Undoubtedly, you've heard that Victoria's Secret Fashion Show mania is upon us. Every fall, a frenzy descends on New York City and the fashion show becomes a multi-media machine. "Fashion show" is of course, a loose term, as the models will be wearing little more than bras and panties but it is a major spectacle just the same. One that only one brand manages to pull off, and that brand is Victoria’s Secret. The influence of VS in both pop culture and has become known as the most iconic lingerie line ever. Every model dreams of being cast in the yearly Victoria’s Secret Fashion show.
Although they’ve been under scrutiny for recent statements made by executive, Ed Razek, and their general lack of diversity, VS has gradually been putting efforts in to cast more models of color on their runway, especially this year, which will see the most diverse show in VS history.
This year, they’ve cast a plethora of beautiful, brown models including Duckie Thot, Winnie Harlow, Jasmine Tookes, Leomie Anderson, Cheyenne Maya-Carty, Zurry Tibby, Herieth Paul and Iesha Hodges, who will be sprinkling their Black Girl Magic all over every screen.
I caught up with one of this year’s freshman, Iesha Hodges. Standing at 5-foot-10, this blonde buzz-cut beauty is from Brooklyn, New York. Bed-Stuy, to be exact. The 23-year-old is a newbie to the pink carpet but has actually been working towards this moment since she was 16-years-old. After winning V-Magazine's modeling contest at the age of 17, Iesha signed on with One Model Management and has been busy, booked and blessed ever since.
Her blonde shaven head and perfect gap-toothed smile landed her spots in ad campaigns for brands like Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu. She’s even walked the runway in coveted New York Fashion week shows like Oscar De La Renta and was included “Faces to Watch” by Harper’s Bazaar.
She's already conquered the fashion world but the VS universe is a beast in itself. I got to know Iesha over a fall afternoon ahead of her debut. Upon speaking to her, she will let you know that she is a proud Brooklynite and is bringing flavor to the VS runway. Not only because of her modeling skills but due to her personality of gold and optimistic approach to life.
“In the digital age, it’s important that girls can tune in and see women they can relate to. I'm a girl from Brooklyn with a buzz-cut fade and gap-toothed grin — and I want girls like me to feel beautiful, too!”
Victoria's Secret has consistently received criticism for encouraging unrealistic and “unhealthy” beauty standards. But Iesha made it clear that she believes that VS wants their models to be “strong and healthy.”
Once receiving news that she’d be ripping the VS runway, the 23-year-old model started #traininglikeanangel. This included doing cardio four times a week for 45 minutes, along with ab work and weightlifting. She also says she drank more water than ever before; approximately a gallon a day. But most of all mental workouts were imperative to her training. She let me know that she was journaling daily and reciting positive affirmations to keep her mind focused on the task at hand.
When talking to Iesha, you can’t help but notice that New York accent, but you’re also immediately drawn into her bubbly-yet-bold personality. And don’t get it twisted, she will let you know in a heartbeat that she doesn’t entertain nonsense. When I mentioned the controversy surrounding angels of a different race singing along to Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow using the n-word backstage at last year’s show, Iesha wasn’t there but made it clear that it shouldn’t be used because it can be hurtful, even in a song - so don’t do it.
When briefly chatting about her fellow VS angel Devon Windsor's comments comparing her struggles as a white model to Black models that surfaced a few months ago, Iesha said, “I can’t speak for Devin, but as a Black woman, I have endured struggles while working, overseas especially. I’ve been on set where the makeup didn’t match my complexion and there have been times when I didn’t get cast in a show because I’m Black. It sucks, but you push past it.”
But it’s clear that Iesha doesn’t let those small setbacks stop her shine.
“I’m excited to be walking in the biggest show out there. I’m grateful. It took seven years but I’m so excited to be here. VS is an iconic organization, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”
Iesha says that the best advice she’s received from veteran angels was to have fun, be herself and live in the moment!
“The energy! The girl power! And even the sisterhood that each and every girl shares backstage before hitting the runway. It makes the experience much more exciting. Knowing that you’re not alone. There’s a team of women backstage all rooting for one another and coming together to put on an incredible show.”
Iesha doesn’t buy into the hype of social media and blogs, especially surrounding the Kardashian’s dressing up as VS angels for Halloween. She’s more focused on herself and inspiring the next generation to celebrate their uniqueness and embrace their flaws.
“The proudest moment of my career so far is being able to inspire so many young women. I’ve received messages from girls all around the world who are so excited to see me walk in the VS Fashion Show which makes me so proud and beyond happy! I want every young girl watching to feel beautiful and represented. Anything is possible!”
I asked Iesha what is her secret to being confident because, let’s face it, we all struggle with insecurities from time to time, especially not having a “perfect smile” and long luxurious locks when society would consider those attributes the beauty norm in the modeling industry, particularly on the VS runway.
She was very transparent in letting me know that it was indeed a journey to get to where she is, but now that she’s arrived, there’s no going back.
“As a child, I would stuff tissue in between my teeth because I didn’t like my gap, but I’ve learned to embrace my insecurities verses be embarrassed by them. Beauty is about being different and embracing your flaws.”
Shaving her hair and going blonde was a part of a self-love journey.
“I used to think I needed long hair to be beautiful,” Iesha says while mentioning that she’d been using her hair as a crutch. One day, she decided to shave it off and bleach it blonde. She said it was a pivotal moment in her career because models are afraid of drastic changes thinking it will hinder them booking jobs, but for Iesha, it was the polar opposite.
In her daily life, you can find Iesha behind the lens, as she vlogs for her popular YouTube series, “Iesha Hodges - Be Fearlessly You.” Through her channel, she shares her beauty secrets, as well as her love of home décor, which even includes buying candles at Target like the rest of us! She answers dating questions, and takes you behind the scenes, whether it’s at a photo shoot or a high profile event. And most recently even asked her #Ibabes for advice on choosing which look should be worn on the pink carpet for her VS fashion show debut.
If modeling wasn’t her career, Iesha thinks she would be in college studying business or learning to become a life coach.
“I’m from a single-parent household, and education was always important to my mother. She always said it’s something that no one can take from you.”
Following her dreams and never taking no for an answer were also values her mom instilled in her.
You will definitely catch this 23-year-old VS runway freshman hitting plenty more runways. With her fearlessness and overtly positive approach to life, you can’t help but love her. Her goal is to continue modeling, continue to use her platform to inspire women to follow their dreams and always have faith because anything can happen!
Watch Iesha Hodges in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on Sunday, Dec 2. airing on ABC.
(Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Victoria's Secret)
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