Home BeautyBody Image Victoria’s Secret Models, Runway Walking and Booty Paint

Victoria’s Secret Models, Runway Walking and Booty Paint

by Erika Nicole Kendall

In a very old article about Selita Ebanks and the [then, upcoming] Victoria’s Secret Runway Show, there were a few gems worth sharing:

When the Victoria’s Secret Angels strut the runway Tuesday in $3 million bras, larger-than-life wings and barely there lingerie, what viewers won’t see are the countless hours of work that goes into making the most beautiful women in the world look so ethereally sexy.

The show, airing on CBS at 10, was shot at the Lexington Armory.

“It’s all about creating the illusion of this amazing body on the runway,” says Selita Ebanks, who walked her first Armory show five years ago. “People don’t realize that there are about 20 layers of makeup on my butt alone.”

In addition to body makeup, which Ebanks estimates takes well over an hour to apply, the Angels prep in hair and makeup for three to five hours before hitting the runway, with an average of five people – hair stylists, makeup artists and manicurists, working on each of the 38 models.

And if the hours of makeup, laboriously applied hair extensions and 100 pounds of body glitter (worn collectively) weren’t enough, the models are then squeezed into some of the most intricate garments imaginable.

Ebanks’ first look on the 140-foot-long runway is a gold lightning bolt strapped lengthwise across her middle. Think supersized Christmas tinsel weighing 30 pounds and with dangerously sharp points.

Photo from glamourvanity.com

“They added a 15-pound sandbag to my hip so the points wouldn’t scrape my thighs when I walked and there was a metal rod in it,” says Ebanks. “When I first came out and cut that corner, my whole body tilted to the side and I thought, ‘Oh my God, if I fall in this thing, forget my ego, my body is going to be jacked up.'” 

But Ebanks made it work, repeating the mantra “I’m fierce” over and over in her head.

“I called it my stark-kichu” after the Japanese cartoon, says Ebanks. “It was part of the Star Trooper segment of the show and I felt like I was the cosmic star leading the girls to a sexy galaxy.”

Other out-of-this-world items featured Tuesday include Marisa Miller’s $3 million bra dripping in diamonds and Candice Swanepoel’s wings made out of oversized pocket watches.

Ebanks, daughter of a New York City corrections officer and alum of Curtis High School on Staten Island, was glad to have the show back in her hometown.

“New Yorkers really appreciate a good production and amazing people came out to support the show,” says Ebanks.

Supermodel Heidi Klum, who makes a surprise trip down the runway and gave birth to her daughter Lou just weeks before the taping of the show, agrees.

“New Yorkers scream loud when you come out,” says Klum, who also hosts the show. “In other places, people tend to be a little more quiet, so it’s fun to have the New York crowd.”

Please think about that before you whine about your stretch marks. Butt paint. Say it in your head a few times. Those. Models. Need. Booty paint.

Booty paint.

Booty paint.

Booty paint.

One more time? I think so.

Booty paint.

Okay, I’m done.

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Gloria June 21, 2011 - 5:21 AM

Really, though…this is why I can’t handle the fashion industry sometimes. Like, I love fashion, I’ve seen practically every ANTM episode, and I think runways and photoshoots are amazing, but can we have some real girls modeling every once in a while???? And when I say real girls, I’m not even talking about size…I’m talking about real flaws and imperfections. Real boobs. Real laugh lines. Real dimples on our butts, lol. Put the girls in the fly clothing and hairstyles, but leave in some freckles, birthmarks, and wrinkles every once in a while.

I saw a documentary on the fashion industry once called “America the Beautiful” (I think you can still watch it on Hulu), where the documentarian basically talked about how distorted our views of beauty are due to the fashion industry. A lot of the people that he interviewed said something along the lines of “I know this is a problem, and it sucks that girls have a distorted view of what they should look like, but…I’m not going to do anything to change that because I am making money off of fake perfection.” So until consumers stop buying into the ideas of these perfect bodies, we are going to continue to be constantly bomarded with them.

Honestly, though, I think it helps me to hear stuff like this, because then I never set unrealistic expectations for my body. The knowledge that a model’s perfect booty was painted on backstage makes me feel a lot better about my own imperfect (but still adorable) booty.

Mac June 21, 2011 - 9:22 AM

I understand your point, and that call is always being made by women who want to see pictures of other women with “flaws” but when someone actually posts a picture of a woman with flaws, the other women in the crowd usually pick her apart every way possible. Someone posts a lady in a swimsuit and all you hear is, “what’s that on her forehead,” “her stomach doesn’t look right,” “her arms need a little bit more work, she needs to go back to the gym,” and it goes on and on no matter how beautiful the woman is or what the commenters look like.

Just saying, I don’t see the point to asking to see “real women” when the only thing that happens is that she gets torn down in the process

Danielle June 21, 2011 - 10:31 AM

Mac, that is the realest comment ever. Women are their own worst critics. Of course I can’t lump all of these ‘women’ together- I think if you read comments on blogs etc, for every 20 nitpicky broads, you get the 1 girl who will be sensible.

Just think about when a post comes up about Beyonce or Rihanna or what not comes up.

Paula @ Madame: The Journey June 21, 2011 - 7:03 PM

Mac, if that ain’t the TRUTH, I don’t know what is! Let a supermodel come down the runway without those touches, she’s be shamed into oblivion by the media and some “real women.” We (general audience/readers/etc.) *say* we want to see reality in print or onscreen, but the moment a star is seen without make-up, or who – God forbid – has a budge in their belly, or visible stretch mark … it becomes a firing squad. Oh, except for those nobly obligatory ‘no air-brush,’ ‘real women’ magazine editions and stuff.

I think it also boils down to people not wanting to see ‘themselves,’ in those limelight capacities. As Golda said, the allure is the fact that some portrayals are unrealistic, sadly.

Lasciel July 6, 2011 - 6:06 PM

And why do you think women pick each other apart like that? Gee, it couldn’t have anything to do with the standards of perfection we hold women up to, could it?

Women are told that women should be perfect. No wonder they’re harsh critics. Think of it this way-most of the women picking others apart are just as hard on themselves ): We won’t change those attitudes till we hold up women’s bodies as acceptable in themselves. Do you really think those models need butt paint? No, but a wrinkle or dimple is treated as unacceptable and undesirable, and so it isn’t shown. It’s not like women in the audience can’t pick up on that.

The harsh criticizing of women’s bodies by women may feed into the cycle, but it sure isn’t what started it. And if we keep up accepting that all women’s bodies are undesirable and gross in their natural form than we certainly won’t stop it.

Eva June 22, 2011 - 3:43 PM

I think EVERYBODY should watch “America The Beautiful.” on Hulu (it’s still there, I watched it yesterday).

Eva June 21, 2011 - 9:16 AM

I thought everybody knew they put paint on their bodies before they walked on the runway. BTW if you have a high def TV, you can see it.

Daphne June 21, 2011 - 10:26 AM

I have to agree with Mac on this one – I don’t know if the people calling for un-airbrushed bodies are the same that nitpick a less than perfect one. I would hope not. And even though I generally avoid gossip/pop culture sites, I’ve read enough to know that Internet anonymity allows for some very cruel commentary on women’s bodies.

Then again, as I see it, it’s all a part of the same spectrum of body image criticism that I see many fat-o-phobes engage in, or the obsession if a woman is TOO thin. It’s madness, really, and I think a woman has to make a concerted effort not to be sucked in, if only for the sake of her own sanity.

Curlstar June 21, 2011 - 1:44 PM

I’ll say it again….




Shante June 21, 2011 - 2:41 PM

Articles like this are why I love your site. It is a great reminder that everyone has flaws, no one is perfect and we all should be happy with ourselves.

Golda Smith June 21, 2011 - 3:52 PM

Yes , models are nipped, tucked, plucked, taped, glued and anything else that needs to be done to hold everything in place. That’s part of the fashion world. Who made those rules though. Do we really, really want to see “real” women on the runway? I thought part of the allure was the unrealistic images that we see.


BAnjeeB June 21, 2011 - 10:38 PM

I was cracking up at my desk about the booty paint! LOL!

Eboni June 23, 2011 - 11:42 AM

well, this certainly makes me feel a little better about that little bit of cellulite on my thighs.

Raven Burnes May 18, 2012 - 12:25 PM

I just finished watching America The Beautiful based upon the recommendations here. It is the best documentary I have seen on this issue to date and I have seen quite a few of them.

Also, I found this website by listening to the podcast Opinionated at wearecitizenradio.com. (This is the great part about the internet – finding treasures like this!)

Erika Nicole Kendall May 18, 2012 - 12:36 PM

Ahhhhh yesss that segment was awesome! I’m glad it brought you here. 🙂

R Kahendi June 12, 2012 - 9:18 PM

It’s actually funny the lengths to which the media and the fasion industry will go to preserve the illusion of perfect bodies. I think it’s a kind of neurosis. Now obviously they’re meeting a neurotic need on the part of their audience. So the issues really lie with the audience. They’re the only ones who can force the status quo to change.

I have to agree with Mac’s insights about the typical female response to pictures of “real” women. But I also agree with Danielle that not all women are guilty of responding in that way. Personally, I prefer to see pictures of “real” women because they are more interesting. There is beauty in our idiosyncracies (which photo editors would likely call flaws).

Chasing Joy September 16, 2012 - 7:55 PM

I did not know about the booty paint. But I’m not surprised. Thanks for the reminder that they “supermodels” are not perfect eiter.

Michelle March 30, 2013 - 9:07 AM

I really don’t care whether if this website or blog is for african ladies, I just love how you brought raw truth to the fact that there is never a perfect lady with a perfect bod’.
I’m Asian and I can so totally read your articles one after another because you tend to give referal and related links to past articles like this one.

Love this so much.
It’s true that what we see on tv affects women’s perception of themselves these days. And the sad part is that about 80%-90% of the girls I’ve known, are either NOT happy or ashamed of their bodies.

I’ve only found a few jewels who really eat whatever they want, laugh at life and just enjoy food. In my opinion, girls like these smile more often, and in turn, ARE more beautiful than the ones who fuss and worry about their bodies.

I too, am an aspiring model, just a rookie and I can already see how competitive things can really be in this line of work.
I am guilty of worrying about my body as well, and I can tell it’s a never-ending cycle of depression.
I’m still trying to fight the negative thoughts, given that when I was young, my aunts and uncles would be very mean to me, calling me fat every time there’s a family reunion

So this negative mentality stayed with me for the rest of my 20 year life and so on, and it’s hard for me to shut it out.

Women should be proud of their bodies.
They are beautiful in whatever shape there is,
And that’s the real truth.

Katrinda April 23, 2013 - 2:35 PM

I was not surprised by anything written in that article and I totally agree with Mac… We as women say that we would like to see “REAL WOMEN” up on stage but all of us are guilty of saying something whether we verbalize it or it’s just a thought………..If she was gone get up there she should have____________ you fill in blank… Be honest … we are all guilty of this at some point in time….

jlms qkw May 5, 2013 - 1:12 AM

20 layers of

booty paint


jamie lee curtis looks a bit more “natural” than a lot of actresses.

love your site!

LA Red July 21, 2013 - 7:53 PM

Can’t stop laughing at “Booty. Paint.”

YarYar September 17, 2013 - 12:25 PM

The fashion shows are for the money crowd, they do not want to see flaws. And they can afford not to. End of story.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 17, 2013 - 12:34 PM

I’d argue that Victoria’s Secret’s brand is certainly no Kiki de Montparnasse or La Perla; their runway show is certainly no NYFW; and those two notes combined mean that VS goes to GREAT lengths to make their brand more accessible to the average everyday woman, to whom they’re marketing their brand.

I’m always amused by people who type “end of story.” Like, according to who? LOL

Chloe April 3, 2014 - 3:46 PM

I know this is OLD but I just want to really solidify what Mac stated. My mother is a plus sized woman and she orders most of her clothing from plus-sized catalogs. All the women in the catalogs are size 8 and under and with this they began to get complaints on women not being able to relate to the models on how the clothing would look on an actual consumer. The catalog began to use plus-sized models and began to lose a significant amount of profits. As soon as they switched back, profits went back up. It just goes to show that in the world we live in we don’t even want to see the truth. We are sold the dream and we have no problem with buying it. It is sad but it is life.

Jane November 26, 2014 - 10:53 AM

I see these articles sometimes and while I agree, yes even the perfect people do get airbrushed I see these models in Union Square. They are breathtaking in real life. Its not really runway pics that I really look at, but those models in real life and they are every bit as incredible if not even thinner yet insanely proportioned. I just saw Alessandra Ambrosio walking with her baby just wowza even in a crowd.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 26, 2014 - 11:13 AM

You saw her fully clothed.

Monumental difference from walking a runway in your underwear.

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