A new podcast about Victoria’s Secret promises to lift the lid on the brand’s troubling underbelly.
“Fallen Angel” investigates the “very sinister ecosystem” of the lingerie giant and its disturbing connection to Jeffrey Epstein, who was the money guru of the company’s founder, Les Wexner.
“I think … Les Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein’s relationship was deep,” Vanessa Grigoriadis, a journalist and the podcast’s co-host, told The Post. “And there are many people who believe that the bulk of Epstein’s money — the money that Epstein used to buy all these extraordinary properties and create an image for himself that attracted all these wealthy men to his side, and also abuse all of these women and girls — most likely came from Les Wexner.”
The two men were so close that they shared ownership of a sprawling $77 million Upper East Side townhouse. The deed was transferred in 2011 to Epstein’s Virgin Islands-based LLC.
Epstein was accused by Manhattan prosecutors of employing his connections to Victoria’s Secret to have unsuspecting girls “audition” for him at his abode. These would start with requests for massages and often end with sexual abuse.
Epstein died in an apparent suicide while in federal custody in 2019. The jet-setting financier, 66, was facing up to 45 years in prison on charges of sex-trafficking dozens of teenage girls. Wexner later said he had been “taken advantage of” and admitted to being “embarrassed” by his ties to Epstein.
Grigoriadis and co-host Justine Harman, the former features director at Glamour magazine, note that the late disgraced money manager even owned a home on Wexner’s vast Ohio estate.
“Being seen as one of the people with whom Les Wexner had confidence gave you an extraordinary amount of power there,” Harman said.
And it appears that Epstein had no issue wielding that power when it came to employees of Victoria’s Secret.
On the podcast, a former Victoria’s Secret executive named Cindy (who asked that her last name not be used in the podcast) remembers being seated next to Epstein at a birthday party for Wexner’s mother at a corporate cafeteria space and being invited by Epstein to an exclusive afterparty at Wexner’s house.
“There was something that just didn’t seem right about it,” Cindy reveals. “I was, if you will, the hired help. And my boss [Wexner] is having an afterparty to which he didn’t invite me? … I don’t even know who this guy [Epstein] is, so I declined.”
Cindy recalls another time Epstein allegedly contacted her on the phone explaining that he was frequently in Columbus, Ohio — where the lingerie company was based — and “could use some female companionship.” When Cindy demurred, he “very quickly got off the phone,” she says.
Epstein allegedly tried a third time with Cindy, inviting her to join him in Aspen for another Wexner bash, but she says she declined the offer.
The eight-episode podcast also delves into what it takes to be a VS model — Dorothea Barth-Jörgensen remembers having to bike to a casting call during Hurricane Sandy and making sure her spray tan didn’t run — but the show really focuses on the unhealthy body image that the lingerie giant apparently promoted, which caused many of the models to go down a “path of eating disorders, poor health, depression, anxiety, and other issues,” according to a press release.
“One Victoria’s Secret Angel, Erin Heatherton, told us that she was on a substance called phentermine,” said Harman. “She was taking that on a daily basis…it helps you lose a pound a day.”
In an upcoming episode of the podcast, Heatherton says that around the age of 25 she realized her body had changed and “I was just a little bit bigger.”
“That pushed me over the edge a little bit. It definitely led me down this path where I went to see this nutritionist who started me on this diet pill called phentermine, which my therapist later called ‘bathwater meth,’” says Heatherton. “I don’t know. I was just like, ‘Let me Lance Armstrong this because I’m renovating my condo. I can’t lose my job right now.’ I started injecting myself with HCG [human chorionic gonadotropin, sometimes used in conjunction with phentermine].”
Phentermine is an amphetamine-like prescription medication used to suppress appetite that carries with it a host of side effects including increased heart rate.
“We’re talking about an already lean model losing weight,” Harman said. “They may lose the muscle, which may make a viewer at home think, ‘Oh, she doesn’t look that healthy.’ But when these women have these chiseled abdomens and these sculpted arms, even if they’re so skinny, we tell ourselves she’s an athlete, that’s just what her body looks like.”
Indeed, for years, the ladies’ intense pre-runway fitness regimens were highlighted by the brand and the media, with the tagline “Train Like an Angel.”
“And for me, that’s where the most nefarious part of the whole operation comes into play,” Harman said. “Because it teaches young women and girls this is what women look like when even the Angels themselves have to go to these ridiculous measures to make sure that they don’t look frail when they’re starving themselves.”
Other models have spoken out about the brand’s unrealistic beauty standards, including Bridget Malcolm. The Australian model has been open on social media about suffering from an eating disorder in order to achieve “sample size” and claimed that her agents even encouraged her to do cocaine to lose weight.
This past summer, she posted a TikTok video showing how shockingly tiny the size 30A bra was that she wore in the 2016 runway show. She claimed in the video that the next year, when she had grown to a 30B, Ed Razek, the former chief marketing officer for L Brands, rejected her and said she “did not look good enough.”
Razek retired from the company in 2019 after making a series of inflammatory comments, including that “transsexual” models should not be cast for the VS runway “because the show is a fantasy.” Rumblings of other alleged misconduct emerged: In 2020, he was accused in a lawsuit of presiding over a “hostile abusive environment rife with sexual harassment,” which also named him Wexner’s “right hand man” who “ruled with impunity.” The suit was settled in July.
Malcolm also spoke to the podcast about her experience as a VS model and says that, despite being “so hungry,” she would work out sometimes twice a day.
“I was reliant on anti-anxiety medication to get through the night….My body wasn’t working,” she says in the podcast. “I didn’t feel present at all. I was not there.”
“I’m one of countless women, not just models, but women all around the globe who have been damaged by the story that they put out,” Malcolm claims. “And I know among models, it has hurt so many of us.
“I have diagnosed PTSD, complex PTSD. I have had really bad panic attacks and I’ve had some really, really serious mental health struggles that weren’t in my life prior to Victoria’s Secret and modeling.”
Model Sharam Diniz says in the podcast that her life dramatically changed when she snagged a coveted VS spot.
“From that moment, my life changed. The way I would train would be different. The way I would eat would be different,” she says. “The way I would behave with people during jobs would be completely different.”
Earlier this year the brand did a major overhaul, replacing lithe winged models with women of varying sizes and shapes in a belated step towards body positivity. The “inclusive” women in the new ad campaign include soccer star Megan Rapinoe, size 14 model Paloma Elsesser and actress Priyanka Chopra.
Despite the brand’s recent about-face, Grigoriadis told The Post that its problematic journey, and outsized influence along the way, deserves to be dissected. “I grew up with this stuff pumping through my veins. And it has never really been grappled with in the way that we do in this podcast,” she said.
“We all bought into this for a really long time and without proper questioning…40 years of wreaking havoc on women’s psyches. And they have to answer to that.”