"Here I am as a TRANS WOMAN selling the FANTASY!"


A transgender YouTuber took a jab at Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Thursday by modeling a set of glitzy pearl-colored lingerie and a pair of fluffy wings in a video that went instantly viral.


The streamer, Nikita Dragun, shared the video as a response to comments made by Ed Razek, head of marketing for Victoria's Secret's parent company L Brands, that seemed to suggest that transgenders have no role in the brand's fashion show.


In an interview for Vogue early in November, Razek was asked if the company would consider featuring trans models. He ​answered that while the beauty company had in the past pioneered the expansion of aesthetic standards ("we invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division"), he didn't see trans people making it onto their runway anytime soon.


"Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should," he said. "Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special."


Many media outlets, thrilled by the chance to intellectualize Victoria's Secret's role in society, published fiery think pieces and columns pillorying Razek and ​penning his brand as an antediluvian relic. Like most public outcries, this one too was ​accompanied by a Change.Org petition calling to boycott the fashion show (it reached just shy of 10,000 signatures). 


Razek himself issued an apology only days later, but the public animus was not allayed. 

The fashion show tanked, getting the ​worst ratings in its history, and New York Magazine ​called time of death.


In this context, Dragun's video, in which she parodies the iconic Victoria Secret's angels, is somewhere between a victory lap and dancing on a grave.

"Dear Victoria's Secret," she wrote, "you said trans women can't sell the 'fantasy,' so here I am as a TRANS WOMAN selling the FANTASY!"

​​Within a few hours, the video reached millions of eyeballs.

Dragun edged the debate in an interesting direction, perhaps unwittingly. In order to embody the "fantasy" that Razek had implied excludes trans women, Dragun packaged herself as a commodity targeting the male libido. Does winning the battle against exclusion mean self-objectification?


Whether self-sexualization can count as empowerment or not (the ​word itself connotes corporate marketing more than anything else, to my ears) is a question still contested in circuits both ​highbrow and ​low. But for transgender women, who wish to be included in the entire female experience, these discussions are secondary. The goal for them is, as Dragun put it, to "stand tall in who you are!"

​​It sometimes seems as if the many identity groups of the Progressive coalition are fighting very different battles, doesn't it?


Adaam James is Pluralist's co-founder and senior editor. You can argue with him on Twitter.


(Cover photo: Nikitia Dragun's Twitter.)