Cover Photo: Getty Images

After being criticised for its objectification of women, Victoria’s Secret taps a new roster of powerful female stars including Megan Rapinoe, Priyanka Chopra and transgender model Valentina Sampaio

US lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret has signed a new roster led by American football star Megan Rapinoe to replace the brand’s hypersexualised models, who are under scrutiny for their embodiment of male fantasy over an accurate representation of what women seek in undergarments.

The US store, which brought sexy lingerie to the masses in the 1970s and then made billions, has been overshadowed in recent years by brands that have openly embrace both bodily and ethnic diversity.

Criticised for its objectification of women, Victoria’s Secret in 2019 abandoned its famed fashion show, a globally televised event that saw women parade down the catwalk in barely-there lingerie replete with gems, feathers and lace.

Related: Novak Djokovic, Yuna Kim, Ben Simmons: 7 Hot Athletes to Follow on Instagram

“When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond,” said chief executive Martin Waters in an interview with the New York Times. “We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”

One of the first companies to step into the void of Victoria's Secret's dimming star was Savage X Fenty, a lingerie company launched by singer Rihanna in 2018 which is now valued at US$1 billion, according to an estimate by Forbes magazine.

In an attempt to make up for lost ground, Victoria's Secret, which saw sales drop 7.7 per cent in 2019 even before the pandemic, launched its new collective of female brand representatives on Wednesday.

Among Rapinoe’s cohorts are Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jones, Brazilian transgender model Valentina Sampaio and Chinese-American skier Eileen Gu, a Gen.T honouree. Rapinoe, a two-time World Cup champion, has been the face of American women's football for nearly a decade.

Related: Forbes' Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes in 2021

“Often I felt myself on the outside looking in with brands in the beauty and fashion industry,” Rapinoe, a lesbian and activist for women’s and LGBTQ rights, said in a statement.

“I’m thrilled to be creating a space that sees the true spectrum of all women,” she added. Victoria's Secret plans to resume its fashion show in 2022, but in a very different format, Waters told the Times.

The parent company of Victoria's Secret, L Brands, announced in May that it had spun off the lingerie company, in an attempt to separate it from its other holdings.