Jocelyn Ratzer had just finished her second day at Victoria’s Secret when she got the news that would make her quit.
Leaving her morning shift at an Orlando shopping center on Saturday, the 24-year-old salesperson spotted an interview with Ed Razek—the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company—that made her feel sick. In an interview with Vogue, the executive dismissed the idea of casting trans or plus-size models in the company’s annual fashion show, saying the controversial procession of scantily clad models was meant to be “a fantasy.”
"It's a 42-minute entertainment special. That's what it is," Razek said. "It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute.”
Ratzer, who is queer and plus-size, said the comments left her “disgusted.”
“I was incredibly uncomfortable,” she told The Daily Beast. “I felt like I was in a compromising position to be working in a place that didn't want somebody like me representing their brand, or somebody like my trans allies.”
She wasn’t alone. Hundreds of women posted about their disappointment and anger with the company over the weekend, using the hashtag “Boycott Victoria’s Secret.” Trans models took to Twitter and Instagram to share their dismay, and one fashion editor even called for Razek’s firing. The frustration extended to former Victoria’s Secret models like Lily Aldridge and Karlie Kloss, who posted on their Instagram stories about respecting trans rights.
Razek quickly released a statement apologizing for the comments, saying he would “absolutely” cast a transgender woman in the show. (He made no such comments about plus-size women.) But to many, the damage was already done.
“We know that models have had concerns about Victoria's Secret, particularly with respect to lack of diversity and inclusion for a long time, and I think these comments really just added fuel to the fire,” said Sara Ziff, a former model and founder of the advocacy group The Model Alliance. “I think that [Razek’s] comments were revealing.”
Ratzer, meanwhile, walked into her store Saturday evening and told her manager she was quitting. She said the manager was sympathetic, and offered to waive the usual two-week notice period if Ratzner wrote a resignation letter explaining her reasoning. (The manager declined to comment to The Daily Beast.)
“I was fighting with my heart and my head thinking, ‘I really need a job right now, but is it worth it to work for a company that puts out these kinds of statements?’” Ratzer said. “And for me it wasn’t.”
“When I was hired for Victoria's Secret it was under the impression that it was about making every woman feel sexy,” she added.
The lingerie giant has been hit with claims of cultural insensitivity in recent years, and has largely resisted calls for greater size diversity. (When plus-size model Ashley Graham posted a picture of herself photoshopped onto the Victoria’s Secret runway during the 2017 fashion show, the post got nearly as many likes as many images from the show itself.) Meanwhile, sales have been declining since 2016, and ratings for the fashion show have dropped more than 30 percent.
In other areas of fashion, however, representation for trans women is skyrocketing. This year’s New York Fashion Week saw a record-setting 53 trans or non-binary models walk the runway—including one show that cast exclusively trans models. Designers across the world cast more trans and non-binary models than any fashion season in history this year, in every city except Milan.
And when trans model Leyna Bloom tweeted earlier this year that she wanted to be the first-ever trans woman cast in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, her post received more than 30,000 retweets and 100,000 likes.
On Saturday, she shared her disappointment with Razek’s comments.
“This is the moment, the masks have fallen down. This brand has revealed their true faces and thoughts,” she posted on Instagram. “I’m disappointed, because I thought you were the leaders and now I know [you’re] the problem, and I’m thankful for you for revealing your secret.”