China is surveilling everyone involved with the Shanghai Victoria’s Secret show

Victoria's Secret models pose during a photocall at the Grand Palais

I’m actually enjoying all of the drama around this year’s Victoria’s Secret show in Shanghai. It’s so clear that VS never should have chosen Shanghai as the city for this year’s holiday VS show, but it’s too late now and the show will go on – and it will be an utter disaster. So far, Gigi Hadid has had to cancel walking the runway because China wouldn’t issue her a visa. Models Dasha Khlystun, Irina Sharipova, Julia Belyakova and Kate Grigorieva have also pulled out, likely because of similar visa issues. Adriana Lima is also having issues for some kind of ongoing “diplomatic” issue. Katy Perry was supposed to perform, but China refused to give her entry because she performed in Taiwan whilst wearing a sunflower-themed costume. There’s also some huge controversy with media access to the event, because as you probably know, the People’s Republic of China doesn’t care for any kind of media access to anything. As for the VS-affiliated people who are already on site, well…

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show debacle in China is becoming increasingly bizarre. While staffers for the lingerie giant scramble to get Monday’s show in Shanghai back on track after a string of problems obtaining visas for models and performers such as Katy Perry and Gigi Hadid — both of whom were denied — as well as permits for press, they’ve been even more hampered by the fact that e-mails of VS show staffers and production crew are apparently being monitored by Chinese authorities.

TV and media-industry insiders who are desperately trying to figure out what’s going on amid the production chaos are getting frustrated by messages from colleagues in China simply saying that they can’t speak frankly about the issues with the government because their communications are being watched.

Said a source about the VS undie surveillance, “They want to discuss what’s going on as far as replacements for those denied visas and alternative arrangements, but they have to be tight-lipped because it seems that the government is watching their e-mails,” said a source.

Media traveling to China for the event have also been thwarted by the authorities. We’re told that many fashion bloggers have been denied visas, and TV producers have discovered that they need permits to shoot outside of the Mercedes-Benz Arena, where the show — which will, fingers-crossed, air on CBS later this month — is taking place. As one source put it, “If you’re going to China you want to show that you’re in China!” Victoria’s Secret didn’t get back to us.

[From Page Six]

This, to me, seems like a no-brainer. As in, of course China is monitoring all of the VS people. While I care about government surveillance, whether it’s my government or other governments, I always think to myself, “if they’re surveilling me, I hope they like to read and hear about celebrity gossip and how I think Donald Trump is an a–hole.” If you know you’re being surveilled in a foreign country, just get on with it and do your job and then get the hell out of Dodge (or Shanghai) when it’s over. So the Chinese government is listening in as you frantically try to book replacement models. Who cares? I mean, obviously, the Chinese care, but let them listen in on how boring your lingerie business really is. Then call your mom and talk about cats for an hour.

2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Paris - Hair & Makeup

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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50 Responses to “China is surveilling everyone involved with the Shanghai Victoria’s Secret show”

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  1. Charlie says:

    Did no one at VS talk with Chinese officials at the outset?

  2. Corrine says:

    “Then call your mom and talk about cats for an hour”

    Dying. So good.

  3. detritus says:

    This is the fashion version of Fyre festival.
    Did they choose Shanghai because they couldn’t book Tiananmen square?
    Can they even promote using insta or Twitter there? I know Facebook and google are blocked without a VPN.

    • Eliza says:

      The market for growth in China is the reason they picked it. Sales down in US and rising in China.

      • RBC says:

        I agree that is probably why they chose China. But VS should have done a lot more research and been more prepared before they decided on China. Sounds like no one in management ever travelled to a foreign country before. What a mess

      • detritus says:

        Do they advertise on Chinese servers etc?

        I know China is a huge growth market for ‘luxury’ goods, but its confusing to me how NA and European companies establish a brand presence in China. Especially with the firm focus on supporting Chinese business over international ones.

      • magnoliarose says:

        That is not why they chose China. Not really. Partially I guess. VS is a cover for high-end escorts, and it is no mistake the girls with visa troubles are Russians. Very wealthy businessmen are going to be paying a lot of money.

        This is why you no longer see legit fashion models and why Rhianna backed out and didn’t want to be associated even though they pay more than the standard rate. Back in the day, this was not the case but as the years went on it became more and more prevalent. Some top models would do one show make a million get a little exposure and then ditch VS.
        There always has been an element of “models” (easy visas) in the industry and VS has a string of “models” who don’t walk in the show who have very limited portfolios. Some of the Angels aren’t, but these sudden unknown Angels are highly suspect. SI is the same, and usually, there is an overlap.

        Modeling used to be run by women, and it is slowly turning around which is good because the sleazebag men need to go. I hate them.

    • Sunny says:

      @detritus Love your comment about Tiananmen square! 😂
      Weechat is the platform that everyone uses. Many other social media are, as you noted, blocked there (Google, fb, insta,etc)

      • detritus says:

        I knew Facebook and Google, but I wasn’t sure about the others! Thank you.

        And there’s another major platform, right? Other than Weechat?

  4. Milla says:


  5. QueenB says:

    I think thats a naive view of the situation. What if they dont like your pro feminist comments in your work?

  6. mkyarwood says:

    China built a massive library recently, and we discovered Paul Revere’s toilet. And, as you say, we’re all under surveillance.

  7. HappyXamp says:

    Is it bad that when I look at these pics all I see is Melania? The kissing picture at the top of the page and the one where the model’s shushing me are the strongest Melania vibes.

    • belle says:

      That is an insult to Adriana, who hasn’t had any work on her face…she’s naturally beautiful in the face. Not like cat-faced Melania.

  8. DiligentDiva says:

    Hopefully, this will let people learn that countries like China are not friendly countries. Yes it’s a huge market for the entertainment industry, but the Chinese Government is no way shape or form a democracy, they don’t have civil liberties in China. China abuses its people for the sake of profit, the West being tolerant of them for the sake of capitalism is horrible.

    • adastraperaspera says:

      Well said. I lived there twenty years ago. The Party/PLA run everything. The veneer of “capitalism makes this place just like a western democracy, kids” is extremely thin. It is a surveillance state, most likely also involved in manipulating our election via cyber warfare.

  9. fubar says:

    Where are the Asian Angels? Why are all of the models white?

    • belle says:

      Most of them are white, but there are more Asian models now than there have been before. That is an old photo, so you can’t see them. Ming Xi, Sui He, Liu Wen and Xiao Wen Ju are the Chinese models there.

  10. Mindy_dopple says:

    My guess is they are probably going to have to cast Asian models who are already in China. Victoria Secret will have to show it’s in China that way I guess? Secondly I think they’re nervous about anything they might say about the government. I don’t believe our First Amendment rights travel with you and I’d be afraid I would say something terrible in the moment and BAM! Conspiracy against the Chinese government. Lol

  11. Va Va Kaboom says:

    They’re under surveillance in a country that isn’t known to be forgiving to foreigners who break the laws or criticize them. I doubt the people VS sent over were chosen for their nuanced understanding of China’s customs and laws. Being overly cautious is the smartest thing they can do.

  12. Asherah says:

    I lived in China for 12 years – this is not surprising. What’s surprising is that the organizers did not do more research and planning for an event of this magnitude. Any one who has been to China can tell you about the stringent visa process. It’s tough for foreigners entering and also for Chinese citizens trying to visit other countries.

    In terms of filming outside the arena, it is probably due to the pollution. China is very sensitive about its image and likely does not want videos of Shanghai smog broadcast to the world.

    Yes, China has major surveillance but is the US government any different? I don’t think so. I assume I am under surveillance regardless of which country I am in. Bottom line – if you are throwing an international event, do your research. It was only about 5 years ago that Mainland China got its first VS store and it didn’t even sell lingere, just fragrances and cosmetics. The first lingere store opened just a year or so ago. That alone should clue the VS execs about what to expect from the market.

    • Jordan says:

      Yeah, our US government just doesn’t admit it but they do.

      • Ankhel says:

        Sure they do. They just won’t sentence you to jail for criticizing the government, unless it goes something like this:

        “I hate big government. On that note, I have some problems building that 💣, haha. “

    • dota says:

      When the CIA breaks into your hotel room to make a copy of your computer hard drive they do not leave a half eaten slice of pizza sitting on top to let you know they were there and there is nothing you can do about it.

    • jwoolman says:

      Little ol’ completely legal me had a tapped phone for years. They might still be monitoring, but it would be pretty boring. It is very easy to intercept e-mail, though, with a compliant and nervous isp. Seemed to be keyword based – this was olden times with older equipment that made characteristic noises. If we talked about wars in Central America or nuclear issues, the clicking would start. If we talked about the best dentist in town, nothing. Whenever I talked with my Congressman’s chief aide, lots of clicks. Until the day I casually mentioned to the aide (who was more shocked that I was illegally tapped than about the death squad info I was passing along from my contacts) that I was keeping track of times we heard the noises for a future court case. One last flurry of noise and then nothing. Maybe they went to better equipment.

      My initial crime was taking pictures (and passing them along to media) of radioactive material in dented rusted tanks sitting unguarded in a local railyard with the required identifying paperwork missing. We found out it was headed to another state for processing into weapons-grade material. That plant was later sued by the state for many safety violations. We tried unsuccessfully to get the local civil defense person to run a Geiger counter over them to check if they were leaking (I would have done it myself, but I was stuck outside with the cats while flea-bombing the house. Really. My physics colleague who would have loaned me the equipment suggested calling civil defense, innocently assuming that would be part of their job.).

      Instead, she called the local FBI agent, who actually followed my friends who picked up the developed photos on foot from K-Mart the next week. He had to zip in and out of side streets and wait for them to finish their Dairy Queen to keep down with them. If he had asked, we would have made a set of prints for him. I talked to the local paper about concerns if such shipments ever had an accident while coming through town – would our emergency people be ready for that? Turned out the FBI guy then had a chat with the editor. When I mentioned the harassment to the editor, he said nervously that we were harassing the FBI (????). The story did not mention that I was a Ph.D. level physicist who had taught at a local college before going free-lance, with some experience in health physics (the euphemism for study of the effects of radiation on living things). They did not publish the photos (we sent them to a local shopper weekly that did) and only quoted the civil defense person and others who cheerfully said everything was fine, nothing to see here, go away. I sent copies to a friend in another state, a 20-year-pension military man, who said he had the same trouble with local media when trying to bring attention to a risky situation at a local Air Force base.

      It was during the week before the local paper published their all-is-well story that I noticed a van curiously marked just “Cable” (rather than with the name of the local cable company), fiddling with lines in the alley. After that, the signs of wiretapping began.

      I also was pushing information around the state on war issues (con, not pro) so we began to have interference when the phone tree was activated for a legislative alert (people mostly did not have e-mail back then). Whenever I heard clicking, I repeated my standing offer to put our surveillance team on our mailing list if they sent me a check for reimbursement of postage and printing costs through my Congressman. I even offered to put them at the tail end of our phone tree.

      I even had signs of interference with postal mail, which really bothered one of my friends who was a postal carrier. That’s seriously illegal.

      The religious-based Witness for Peace in Nicaragua also were tapped, of course, since sending Americans to see what’s happening for themselves is obviously such a danger to the Republic. During national conference calls, they would stop periodically to pray for the spies among them. Sanctuary churches did the same during church services.

      My experiences with government surveillance are mild compared to other stories. The FBI and the IRS have been used to harass dissidents in various ways. The IRS has tied them up in pointless repeated audits. The FBI has talked with neighbors and employers and implied that they are “working with terrorists”. The local FBI visited one quiet woman at work and rattled her by loudly interrogating her about her subversive activity (she belonged to the local Amnesty International chapter and occasionally wrote letters to foreign governments about human rights violations). People working for civil rights had to deal with false charges and fake messages designed to stir up trouble between colleagues. There are allegedly legal recourses, but in real life it takes many years to get through the courts in such matters.

  13. Veronica says:

    Yeah, I work for VS, and the word coming down is that it’s a total mess. (Which is a shame because the fashion show stuff this year is super cute – the embroided robes are very pretty. Not a fan of the Balmain, though.) The entire entertainment lineup had to be redone. They actually had to break their animal testing policy to get the makeup into the show, etc, etc. Somebody got a little too caught up in the glitzy dollar signs of the Chinese market and didn’t think through the political reality.

    • Jordan says:

      Same! Hey girl! The opening of the store was huge tho. The balmain stuff has me gagging. Out store is a smaller one so I don’t think we are getting the collection. Alderwood or Bellevue might. The email is all I’ve seen of it so far. Has your store gotten any in yet?

      • Veronica says:

        Yeah, we’re the “prestige” mall of the area (Armani, Burberry, Nordstroms, etc.), so our store is rather large and gets both the core sport and fashion lines. Pink is actually a separate entity in our mall and massive on its own – I think it ranks #7 or something in the country in terms of sales? We have the fashion show robes and shirts out, which I do really like, but they’re holding the Balmain until after Black Friday for loss prevention reasons. (I don’t blame them, honestly.)

        I like the two piece lingerie sets. Like, that Swarvoski long line balconet bra with the matching panty? It’ll be gone within two hours of hitting the website, I guarantee it. (Full disclosure: If I was still as thin as I was in my early twenties, I’d be all over that high neck mesh bra. Pair it with a leather mini skirt for the club, yeah?) I can see the sets selling big time. The plaid and mesh push up bra is the one that I see lingering for a bit on the shelves, simply because it isn’t quite as interesting. It’s the sleep wear that I’m very meh about. The shirt and slips are just tacky to me – and not in that delightfully tacky way you’d expect from a VS/Balmain collab, but in a way, tacky hipster hardcore way that just makes you roll your eyes.

        (OMG DO YOU GUYS GET THE SPORT LINE? I can’t with the silver foil jacket. That shit definitely got lost on its way getting shipped to Pink. We call it the baked potato jacket. This being said, if I was 15, I’d love it.)

  14. Ankhel says:

    Well, here we can laugh at Trump, but try to make even mildly critical comments about the Chinese government while you are in China, and you could very well end up in a cell. Even if you are foreign. That government has a ridiculous number of employees to monitor everything online, and they have no sense of humour. If you are Chinese, even honest, benign criticism can get you 10+ years of arrest. Their current president has lately had thousands of private homes searched for “inappropiate” imagery, like icons. The pictures/statues that were deemed undesirable were then replaced with “happifying” photos of president Xi. I kid you not. We can laugh here, but it’s not very funny there.

    • detritus says:

      When we went to Tiananmen square we were told – do not discuss the politics behind this. If you discuss the politics of what happened here, in this square, you run the risk of being detained and arrested. It’s pretty much Big Brother over there.

      • Ankhel says:

        This. The local guides who are assigned to travel groups are nothing but spies and informants. Their main job isn’t offering service, but reporting on what is being said and photographed.

    • magnoliarose says:

      You just realize it and move on. A lot of countries are like that. Israel is like that as is most of the Middle East. Eastern Europe and Russia. My parents and other family had to go through a lot to visit Egypt and other countries because of the Israel stamps, and I did too. But you are well aware you are being watched, and your room is being searched.
      There are little things you can do to tell, but I have nothing to hide so after the initial novelty of doing it it wasn’t fun anymore.
      If you go to Tel Aviv, you may as well leave a note for Shin Bet saying Hi.

  15. Tiffany says:

    Whoever is the research and legal department head at VS better get their resume together because they are gonna fall on the sword and be fired. They probably told the Powers That Be this was a bad idea over and over again but it will not matter because someone’s head will roll.

  16. shouldawoulda says:

    BOYCOTT Victoria secret’s because they have their products tested on animals, which is beyond sick, absolute cruelty and completely unnecessary. There is an international boycott on Victoria Secret’s..

    As I see it, this is just well deserved KARMA. I hope it destroys VS.

    You can buy cruelty-free products made locally, in your own country. AND THEY ARE BETTER too.

    • magnoliarose says:

      One of the many reasons I have no love for VS. Any cosmetic company that sells in China has to do animal testing by law. Boycott all of them.

  17. Spritely says:

    What a disaster. This means other brands trying to maintain a good relationship with China and its huge, huge market will toe the line even more in the future. VS is being made an example of.

  18. gia says:

    What no one is mentioning is the obvious..China is a COMMUNIST country. What did VS expect would happen? They have completely different rules.

  19. tw says:

    How is this still a thing? It’s so stupid and overblown.

  20. Gene123 says:

    GiGi didnt get a visa because of her video mocking asian people. The country denied her and many other models and katy perry

  21. belle says:

    Except her sister is there. Gigi was dropped for being an idiot in regard to east Asian features.

  22. MM says:

    A drug problem…it’s obvious.

  23. Valiantly Varnished says:

    They won’t allow her in because she’s a racist who posted a video on social media mocking Asian people. Same goes for Katy. And I don’t blame them. VS should have done better research before deciding to do their fashion show in a communist country.

  24. magnoliarose says:

    There is a backstory I am sure beyond the public explanation. That family is shady.

  25. milla says:

    And their papa is there… so weird. Wasn’ bella with Gigi in the video?