedly denied visas: Julia Belyakova, Kate Grigorieva, Irina Sharipova and Dasha Khlystun. Adriana Lima is also reportedly having trouble obtaining a visa. As W magazine noted, this apparent tension is a far cry from the optimism that supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio expressed earlier this year when Victoria’s Secret opened its flagship store in Shanghai: “Angels have landed!!! @victoriassecret taking over #Shanghai!”
One angel who will certainly not be landing is Gigi Hadid, famed social media star, dater of Zayn Malik, and baked bean fan. On Thursday, the foremost Hadid shared the bad news on her Twitter, writing, “I’m so bummed I won’t be able to make it to China this year. Love my VS family, and will be with all my girls in spirit!! Can't wait to tune in with everyone to see the beautiful show I know it will be, and already can't wait for next year!” While Hadid didn’t go into details, it’s hard to imagine that this was a personal decision. Hadid, who has participated for the past two years, was excited for the 2017 iteration, announcing in an August Instagram, “Forever and ever and ever a dream come true to be asked back to the VS Show.”
Long before Hadid took to Twitter, Instagram commenters had spammed her announcement post telling the 22-year-old not to bother coming to Shanghai. This animosity can be traced back to a relatively recent scandal, in which Gigi’s sister Bella uploaded a video of the model squinting her eyes while posing with a Buddha cookie at a restaurant. While the younger Hadid quickly deleted the video, there was a backlash to Gigi’s offensive mimicry, with the model ultimately apologizing on the Chinese social media site Weibo. Sources told Page Six that Gigi was in fact banned because of the controversial clip. That might sound like a petty move from the People’s Republic, but it’s not out of the ordinary.
“For every artist who wants to perform in China, officials comb through their social-media and press reports to see if they have done anything deemed to be offensive to the country,” A source told Page Six. “Maroon 5 was banned a few years ago because one band member wished the Dalai Lama happy birthday on Twitter.” On Thursday, news broke that Katy Perry, who had been all set to perform at the fashion show, was denied a visa. This pop block is reportedly due to a 2015 performance in Taiwan, during which Perry wore a sunflower dress—a symbol of anti-China protest. Perry also waved a Taiwanese flag during the show. Still, it’s not all bad news; the queen of cultural appropriation will be replaced by Harry Styles.