SI swimsuit model challenges Victoria’s Secret in a provocative photo shoot

Ella Halikas didn’t bat an eyelid when asked to strip down to her underwear and angel wings on the streets of West Hollywood.

The Sports Illustrated swimwear model and body positivity activist recently went viral on TikTok for channeling her inner Victoria’s Secret angel in a daring shoot with photographer Henry Jimenez Kerbox. The former Swim Search finalist is known for recreating the looks of skinnier stars on social media.

“I thought we [needed] I wanted to photograph and recreate a Victoria’s Secret fashion show runway, but on my body with my lingerie on,” Halikas told Fox News Digital. The model pointed out that she was inspired by veteran angels Adriana Lima and Candice Swanepoel.

Ella Halikas wears lingerie and angel wings and raises her arms

Ella Halikas (pictured here) and Henry Jimenez Kerbox teamed up for a Victoria’s Secret-inspired photoshoot that went viral on TikTok. (Henry Jimenez Kerbox)

“It’s refreshing…this is what a healthy, normal body in a size 14 in lingerie looks like when flaunted in public. It’s so scary, but it takes a lot of confidence,” Halikas said. “But what was really cool was seeing how supportive everyone was about it. They cheered me on and took pictures of me. That kept me going throughout the shoot.”

Halikas recalled “fainting” as she strutted down the street in broad daylight with a bobbing lace, feathers, and not much else.

“I think you thought about it too much at first,” she giggled. “When reality hits you ask yourself, ‘What am I doing? Oh my god, I’m… on the street wearing lingerie in the middle of West Hollywood. What’s up?’ However, I think after a while I got to a point where you just lose consciousness. You block out the noise [and] You focus on…why you’re doing this.


A split image of Candice Swanepoel in gold lingerie and angel wings with Adriana Lima in red lingerie and red angel wings

Ella Halikas said she was inspired by veteran Angels Candice Swanepoel (left) and Adriana Lima (right). (Getty Images)

“I think everything we do, or anything I do specifically, comes down to my why,” she continued. “Like, why am I doing this? It’s not for the attention, it’s not for that. It’s just about showing that you can be healthy and happy in a size 14, live and exist in a bigger body and at the same time be supremely confident.”

Halikas noted that while she received an overwhelming response from shocked viewers, “99 percent were positive.”

Ella Halikas wears a red dress

Ella Halikas, a body positivity activist, is known for recreating the looks of thinner stars on social media. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

“I think it healed my inner child — I think it healed a lot of other people’s inner children as I’ve seen it,” she explained. “I had a lot of comments [from] People cried and said how emotional they were to see it and how much we needed to see it because growing up we didn’t see it on the runway. And even now, it’s difficult to achieve that inclusivity on the runway… I’m trying to break the mold here and push the boundaries and barriers and show that you can exist in a larger body. You can still feel beautiful, sexy and confident – just like a Victoria’s Secret angel.


Ella Halikas in white lingerie and angel wings with arms outstretched

Ella Halikas was photographed walking the streets of West Hollywood. (Henry Jimenez Kerbox)

“I didn’t actually hear anyone say anything nasty, which was surprising,” she shared. “I get hateful comments online, but of course it’s all positive in person – everyone wants to hide behind their keyboard. But I think everyone was very, very positive… Digging deeper into the comments, I am.” There’s some hate in there for sure. There are such as “Get dressed” or “What are you doing?”

“There was a comment like, ‘Why do we have to be half-naked to get attention?’ But that’s not what it is about. It was about recreating a Victoria’s Secret Angel runway show, but on the street. So it’s daring. It won’t be for everyone. Some people won’t like it, but they can look away. But overall, most of the comments were super encouraging and very emotional like, “I had to see that today. I can’t stop looking at this. you killed it That made me so happy.”

A closeup of Ella Halikas in white lingerie and angel wings

Ella Halikas said she was blown away by the feedback she’s received on her daring photoshoot. (Henry Jimenez Kerbox)

Victoria’s Secret was founded by the late Roy Larson Raymond in the late 1970s after he became embarrassed buying lingerie for his wife. Les Wexner, founder of what was then Limited Stores Inc., bought the brand in 1982 and grew it into a strong retail company. In the mid-1990s, Victoria’s Secret lit up the runways and later filled the internet with its supermodels and an annual television show that mixed fashion, beauty and music.


A set of Victoria's Secret models

Victoria’s Secret CFO Timothy Johnson announced in March that “a new version of our runway show” would return “later this year.” (Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

However, as the company failed to adapt to changing tastes, sales fell and the annual show was canceled in 2019. There has also been increased competition from rival brands such as Adore Me and ThirdLove, which have emerged online and have marketed themselves heavily on social media platforms. The competition also focused on fit and comfort while offering more options for different body types. American Eagle’s lingerie chain Aerie, which works with activists like Manuela Baron, also attracted customers to Victoria’s Secret.

But after a four-year hiatus, Victoria’s Secret CFO Timothy Johnson announced in March that “a new version of our runway show” would return “later this year.”

Halikas said she would jump at the chance to be part of the star-studded runway to demonstrate diversity and inclusivity.

A side-by-side photo of Ella Halikas modeling white lingerie and angel wings

Ella Halikas said she was open to appearing in a revamped version of the televised Victoria’s Secret runway show. (Henry Jimenez Kerbox)

“Definitely – that would be a dream of mine,” she enthused. “I’ve always wanted to walk her runway and showcase and represent the curvy woman out there and just feel so sexy and beautiful in the process…. fingers crossed that happens. We’re manifesting here… I’d like to do that, and I’d like to see them include… more size integration across the board… I’d rather not be a sign [girl]. I think we should all be there. We should all be included. We should all feel beautiful. But if I need to be out of the ordinary and be the only girl they take the risk of being curvy, I’d love to do that too.

Halikas praised SI Swimsuit for celebrating different types of bodies in their annual issue. She already caused a stir in the 2021 issue when she was photographed by Yu Tsai.

“It had such a big impact because it made me feel like I could do this,” she recalled. “And that was the entry into the modeling world. I only had maybe two years of modeling experience before I joined the magazine… It was such an amazing feeling. I feel like Sports Illustrated has taken big strides to be more inclusive… and I think it shows other publications and brands that they are leading the way.”


A side-by-side photo of Ella modeling Halika's bikinis on the runway

Ella Halikas walked the runway during the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Runway Show during Paraiso Miami Beach at Mondrian South Beach on July 10, 2021 in Miami. (Getty Images)

However, being a curvy model also brings challenges. In November, Halikas and fellow model Alexa Jay said they were denied entry to The Highlight Room club in Los Angeles because of their height. A spokesman for Tao Group Hospitality, the venue’s parent company, said in a statement that they “are aware of Ella and Alexa’s experiences and are actively working with them to further discuss the incident.”

“We always welcome feedback on our operations and continue to work to improve the guest experience,” said the spokesman at the time. “Our company does not tolerate any form of discrimination.”

Halikas claimed there were moments when a photographer at an event would have overlooked her in favor of thinner models. She admitted the experience can be “humbling”.

Ella Halikas wears a pink satin dress

Ella Halikas poses backstage for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Runway Show 2021 during Paraiso Miami Beach at Mondrian South Beach on July 10, 2021 in Miami. (Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

“I’m not going to try to yell from the rooftops, ‘See me, appreciate me because I’m curvier,'” she said. “I just won’t do it anymore. I am silent on this, but I will speak about it in interviews and podcasts to spread this message. But we still have a long way to go.”

“I want to make it clear that I’m never against anyone wanting to start their own health and fitness journey,” she shared. “If you want to lose weight, great, I’ll never get past that. What I think becomes a problem is that we’re constantly trying to make ourselves smaller, to feel valuable, to feel seen, to feel beautiful… That’s what I’m trying to break.

SI SWIMSUIT MODEL NICOLE WILLIAMS ENGLISH posed for the upcoming issue while she was seven months pregnant

A closeup of Ella Halikas in white lingerie and angel wings

Ella Halikas hopes her photoshoot will inspire others to celebrate her body. (Henry Jimenez Kerbox)

“You can be happy, confident and healthy, take care of yourself… live in a bigger body and love your skin,” Halikas continued. “Every best and most beautiful me looks different on everyone. And for me right now that’s a size 14. For someone else it’s a size 6 or 16, 20 or 2. It just depends on the person… Me.” “I’m just really trying to change people’s perspectives.”

“I’m going to wear this bathing suit, I’m going to wear this dress that I didn’t think I could wear,” Halikas said. “I want people to look inside themselves and find that confidence. That’s what I’m here for.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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