Puerto Rican model Sofía Jirau is breaking barriers by becoming the first Victoria’s Secret model with Down syndrome. pic.twitter.com/qKyLgdZEah
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 17, 2022
In college, and for a few years after, I was strictly a Victoria’s Secret girl.
When I wanted cute bras or underwear or pajamas that made me feel sexy and good about my body, they were my go-to (although my now almost-40-year-old brain will never understand why I spent so.much.damn.money on lace and wire).
While their products were pretty and gave my confidence a little boost at the time, the company has been no stranger to controversy over the years, particularly when it comes to its unrealistic body (and beauty) standards and lack of diversity.
And so, as trends come and go, I moved out of my Vicky’s phase and on to companies that were a little more affordable, a little more comfortable, and a little more reflective of what women actually look like—you know, when we’re not strutting around on stage wearing bazillion-dollar, diamond-covered Angel wings.
But today, I got a news alert on my phone that I knew I had to click.
Victoria’s Secret announced its newest model: a 24-year-old beauty named Sofía Jirau.
And she has Down syndrome.
My first thought was, “Whoa. Seriously?” And that wasn’t what I expected myself to think, so I immediately stopped to process my own reaction. I was genuinely surprised. Well, shocked actually.
And not because I don’t believe a woman with Down syndrome should be a lingerie model but because I never imagined that a billion-dollar beauty brand that for so long was known as the gold standard in sexy—that was known for the incomparable VS Angels and a cookie-cutter definition of what made women desirable—would finally (finally!) recognize that sexy is not one damn thing.
That being a person with a disability (or plus-size or over 50 or pregnant) doesn’t negate your sensuality, beauty, or sex appeal.
And that diversity isn’t just about race or ethnicity. (Although, as a proud Latina, I’m also thrilled that Jirau is Puerto Rican!)
Because even though we’ve made strides over the years when it comes to inclusivity and representation, it’s so easy to feel that we’re depressingly far from where we should be, where we need to be.
But there was something more. Something that went deeper than advocating for representation and equity in mainstream media. And it was this:
Even though I’ve struggled with knowing that my body type and shape and skin color are seen as unattractive by some or oversexualized by others, even though I’ve struggled to feel accepted in so many ways, I realized that my surprise, my shock about Jirau’s announcement meant that even I (with all my progressive ideals) was still mentally locked into the limiting idea that “sexy” does look like one thing. And that if you differ from that one thing in any way, the world will never truly recognize you as beautiful, as worthy.
It can be so difficult to pull ourselves out from under this damaging mindset, but every little win like this helps.
So, I did a little digging and learned that Jirau is one of 18 women who were chosen to promote the label’s new Love Cloud collection, which is meant to celebrate all women.
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“The group is made up of both professional and non-professional models, of all different skin tones, body sizes, and ages. Famous faces like Hailey Bieber, Taylor Hill and Adut Akech join Celilo Miles, an Indigenous wildland firefighter who poses with her helmet and Sylvia Buckler, an accessory designer and mom who holds her pregnancy bump in her portrait.”
Once the shock wore off, I realized that although we’re far from where we should be when it comes to inclusion and how we view women and beauty and what is deemed sexy, this is an exciting and encouraging step in the right direction. And Jirau’s response is exactly why we need to keep drilling into society’s head that representation matters:
“One day I dreamed of it, I worked for it and today it’s a dream come true.”