|Alexina Graham Red Hot Redhead (Click Photos to Enlarge!)|
Alexina Graham has become the first redhead model to become a Victoria’s Secret Angel at the somewhat advanced age (for models) of 29. Here’s the long and the short reason why it took so long.
Believe it or not, she probably has model Kate Upton to thank.
Upton caused a sensation when she was discovered in 2012 after gaining a huge following on social media. She was not only a statuesque 5-feet, 11-inches tall, but had voluptuous curves.
That’s where the blowup began. Sophia Neophitou, the model booker for Victoria’s Secret, caused an uproar when she laid down her iron rule for the brand’s models. Upton clearly did not make the cut.
Neophitou, editor of the English style bible 10 and a creative force behind casting for Victoria’s Secret’s fashion shows, bluntly told The New York Times she would never use Upton in any show.
Her look, said Neophitou, is “too obvious” to be featured in what has become the most widely viewed runway show in the world.
“She’s like a Page 3 girl,” Neophitou said, referring to the scantily clad voluptuous women featured in The Sun, a London tabloid. “She’s like a footballer’s wife, with the too-blond hair and that kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy.”
True enough, Victoria’s Secret models up to that time were virtually fashion automatons: Strikingly beautiful yes, but all were tall, thin, mostly flat-chested and mostly big haired blondes, with a brunette or two thrown in.
Tyra Banks became the first African-American model to make the cover of the Victoria’s Secret catalog and became an Angel in 1997, a year after the Angels were created and 20 years after the brand was founded.
Upton had actually done some work for the catalog in 2011, but was dropped. After The Times article, her image was added back to the catalog for 2013, but it had been recycled from her earlier shoot, according to The Cut.
Upton was reportedly furious the photo was reused.
Ever since then, Angels and Victoria’s Secret models, in general, have started to reflect more diversity.
Aside from her flaming red hair, Alexina Graham fits the profile of a Victoria’s Secret Angel. She’s a willowy 5-feet, 11-inches tall with big hair and thin body.
What’s most surprising about her is how quickly she made the ascent to the brand’s elite models. She first walked in the brand’s fashion show in 2017. That year, Victoria’s Secret casting director John Pfeiffer picked her as one of 10 models to watch.
“When I first did the Victoria’s Secret show in Shanghai and I was the first red haired girl to walk in the show since Karen Elson in 2009,” she said.
“I had so many messages from children and one woman said, ‘My child got bullied at school today, and I showed her your Instagram to prove that the bullying doesn’t mean anything and you can achieve whatever you put your mind to!’ That meant so much to me.”
In fact, Victoria’s Secret is almost becoming a haven for older models. Pefeiffer all but said as much in an interview with The Business of Fashion:
“The pace of fashion has grown so fast that you have younger and younger girls with much shorter careers. People want the next thing as fast as possible, so there is very little time for a girl to develop. If you don’t hit it now, you’ll probably be forgotten by the next season. The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, the window of opportunity for a model to make it big incredibly slim.”
For her part, Alexina Graham said her emotions were mixed.
“Being a Victoria’s Secret’s Angel comes with a lot of empowerment. I think for me being a redhead VS Angel means I get to put redheads out there more,” she told the UK edition of Glamour magazine.
“Being an angel is part of having that media outreach so that I can say to young redhead kids, ‘you can do anything you want! Nothing is impossible!’
“I found out when I was having dinner with one of my best friends, just in a restaurant in Soho, New York. My agent sent me a screenshot of an email saying, ‘You are joining the VS family in 2019!'”
The British model insisted that despite her long struggle with bullies at school, her red locks have become part of her “identity” because it makes her feel “powerful”
“Like most redheads I did get bullied at school because we just stand out. I was this skinny little, geeky thing with no boobs but now I have embraced it as a woman. Having red hair is now a powerful part of my identity. It took me a long time to get here, I have gone through so much in the last ten years both in terms of my career and my life.”
Alexina Graham also explained that the road to becoming a VS Angel was not an easy one, because there were many times she wanted to give up.
She said: “Even five or six years ago I was talking to my Mum saying,’I might leave modelling behind.’ But she was the one who told me, ‘Keep going, I know something is going to happen for you,’ and now knowing I have this platform, and I can be a role model to red haired children is amazing. ”