Alive's John Ross and Will Shilling get an intimate look behind the scenes
The white press tents along Lexington Avenue look like small loafs of bread beneath one hulking facade of the stone building that takes up an entire city block between East 25th and 26th streets.
A tour guide would tell you the 69th Regiment Armory was built in a Beaux-Arts military style - a nice way of saying the building's pretty on the outside but cold and functional everywhere else.
Years ago, it housed the Fighting 69th, New York's only official Irish regiment of the National Guard. Today it welcomes recruits of all backgrounds. On the morning of Nov. 19, the building is also filled with fashion models, stylists, photographers and a production crew of hundreds.
Yes, Victoria's Secret chose a working military training and recruitment station to tape its annual fashion show, set to air at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, on CBS. Take that, universe. Behold proof positive that the lingerie company can make any place its own.
"I think the venue is perfect, because we do like to transform our places into something sexy," says company CEO Sharen Turney amid a sea of microphones backstage. "It has a lot of glamour, a lot of mystique. The Armory's really a perfect place for us."
About two weeks ago, the cold halls with their aging linoleum floors and displays of war memorabilia started taking shape as Victoria's Secret's mobile glamour headquarters. A few hours before taping, men in fatigues and nonchalant blondes in thigh-high boots mill around the service elevator.
Later on, about 1,100 audience members will sit down in a building known for training battle heroes to enjoy a lingerie show entitled "Magical Fantasy."
As if to officially claim the territory, a pastel hologram bears the company logo in the prep room. Its statement of purpose is simple: Work it. Have fun. Be sexy. The usual scrum of reporters, cameramen, makeup artists, hairdressers and personal assistants churns along, unfazed.
"I've never seen anything like this," says Lyndsey Scott, a first-time Victoria's Secret model who has previously walked for Calvin Klein, Gucci, DKNY and Prada. "It's such a big space back here, and it's completely full."
For Victoria's Secret, the New York taping is also a triumphant return to its runway roots, to the place that started it all. The company held its inaugural fashion show here in 1995 and another installment in 2005. The Big Apple has helped the company define sexy to the global masses - and witnessed the yearly show become bigger and bolder.
"In 1995, it was just a small venue at the Plaza Hotel," Turney adds. "Now what you have is a show that is seen by over a billion people in over 80 countries around the world. It's a fashion show. It's entertainment. It's an event."
Victoria's Secret was without some of its sexiest firepower for this year's fashion show because two contract models recently gave birth.
Heidi Klum had her fourth child, daughter Lou, on Oct. 9. Fellow Angel Adriana Lima gave birth to baby Valentina on Nov. 15, just days before the show.
A chipper Klum served as the show host - doing interviews, blowing kisses and essentially charming the pants off reporters and photographers. She spent limited time on the runway, heavily covered up. Fan favorite Lima was completely absent.
Are pregnancies good advertising for the world's sexiest brand? Scientific proof of its alluring products?
Whatever the case, company CEO Sharen Turney said that both women come from wholesome families and exhibit balance between family and career life.
"It's any woman's dream to be able to balance everything - to actually have a career and to actually have a family life," she explained. "That's what we encourage in all women out there - to have a balanced life."