Allow me to start at the beginning, when I realized just how far Pier 94 is from the rest of New York City civilization.
There weren’t any Ubers or Lyfts nearby, so I had the old-fashioned idea to take a taxi. My driver didn’t know where Pier 94 was, which I should have taken as a bad sign, but nevertheless I persisted, telling him to just drive west until we’re swimming in the Hudson.
After 15 minutes spent in the very worst traffic — and with only 10 minutes left until the show’s “prompt” 8 p.m. start — I saw the pink glow of unmistakable Victoria’s Secret branding. “This is it!” I told my driver, moments before he missed the turn. With few minutes to spare, I got out in the middle of the street, sprinting to the will-call tent alongside Dylan Sprouse (boyfriend of Angel Barbara Palvin), who seemed much calmer than I. While I fished around for my printed barcode, the Suite Life of Zack and Cody alum sidled up to security and was all “um, I’m in the front row,” which sufficed, apparently.
After procuring my ticket and wristband, I made my way inside the venue and found my true desire: alcohol. I parted a curtain in the tent and suddenly I was at a glamorous bar that definitely offered rosé but gave me sparkling red wine instead. It was actually good, so I was fine, in case you were wondering.
When I finally got to my seat, I was surprised by how calm the atmosphere was (especially since it was 7:58 and a bunch of the seats were still open!). Ten minutes later, an invisible Wizard of Oz-like M.C. told us the show would start in fifteen minutes. Um, I didn’t spend $20 to take a cab three blocks so I could be half an hour early. “Promptly” is one of those words you really shouldn’t throw around if you don’t mean it ...
The VIPs filed in a few rows below me and I was really impressed by how well they mingled. Do all famous people actually know each other? Laverne Cox, Trevor Noah, and The Weeknd aren’t people I’d assume have a group chat, but I guess you never know.
The show opened with Leela James, backed by a full choir, singing “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, which has been described as “an anthem for outcasts.” Tall, beautiful, cellulite-free women with 23-inch waists blew kisses to the audience as they strut down the catwalk to lyrics like, “I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars, Run away, they say, No one'll love you as you are.”
It was weird, especially considering VS’s unwavering commitment to never cast a plus-size or transgender model. The audience seemed to feel the disconnect as well. The first few numbers (performed by artists like Kelsea Ballerini, The Chainsmokers, and Halsey) had the vibe of one of those school assemblies that your teacher promised would be really “cool” — like yay, no math class today, but wouldn’t it be better if we just weren’t at school?
Everyone in the crowd was pretty low-energy until Adriana Lima, “the greatest angel of all time” (yes, they really projected that on the screen), took her solo catwalk. I don’t know why, but I kind of expected her to say something, given it was her last show. I mean, it’s pretty anticlimactic when the greatest anything of all time follows up that sort of introduction by literally just walking up and down a stage and then leaving. I get it, it’s her job, but we can’t even get a “Thank you, goodnight”?
Except for a couple outbursts from V.S. husband of the year Adam Levine, who stood up and cheered every time Behati Prinsloo walked, the audience remained relatively tame until Shawn Mendes got onstage. Apparently he’s a really big deal. The very sophisticated-looking woman next to me morphed into a giddy 13-year-old the minute his name was called.
I’m not sure what I expected from the whole glittering spectacle, but like Adriana’s good bye tour, it fell a little flat. The models walk twice, at the most. If we’re going to make this the biggest fashion event and hardest booking “on earth,” as our M.C. reminded us, can we up the level of difficulty or something? Can you walk in heels before an audience of billions and name every president in chronological order? How about posing in lingerie while you recite the alphabet backwards in Arabic? Being pretty and fit is cool, but maybe we can aspire for just a little more.