The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is seven weeks away, and headliners such as Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Doutzen Kroes and Candice Swanepoel are working out furiously to get in top shape, but the brand's creative director says being skinny isn't everything when it comes to casting decisions.
"It's about being show-ready," Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou told Vogue UK Sept. 23. "It's really like being an Olympian. They have to be in peak condition. It's not about being thin, it's about being ready to perform and be the best you can be in that moment."
Neophitou-Apostolou, who has been Victoria Secret's casting director for the past three years, made headlines last year when she remarked that she would never cast supermodel Kate Upton for the lingerie brand's runway show because the bleached blonde looks like a tacky bimbo.
But the voluptuous Upton, who has been mocked as too fat to be a supermodel, is having the last laugh. Upton, 21, was named the 2013 Model of the Year and has made the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue two years in a row.
A Victoria's Secret model should have a lean, toned physique, a great runway walk, sex appeal and striking beauty. While many people think models are merely lucky for being born with stunning looks, Neophitou said Victoria's Secret models are like world-class athletes who work hard to fine-tune their super-fit bodies.
"It's like they're training for a marathon," she said in 2012. "Adriana [Lima] works really hard at it. It's the same as if you were a long-distance runner. They are athletes in this environment. It's harder to be a Victoria's Secret model because no one can just chuck an outfit on you and hide your lumps and bumps."
Neophitou admits the casting process is "terrifying" for models who are auditioning because they're mercilessly scrutinized from head to toe.
"The final decision is made by the whole team, sitting at this long table in a room with really harsh lighting," she explained. "And they have to walk towards us and away from us. They all have to do it — even the contracted girls — and it's incredibly nerve-wracking for them."
Once they're cast, the models have to diet and work out obsessively to get in top shape. In 2011, Adriana Lima made headlines after revealing that she followed a liquid diet and worked out twice a day to prepare for the runway show.
After being criticized for promoting eating disorders, Lima backpedaled, saying she doesn't crash-diet all year round, but just for the annual fashion show.
The 2013 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show takes in New York Nov. 13.