The much-anticipated annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show will kick off in Shanghai later today with no Katy Perry and no Gigi Hadid, but with a record number of Chinese models hitting the catwalk.
Last year, the American lingerie brand’s ultra-lacy event in Paris featured more Chinese models and designs than ever before. However, the company has redoubled its efforts this year, trying desperately to tap into a massive market of potential frilly underwear-wearers even at the cost of its signature show falling into chaos.
Hosted inside Shanghai’s Mercedes Benz Arena, this will be the first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to take place outside of the United States or Europe. A total of seven Chinese models will be strutting their stuff, including four returnees from last year — Liu Wen (China’s top-paid model), He Sui, Ming Xi, and Ju Xiaowmen — along with three newcomers — Xie Xin, Pei Shu, and Paris-born Estelle Chen.
However, a number of models will not be attending this year’s event after reportedly being denied Chinese visas. The most high-profile angel to miss this year’s show because of visa trouble is Gigi Hadid, who has apparently been blacklisted over a video published online earlier this year which shows her holding up a Buddha-shaped cookie and making “squinty eyes.”
After Victoria’s Secret announced that it would hold its annual show in Shanghai, the video quickly made headlines again as Chinese netizens bombarded Hadid’s social media profiles, calling her racist and telling her to stay out of China. Hadid’s later apology was not accepted by many.
Also being made to stay out of China is Katy Perry. The American pop star was all set to headline at the Victoria’s Secret event, but has reportedly been banned from performing in China over a 2015 show in Taipei in which she dressed up in a sunflower costume and wrapped herself in the Taiwanese flag.
Moreover, Page Six reports that Victoria’s Secret has been having considerable difficulties dealing with these visa refusals and securing proper replacements because staff in China write that they fear their communications are being monitored by the Chinese government.
“They want to discuss what’s going on as far as replacements for those denied visas and alternative arrangements, but they have to be tight-lipped because it seems that the government is watching their e-mails,” a source told the US celebrity news and gossip site.
While no official reason has been given for Perry, Hadid, and others not receiving visas, party tabloid the Global Times sees their exclusion as yet another sign of China’s newfound global power which is undoing a “century of humiliation.”
“Celebrities with international fame must be prudent in their remarks and behaviour to avoid falling into a political or ideological trap,” the tabloid writes. “They must respect tradition and values of different ethnicities and countries. In the past when China was weak, our feelings were ignored. Today, the Chinese mainland market is one of the world’s largest, and cannot be shunned by entertainers. They need to adjust, not hold grudges.”
Indeed, Victoria’s Secret isn’t about to let a few politically-motivated visa problems stop it from trying to bust out in the Middle Kingdom in a big way. Earlier this year, the brand opened its first flagship store on the Chinese mainland in Shanghai before launching another store in Chengdu.
A third store is expected to open soon in Beijing as Victoria’s Secret looks to push up its sagging global business by enticing the growing number of Chinese women in the middle class with money to spend to buy its fancy undies.
[Images via ChinaNews]