Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. | Cameron Russell

Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. | Cameron Russell


Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast Hi. My name is Cameron Russell, and for the last little while,
I’ve been a model. Actually, for 10 years. And I feel like there’s an uncomfortable tension
in the room right now because I should not have worn this dress. (Laughter) So luckily, I brought an outfit change. This is the first outfit change
on the TED stage, so you guys are pretty lucky
to witness it, I think. If some of the women were
really horrified when I came out, you don’t have to tell me now,
but I’ll find out later on Twitter. (Laughter) I’d also note that I’m quite privileged to be able to transform
what you think of me in a very brief 10 seconds. Not everybody gets to do that. These heels are very uncomfortable,
so good thing I wasn’t going to wear them. The worst part is putting
this sweater over my head, because that’s when
you’ll all laugh at me, so don’t do anything
while it’s over my head. All right. So, why did I do that? That was awkward. (Laughter) Well — (Laughter) Hopefully not as awkward as that picture. Image is powerful, but also, image is superficial. I just totally transformed
what you thought of me, in six seconds. And in this picture, I had actually never had
a boyfriend in real life. I was totally uncomfortable, and the photographer
was telling me to arch my back and put my hand in that guy’s hair. And of course, barring surgery, or the fake tan that I got
two days ago for work, there’s very little that we can do
to transform how we look, and how we look, though it is
superficial and immutable, has a huge impact on our lives. So today, for me, being
fearless means being honest. And I am on this stage
because I am a model. I am on this stage because
I am a pretty, white woman, and in my industry,
we call that a sexy girl. I’m going to answer the questions
that people always ask me, but with an honest twist. So the first question is,
how do you become a model? I always just say, “Oh, I was scouted,” but that means nothing. The real way that I became a model is I won a genetic lottery,
and I am the recipient of a legacy, and maybe you’re wondering
what is a legacy. Well, for the past few centuries we have defined beauty
not just as health and youth and symmetry that we’re biologically
programmed to admire, but also as tall, slender figures, and femininity and white skin. And this is a legacy
that was built for me, and it’s a legacy
that I’ve been cashing out on. And I know there are
people in the audience who are skeptical at this point, and maybe there are
some fashionistas who are like, “Wait. Naomi. Tyra. Joan Smalls. Liu Wen.” And first, I commend you on your model
knowledge. Very impressive. (Laughter) But unfortunately,
I have to inform you that in 2007, a very inspired NYU Ph.D. student counted all the models on the runway,
every single one that was hired, and of the 677 models that were hired, only 27, or less than four percent,
were non-white. The next question people always ask is, “Can I be a model when I grow up?” And the first answer is, “I don’t know,
they don’t put me in charge of that.” But the second answer, and what I really want to say
to these little girls is, “Why? You know? You can be anything. You could be the President
of the United States, or the inventor of the next Internet, or a ninja cardiothoracic surgeon poet, which would be awesome,
because you’d be the first one.” (Laughter) If, after this amazing list,
they still are like, “No, no, Cameron, I want to be a model,” well, then I say, “Be my boss.” Because I’m not in charge of anything, and you could be the editor in chief
of American Vogue or the CEO of H&M,
or the next Steven Meisel. Saying that you want to be
a model when you grow up is akin to saying that you want to win
the Powerball when you grow up. It’s out of your control,
and it’s awesome, and it’s not a career path. I will demonstrate for you now
10 years of accumulated model knowledge, because unlike cardiothoracic surgeons, it can just be distilled right now. So, if the photographer is right there, the light is right there, like a nice HMI, and the client says,
“We want a walking shot,” this leg goes first, nice and long,
this arm goes back, this arm goes forward, the head is at three quarters,
and you just go back and forth, just do that, and then you look back
at your imaginary friends, 300, 400, 500 times. (Laughter) It will look something like this. (Laughter) Hopefully less awkward
than that one in the middle. That was — I don’t know
what happened there. Unfortunately,
after you’ve gone to school, and you have a résumé
and you’ve done a few jobs, you can’t say anything anymore, so if you say you want to be
the President of the United States, but your résumé reads,
“Underwear Model: 10 years,” people give you a funny look. The next question is,
“Do they retouch all the photos?” And yeah, they pretty much
retouch all the photos, but that is only a small component
of what’s happening. This picture is the very first
picture that I ever took, and it’s also the very first time
that I had worn a bikini, and I didn’t even have my period yet. I know we’re getting personal,
but I was a young girl. This is what I looked like with my grandma
just a few months earlier. Here’s me on the same day as this shoot. My friend got to come. Here’s me at a slumber party
a few days before I shot French Vogue. Here’s me on the soccer team
and in V Magazine. And here’s me today. And I hope what you’re seeing is that these pictures
are not pictures of me. They are constructions, and they are constructions
by a group of professionals, by hairstylists and makeup artists
and photographers and stylists and all of their assistants
and pre-production and post-production, and they build this. That’s not me. Okay, so the next question
people always ask me is, “Do you get free stuff?” (Laughter) I do have too many 8-inch heels
which I never get to wear, except for earlier, but the free stuff that I get
is the free stuff that I get in real life, and that’s what we don’t like
to talk about. I grew up in Cambridge, and one time I went into a store
and I forgot my money and they gave me the dress for free. When I was a teenager,
I was driving with my friend who was an awful driver
and she ran a red and of course, we got pulled over, and all it took was a “Sorry, officer,”
and we were on our way. And I got these free things
because of how I look, not who I am, and there are
people paying a cost for how they look and not who they are. I live in New York, and last year, of the 140,000 teenagers
that were stopped and frisked, 86% of them were black and Latino,
and most of them were young men. And there are only 177,000
young black and Latino men in New York, so for them, it’s not a question
of, “Will I get stopped?” but “How many times will I get stopped?
When will I get stopped?” When I was researching this talk, I found out that of the 13-year-old girls
in the United States, 53% don’t like their bodies, and that number goes to 78%
by the time that they’re 17. So, the last question people ask me is, “What is it like to be a model?” And I think the answer
that they’re looking for is, “If you are a little bit skinnier
and you have shinier hair, you will be so happy and fabulous.” And when we’re backstage, we give an answer
that maybe makes it seem like that. We say, “It’s really amazing to travel,
and it’s amazing to get to work with creative, inspired,
passionate people.” And those things are true,
but they’re only one half of the story, because the thing
that we never say on camera, that I have never said on camera, is, “I am insecure.” And I’m insecure because I have to think
about what I look like every day. And if you ever are wondering, “If I have thinner thighs
and shinier hair, will I be happier?” you just need to meet a group of models, because they have the thinnest thighs,
the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes, and they’re the most physically
insecure women probably on the planet. When I was writing this talk, I found it very difficult
to strike an honest balance, because on the one hand, I felt very uncomfortable
to come out here and say, “Look I’ve received all these benefits
from a deck stacked in my favor,” and it also felt really uncomfortable
to follow that up with, “and it doesn’t always make me happy.” But mostly it was difficult to unpack
a legacy of gender and racial oppression when I am one
of the biggest beneficiaries. But I’m also happy
and honored to be up here and I think that it’s great
that I got to come before 10 or 20 or 30 years had passed
and I’d had more agency in my career, because maybe then I wouldn’t tell
the story of how I got my first job, or maybe I wouldn’t tell the story
of how I paid for college, which seems so important right now. If there’s a takeaway to this talk, I hope it’s that we all feel
more comfortable acknowledging the power of image
in our perceived successes and our perceived failures. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. | Cameron Russell

  1. SHe travelled the world, paid so much money and she has to di is smile and show some skins but models make it out to be like its the most demanding intelliectual work. You have good genes, smiles, pose and you make money. I dont see her injured, depressed, running for cash to pay debts. she teravels around the world in fact she does not have to work for the rest of her life.

    Models wants so much to say they work hard and they use their brains but no all you do is pose for cash. an honest job but stop saying they work hard. its a princess life. she is young still great looking, rich, teaveling the world. oh poor you

    alsi she says its fake imagery but when I was get paid I pretend now im out of it so I critic

  2. Whats more disturbing is what women and now men are doing with MU. it is disgusting the marketing tactics, the whole climate of the cosmetic industry is getting ilky. People talk about palettes like they are people. I honestly dont like this ted talk because she seems apologetic for who she is, because she doesnt need to say she is sorry for being a pretty white model.

  3. ive watched this probably 5 times every year and every single time its still so enlightening and fluid and so pleasant to experience. shes insanely good and her content is just so important

  4. Why are we being programmed to think if we are white we have done something wrong and if you’re black something has been done wrong to you ? Life is what you make it !! Who has the highest suicide rate in America ??? White males !! Being white is not a ticket to happiness !!!

  5. i thought it was about beauty ? not race and white privilege smh
    How about nobody gives a F about people's ethnicities ?

  6. Honestly most individuals are so wrapped up in their own problems that they cant see what she is trying to say … So disappointed ,you hear but don't listen smh

  7. I get her intention , but she failed to make the point enough for everyone to understand without thinking twice. But the speech worth it and applause for her courage

  8. why models are not even 6f anymore. "If i have a thinner thighs and shinier hair will i be happier?", of course you will be happier if thats how you want to look and you accomplish that.

  9. Looks are the surface, only. I am glad to see, as I get older, the expansion of the definition of "beauty" and a generation that will be better at looking inside of people.

  10. Easy for you to say .
    I got scars on my face and my whole body .
    Kids usually freak out after seeing me .
    Wherever I go people think I am a bad man probably involved with some gangs.
    I just used to fight all day during my college days and got most scars from fights in my village .
    I am a software engineer from India currently in Boston .
    I am mostly percieved as a bad person although I am not . Except my mother whole world has been very selfish towards me .
    Those who know me uses me .
    This has happened whole of my life because I believe in people easily .
    So I just don't trust anyone except God and my mother and there is only one thing I hate the most .
    That is a lie .
    I never understood why people lie .

  11. as an ugly boy, i would just like to say, you're missing the point. yes it is true it's very easy to say that looks aren't everything when you look like that however, try to understand her point of view maybe she believes looks aren't everything because she would like to be valued for more than "you look fuckable", which by the way is an extremely temporary asset. Maybe she is wondering what do i do when no one wants to hire me as a model?

  12. That was brave. In my opinion, she didn't say looks are nothing; she said that looks are not the end of who you are and should not be the end of your identity.

  13. And point taken

    Attractive person- treated amazing

    Unattractive person – does not get the same treatment

    Her compared to me-she would have guys flocking to her every beacon need and I would not even be acknowledged leaving me to feel very comfortable and out of place

  14. Being good looking gets you a much easier life and THAT is a fact. Police lets you get away with much more by you just blinking your eyes at them. Being good looking gets you the job when you know that the last 2 people before you were far more experienced then you were AND they start you out with a higher salary. I can go on and on. Don't tell me how superficial we are because it works every time. LOOKS in this world counts at least 80% of how easy your life will be. Even when the girl has a nasty personality, there are people mulling around her!

  15. Looks are not superficial they are everything as even a passing knowledge of the animal and botanical kingdoms shows. The ugly do not mate and I suspect that beautiful people have a higher mean IQ though any research into this would be banned.

  16. Stop & Frisk, I don't agree with it but there are reasons beyond race why young black & latino men were stopped as opposed to teenaged white girls….or any color of girl for that matter.

  17. Leave it to good looking people who have never in their life felt insecure in their bodies to tell you that "LoOkS DoN't MaTtEr"

  18. I don't say this from what I have witnessed I'm 74 I have never really seen a I have never really seen a model that I thought was really pretty and the reason I say this is because makeup is an illusion and we know that hairstyles are an illusion wigs hair pieces Toppers extensions and without that I mean who are you and I have seen some women if they wore makeup it took away from their looks and that is just the way it is and like Gina a Gigi Bella I don't think that they're really pretty it is their lifestyle and that's where they come from in my money has bought them what they wanted do they have to do a little work and yeah they did but it was for named and they got their payoff but they're not pretty not to me. I think Cindy Crawford's very pretty but even she made the same that she wished she look like Cindy Crawford so she knows better than anyone that's my take on the modeling world you have to be tall and skinny and they do the rest of makeup and wigs and it's not what you know it's who you know it still stands true to be so today what about that
    Lights camera action

  19. That young lady is right on spot she's telling the truth and I'm glad to hear that from someone that is in the business and she get most don't lights camera action.

  20. I am old school I was very pretty I was a dancer didn't go far with it because I was too short back then they didn't want short people and I wanted to be a cartographer while I was in a car accident that was destroyed that dream but that was not a dream for me anymore that I have always been OCD perfectionist and I've always had to be a like I said that evoke all my life I don't know how this was instilled in me I was raised in an orphanage from the time I was five till I aged out at 17 and I always felt like that I was never good enough and I had to be perfect and I went to cosmetology school I went to Etiquette School I went to modeling school Barbizon out of Atlanta Georgia I'm now 74 years old and do you know what it never leaves you at never leaves you even though you know who you are and you don't give a damn but when I walk out that door when you see me you think I'm in my 50s because I am still that perfectionist and I realize that everything that I that I'm doing to myself is Just an Illusion but I do know this when people see you they see you at arm's length and you make sure they see it that land at all times and you going to be okay out there and I and I still file that and I'll probably will till the day I die it is just built-in me why I don't know I think it all stems from my childhood and that's okay I'll take that because that's not so bad
    Lights camera action.

  21. Our gorgeous petite beautiful Dolly Parton she looks this way because she chooses to as she says many times it cost a lot of money to look like her but now you take all that away from her I wonder what she really looks like she made herself into a brand and she made money not only by her music but by her looks as well makeup will do it all for you honey yes it will I see you don't know how then go take a class in makeup artistry and then go to Hollywood and make a damn good living at it. Lights camera action

  22. So many of you are missing her, quite valuable, points. Tbh, I was a bit sceptical starting this vid & thought it would be a whole lot of platitudes about beauty being from within.

    I was surprised to find a really intelligent, disarmingly honest lady who fully acknowledges she’s benefited from ticking all the boxes when it comes to advantage/privilege.

    She was also v honest about how, even with v good looking people, a whole team of professionals work on them to create a manufactured image that doesn’t represent her in RL.

    I thought she was lovely. V likeable & honest. She didn’t shy away from the tough issues & made it clear that, despite the world telling us to the contrary, there are many eternal ills that no amount of good looks can fix.

    Be open minded & give her a chance. She obviously is open minded enough to see injustice & discrimination towards others who aren’t so privileged. Be open minded and afford her the same courtesy.

    Well done, Cameron. I haven’t seen any other model willing to be so brave & honest. You’re a v nice person.

  23. Men are hard wired, genetically, to protect women, especially beautiful women. It's nobody's fault that this happens. It's the caveman males' sense of protection for women to propagate the species. Beauty equals health, and health equals large family units, large family units equal safety, security, wealth (caveman style), extra food on the cooking rock, more skins to wear during the winter. etc. That said, I'm only 5'4" and my appearance creates a 'no confidence' affect in bosses that ensures I will never go anywhere in life. And women, especially beautiful model like women, will have no interest in me because I'm short, and because I'm never allowed to be successful in this life.

  24. Lmao rn there are getting girls rejected by the modeling industry because they aren’t diverse enough?¿ indiverse discrimination

  25. Lol al those people saying “it doES MatTEr” YES SHE IS SAYING THAT GOSH. The whole ted talk is about changing that 🙄🙄

  26. I feel like a lot of people looked at the title and didn’t actually watch the video..
    and still commented anyway

  27. There are many things other than surgery and fake tans that can change your look for the better. Get in shape , get a clean haircut, and dress well. If you do those things you can increase your attractiveness significantly.

  28. Life is full of stacked decks. Some in and some not in our favour. However, all the successful people rise above it. The ones that don't, just talk about why their deck isn't the right one.

  29. Introduces herself then goes right away to telling everyone that she's a model…. no thanks. Narcissism trait. She can easily say looks aren't everything since she's got MOSTLY everything she's ever wanted and getting to where she is now by looking that way. Would love to see a NORMAL looking bloke make it and make a speech like this. It would be much more interesting. Definitely because they didn't make it there with their looks but mostly with their skill set and intellect through hardship and adaptation of every situation that they went through.

  30. if she feels insecure about herself because of the superficial life of privilege she lives within the exploitation and dehumanizing capitalist economy, she can use her position to help Greta Thunberg save the world from capitalism's evil effects on the environment. Get out there and protest capitalism Cameron. or else you just gave this speech to make yourself feel better

  31. Everyone would be so much better off if we all just recognized and accepted our inherent prejudice in favour of physically attractive people, and started learning how to consciously get past it. While I am sure this speaker is well intentioned, it just comes across as so out of touch.

  32. My brothers a modle and that stuff is really good to know cause I've always been confused at his insecurity cause I'm just a healthy balance of muscle and fat and that's all I care about with my body really.
    It's so confusing. He's a modle, yet insecure. And I'm not and comfortable with myself. But I think this helped me understand from his side.

  33. If you think you are beautiful I are, if u think u are ugly u are. So what u think u are is what u are. Someone doesn’t have to tell u u are beautiful b4 u think u are.

  34. with your looks you can manipulate any blue pilled simp to hand over all his resources…just tell him he's cute..skip from divorce to devorse on and on many as you want ..there is allways a captain save a hoe..don't ever tell me it doesn't matter ..looks are what every man and woman want.

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