After years of the controversial runway Angel, Victoria’s Secret is on a mission to be more inclusive. In doing so, the embattled brand has been tapping a broader range of people to model their lingerie and swimsuit collections in hopes of better representing the female body in all its forms. One of the latest models to join the VS roster is Sofia Jirau, who makes history as the brand’s first model with Down syndrome.

The 24-year-old Puerto Rican model shared the news on social media. “One day I dreamed of it, I worked for it and today it’s a dream come true. I can finally tell you my big secret,” she wrote on Instagram. “I am Victoria’s Secret’s first model with Down syndrome!” Jirau is one of 18 women who modeled for the brand’s new Love Cloud collection of comfort-based underwear and bras.

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“Thank you Victoria’s Secret for seeing me as a model who has #NoLimits and making me part of the inclusive Love Cloud Collection campaign,” she continued in her post. “Inside and out, there are no limits.”

“Love Cloud Collection is a major moment in the brand’s evolution,” Raúl Martinez, Victoria Secret’s chief creative director, said in a statement. “From the cast of incredible women that bring the collection to life, to the incredible inclusive spirit on set, this campaign is an important part of the new Victoria’s Secret standard we are creating.” 

The diverse group of models includes women of all skin colors, ages, and abilities, though it’s notably lacking plus-size women. Top models like Hailey Bieber, Iman Hammam, and Adut Akech are joined by inspiring women from around the world. Valentina Sampaio, Victoria’s Secret’s first transgender model, Celilo Miles, a Nez Perce Tribe-Wildland firefighter, Sylvia Buckler, an accessory designer who models while pregnant, and Miriam Blanco, an actor with a disability that requires regular use of a wheelchair or forearm crutches, also star in the campaign.

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However, as with the brand’s last attempt to be more inclusive, the casting choices came with a good amount of criticism. Most common were concerns about Jirau’s casting, with many calling the campaign images exploitative. “This honestly seems like more of an exploitation to advertise a brand through a guise of inclusivity rather than something truly genuine and positively motivated,” someone wrote in response to NBC sharing the news on Instagram.

“This is a brand that sells sexuality under the guise of empowerment,” another wrote.

But as others were quick to point out, Jirau is a grown woman who has publicly expressed her excitement in being cast by Victoria’s Secret and having Down syndrome (or any disability for that matter) should not exclude someone from such opportunities. As she stated in her post, modeling for VS was a “dream come true.”

“Purposely avoiding her work because she’s disabled is ablest. She had to work hard to get this ad. It was her dream and she wants to be seen. Stop holding disabled people back with your outdated opinions,” wrote one of Jirau’s many supporters.

“Her having DS doesn’t deem her or anyone with cognitive disabilities that are consenting adults unworthy of being seen as sexually attractive,” added another person in response to all of the ableist comments.

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Jirau is also no stranger to modeling. According to her website, she started modeling in 2019 when she was 23 and has since walked runways during New York Fashion Week and at San Juan Moda in Puerto Rico. Her portfolio also includes images in Vogue. “I was born for this and I want to show the world that I have everything a model needs to shine,” she proudly told her 200k IG followers after NYFW.

The Love Cloud collection is available nationwide in-stores and online at VictoriasSecret.com starting Thursday, February 17th. The collection starts at $39.50 for bras and $16.50 for panties, and is available in sizes 32A-40DDD: XS-XXL.

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