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. Been saying it for years. Genetics is the biggest scam. Can't feel sorry for anyone fortunate enough to be born attractive. No sympathy for attending attractive people. Everything is so much easier for those that fortunate. Must be nice

  2. I told my 5 year old granddaughter years ago.. you should be a super model when you grow up because they make $50,000 a day.

  3. One of the most amazing, yet hardest part about this industry is understanding your type, your body, your image. You often find yourself feeling average because there could be a thousand other girls/boys lined up to audition that look exactly like you. The hardest part is to overcome that you are beautiful despite having a similar body to a lot of people. The amazing part is that whether you get the role or not, it proves your individuality and beauty. By getting the role, it means your personality stood out compared to the thousands of other people who may look like you. If you didn’t get the part, you may not be what they were looking for which means your personality is different then the girl/guy they choose. This to me shows that we are unique and our personality is more important than our image.

  4. Oh my God she's so upset about her white privilege she should just jump off a bridge. Are you kidding me she's apologizing for being white and beautiful. Wow every white person should just jump off a bridge that would solve all these problems wouldn't a whole lot of people be happier. Why don't they just put out a big sign that says all white people need to die and if you don't you better apologize for being late. Didn't Oprah say the same thing about white people but they all should die. She took a lessons from Oprah can't even listen to the stupidity. White people are stupid

  5. So? what difference does it make that 4% were non-white? Not a big difference to me. And that test was done 6 years ago. As of July 2016, White Americans are the racial majority. African Americans are the largest racial minority, comprising an estimated 12.7% of the population. Hispanic and Latino Americans are the largest ethnic minority, comprising an estimated 17.8% of the population.

  6. I get what she says, but i have seen that beautiful people get all the privileges , opportunities, and the attention than the less than average looks person gets treated. She can say what she wants and its valid. But its not the way society sees you or treats you depending on your looks. i am very good looking but sometimes purposely dress poorly and dont do my face or hair and when i go to a shop, i get served the last or they ask me to leave because they think i am a hobo. I am also judges by the color of my skin as well. then when i change my dressing the way i walk and look, boy do i get treated like a goddess. I laugh inside but then i am sad because thats proof to me how society or men even perceive beauty. SO my friend , you meant well but society isnt ever going to change.

  7. In the comments everyone's complaining saying that "looks may not be everything, but it helps. I'm ugly so I would know". 
    Stop it. 
    Her point is that even if you WERE "beautiful" (which is a fabricated idea) you still wouldn't be happy. Models are insecure everyday. You might be insecure every day. She's not complaining about her looks, she's making a point about how those looks are portrayed and perceived. Cameron Russell won the "gene lottery" and so everyday people worship her (which she did nothing to deserve), and the people in the photo industry exploit her. Models have no rights, and being the subject in a completely staged photo doesn't give you confidence. It doesn't show any skill. But people hate on her if she says anything negative about her life because they STILL believe "if only they were beautiful". How about "if only I were confident" or eventually "I AM confident". Beauty doesn't ignite confidence all by itself. 
    I love this quote from Susan Tanner:
    "I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. My parents helped me get medical attention. For years I even went without eating chocolate and all the greasy fast foods around which teens often socialize, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.” "
    I love that. Let's forget ourselves and focus on our personality and education, and let's love others and not care about their appearance.

  8. when I sleep well everybody helps me, laugh with me, they admire you, they want to be friends with you… When I don't sleep because I have mental problems nobody wants to be with you, nobody laugh of your jokes, nobody wants to be your friend, people don't admire you and they even make fun of you or bully you, i can see the two sides of the coin, maybe I'm not usual but happens to me and I can say with 100% of certainty that looks matter, a lot!!!!!!

  9. Women: These heels are so uncomfortable; so I wasn’t going to wear them.

    Also women: I never get a chance to wear 8-inch heels…

  10. Easy for her to say! Some attractive people's personalities
    are way too horrible! Their personalities are abhorrent at times, yet they get away with behaving badly! The non attractive person pulls them up about their bad ways, and then the person that in some people's eyes are classed as "unattractive" gets labelled as the jealous one. Especially in families! My family is exactly like that. Pisses me off! You have to be a light skin female to get by in the family, I happened to be in. If you are a dark skin male "you'll do fine!" But a female naaaaah! So sad. So this, woman speaking about attractiveness….. It is easy for her to do that, she is a model! I stay away from shallow family members and I am much more 😊.

  11. Always nice when beautiful and/or rich people are trying to tell you, that neither how you look or money are important. 😀 Maybe in an enlightened civilization but meanwhile everyone else might be better off with reading the data and studies.

  12. "THAT'S NOT ME" is a copout. YES, it is you. YES, it is you half naked selling products through sexual imagery. No one if forcing you and you are paid very well for it. THAT IS YOU.

  13. But she is still contributing to the whole "looking good is everything" mindset by doing the job she does. Why doesn't she do something more useful and in line with her values if she really means what she says?

  14. the most awkward talk I've ever seen. seems like she didn't get get the response she expected. and she speaks about herself like she's an Angelina, but mostly she's an ordinary woman.
    nonetheless, her main idea is like "I won a lottery, those of you who didn't just have to work".

  15. Rich people say….”being rich isn’t that great”

    Nice looking people say “looks aren’t everything”

    When will we ever hear a not so nice looking person…..a very poor person…..denounce with confidence any positive traits that they happened to be blessed by?

  16. People say money isn’t everything but it’s a darn sight better to be rich and unhappy than poor and unhappy, trust me I know. As for the model, I haven’t got a clue what her point was!

  17. HAHAHAHAHAAHHAHHHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
    A BEAUTIFUL MODEL WHO MAKES MONEY OF HER BEAUTY SAYS THAT BEING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT IMPORTANT
    STOP ME, I GOT HYSTERICS

  18. 5:00 is it just me or did she seem to get winded REALLY fast by doing that?
    models are always told to lose weight because they are supposed to be like human hangers. I'm just concerned she may not eat enough calories. not enough food but calories. you can have full meals and only eat 300 calories.

  19. I was really surprised to hear how eloquent and well-spoken she is. But I also appreciate how real and transparent she was. Beauty, intelligence, and heart…what a combination!

  20. My mother, brother and sister are always treated like royalty by strangers simply because of their looks. It happens to me too sometimes, but I think it has more to do with how I sound than how I look.

  21. Theirs a thing in psychology called the "Halo Effect", that means people who are better looking and more physically attractive, are generally perceived as more intelligent, more successful and happier people in there lives, whether it's true or not.

  22. The message that she was trying to say seemed to be a little compact and complex. She has the most perfect body and she is on stage saying most kids feel insecure of their bodies. It feels like it doesn’t make any sense. How did you overcome your insecurities? And what is your true “ “major”message?

  23. Looks are everything it’s all people talk about if your ugly or not attractive enough u are judged in a bad way . If your beautiful you are treated so nice and not judged in a bad way So yes looks are everything

  24. For me it is more of the men side. I am in college and there is more than 40,000 kids at my school. I have never dated because I am just indifferent about it. When I see an attrative guy or match with one or meet the guy in real life and he is an 8/10 that is when it gets hard. Even if he is not making me feel that way that is all I think about. The whole date, or even before knowing him. It is constantly on my mind I am a 6 on a good day and I am not skinny I think I am just right…right?…two things I always think to myself. Especially because I am not a constant gym goer. To me it is the worst environment to be in and I always hope I am alone when I am there. But these attartive fit dudes make you automatically think they only like skinny sorority girls who all look the same. I know thinner people still struggle soemtimes too but at the end of the day it is not the same to me. Or society. And that is a huge influence on everything. College is just not doing me well with confidence. I or anyone in general feels lesser when you have less money unlike a lot of these kids here who are rich their money or not. It is easy to say love yourself or just be confident and they won't care or you wouldn't want a guy like that anyways but why not? That means I have to settle for someone I don't find atttrative because it would be easier? but that's just not true.

  25. I’m always arrogant to people that society defines as “beautiful” lol 😂 I can’t control it, it happens automatically.

  26. Cameron Russell you are terrible human being. I sincerely dont like how, i dont like your hypocrisy i dont like ur smug entitled behavior.

  27. Respect is every thing.. Mostly my friends they are married… But when it comes to breakfast.. No lift from wife. So what to do with that beautiful wife dnt knw how to treat husband…by the way who u are u are… Allah created the world nd knows better. Because 100 percent body working is a big gift… Ask from those.. They are so beautiful but without hands legs.. Pray nd dnt say ugly.

  28. Model don't die starving but the Genius Tesla died. What a fucking society. Beauty is nothing before talent but still people preferred looks.

  29. The ironic thing is the only reason you expect anyone to believe you is…..because of your looks that allowed you to be a model. Don't think you know what you're talking about.

  30. Its funny, here I never thought about that. I was never a beauty and I always thought that I a bit loser for not being. You know, if you're a girl and you're not pretty, you're less girl. So they say; Early in age, I had that feeling it may seem really sad, but I'm not complaining, because as soon as you notice you can't weight your happiness in your appearance, you learn to have other passions. To like other stuff about yourself. And today i woke up a bit later, i just changed and went to work. I didn't make up, it didn't took hours to find a skirt. I just brushed my teeth, changed, and went out. How many pretty girls feel secure enough to do that. Since they're young, they learn they must look good. I did also, but since I wasn't a very pretty girl one way or another, i learnt ignore it. And seeing this girl, her income depends on her looks, isn't just a social pressure. She cant, like me, just wake up and go out. She cant weight up some kilos. She's somehow caged in that word of appearances and thats sad . Maybe have grown as the ugly chubby girl wasn't that bad.
    Yeah she probably makes more money than me, more followers and more guys, sure. But being me, is not as bad as I thought

  31. girls… im a model…. its horrible… i get paid to do nothing and get to wear cool clothes, go to lots of parties, and travel the world… why would you want to be that?

  32. I bet you'll Never gunna see her fuckin an ugly dudes….her talk is still superficial…..did she ever turn down a check for whatever reason……if she is so concerned about looks….cut your hair off, tattoo your face, gain 50lbs. and go to work for minimum wage….otherwise she's another JAR…..Just Another Receptacle…..and a hypocrite.

  33. people who has money like trump says money cant buy everthing
    well it can buy weed hookers p*****s right thats enough

  34. I believe most people are who leaders in their field of work/expertise are insecure and live from an imposter complex. The bar is always so high and to reach it consistently is difficult.

  35. So..
    A talk to convey a wealth of knowledge behind physical appearance.. by illustrating others misfortunes purely due to a poor gene pool.
    "I'm beautiful, but it's not my fault I won the hereditary lottery.. other people aren't beautiful & have to suffer the consequences".
    "I'm beautiful & benefit from this & wouldn't want this to change as I like free dresses; but look – I can wear an ugly skirt & sweater to try & prove a point".
    It's pretty insulting that Cameron assumes we are clueless about image, and to profess an ideology of models being a commodity; like we didn't already know this.
    "I have a French Vogue Cover but, don't judge me, as later that day I looked less sexy with my friend on a beach".
    "I'd never had my period before, so don't judge me personally on how I looked as a young teenager in this provocative swimsuit".
    This whole talk was purely for justification & self gratification. I'm sorry, just because you're BEAUTIFUL, doesn't mean you can have THAT privilege, too.
    It's harsh, but we'll think what we wan't about you, thank you very much.

  36. Huh this girl have me thinking about all the things that i wanted to be is a big fat lie only looks so good on tv , camera , social media.

  37. Too many people are missing her point! The point is that there is more to life, as this model has found personally, than looks. Stop judging, start listening 👂🏼

  38. Spoiled air head programmed to be self white hating. If it's so awful why doesn't she eat 8 times a day and get fat in solidarity with the poor little POC models. I feel so sorry for them. I don't have to look her up to know she is married to a black. She had to marry one assuming she's not with a woman. Tell her to look up what is the percentage of the models she was talking about are married to a black or a woman. What 90-95%, and then have her look at how many vegans & wicca witches or new agers. Ask her how many support abortion or belive Global Warming is a current thear. Ask her what her sign is and has she been to a psychic. I wish these awoke people would wake up.

  39. I've been reading these comments, and I'm really sad seeing how some people are using their " ugliness " as an excuse for why they're treated terribly in life by others, and that "pretty " people are treated better than them. Funny thing is, I used to feel the same way. But then I realized if I can't change my appearance, I might as well change my attitude. After I started gaining confidence and smiling more often, I realized that not as many people were treating me like I was "ugly", instead they were treating me with more kindness and being more welcoming. Of course, maybe they were already treating me with kindness, but I just didn't see it, considering how much of my life I wasted wallowing in self-pity. If you take anything away from this comment, realize that if you have the time and energy to waste on being nothing but a pool of self-pity, anger, depression, sadness, and UGLINESS, then change yourself, your attitude, your way of thinking. Gain confidence, and SMILE 🙂

  40. Great presentation Cameron. Brave for bringing out injustices of looks and beauty vs real people who can be Golden on the inside regardless of how physically attractive they are.

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