Just when Victoria’s Secret was being honored for have three African American women walk the runway during their annual show. Now, they are under hot water for an Alabama incident.
[VIBE] Kimberly “Nikki” Houzah, who is black, was shopping for items at the store in Quintard Mall Wednesday (Dec. 7) when she was told to leave by a manager who was white. Narrating the events via Facebook live, Houzah says she and another black woman were told to exit the store when staff reportedly caught another woman of color stealing clothes. Houzah and the other woman didn’t know each other or the alleged shoplifter.
“I never would have thought that would happen to me,” she says before bursting into tears. “They didn’t check my bag. I don’t feel like everybody’s racist [but] I’m not understanding what’s the problem. It’s completely absurd. I got put out of Victoria’s Secret just for being black…I can buy anything in there I want. Are you kidding me? I’m so upset.”
Houzah, who is also the owner of a Victoria’s Secret credit card vowed never to shop at that location again. She later told The Anniston Star Thursday (Dec. 8) she and the other black woman were the only two ordered to leave the store during the incident. “She zeroed her attention to the corner where the two black people were,” Houzah said. “She didn’t ask anyone else to leave. I don’t understand why, other than us being of the same ethnicity. We never spoke. We never made face-to-face contact.”
After her video amassed over 500,000 views, the company released a statement apologizing to the 27-year-old and confirmed the termination of the employee. “We take the experience of our customer at the Quintard Mall very seriously and have reached out to her directly to express our sincere apology,” their Facebook statement reads.”What happened at our store should not have happened and does not represent who we are or what we stand for. The store associate involved in this matter is no longer employed with the company. Victoria’s Secret is adamant that all customers regardless of race be treated with dignity and respect at all times.”
Houzah returned to the store with a group of peaceful protesters and Glen Ray, the president of the Anniston chapter of the NAACP. The protest didn’t result in any chaos, but conversations on racial profiling and prejudices towards people of color. “Inequality is still a thing,” Houzah said. “If people are never held accountable for their actions … this will continue. They’re going to think it’s OK.”
She also told reporters she wasn’t expecting such an overwhelming response to her video. “I’m glad I brought a little sunlight to the problem, but I didn’t think it would become a big, public thing,” she said, “Now I feel like I’m under a spotlight.”
Quintard Mall sent out a statement about the incident:
We are aware of the event that occurred yesterday at the Victoria’s Secret at Quintard Mall. The Quintard Mall security team was following instructions from the Victoria’s Secret employee. We take any allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and are committed to ensuring that all of our guests are treated with the utmost respect. We are currently conducting our own internal investigation to better understand the facts of what took place. For more information, please reach Victoria’s Secret at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-415-7555.