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)

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. I am a model and everything she is saying about insecurity is correct! Good thing that she is speaking truth to the injustices of the entertainment industry

  2. Your beauty makes us watch this video.    So far, how many people have "watched" her speech in the worold?                                                                                                                                               Living without shame: How we can empower ourselves | Whitney Thore | TEDxGreensboro >just copy this URL ,please. Do you want to watch this video like her contents?  But  you'll find  "something" definitely different.

  3. Don't have to be
    a big bucks Hollywood star
    Don't have to drive
    a super car to get far
    Don't have to live
    a life of power and wealth
    Don't have to be
    beautiful but it helps (c)

  4. society from childhood instill in us that it is beauty and ugliness, but they are not true because beauty is subjective. and my question would be; If all your life you lived of that beauty, when you are old and wrinkled what will you do? Your youth is gone over the years and now what?

  5. “looks arent everything” is something very easy to say when you’re a model. you dont understand the hidden little benefits you get in life for being attractive. looks arent everything, but theyre worth more than personality. itd be nice if everyone could be all nice and happy, but thats just not how life works.

  6. White privilege is a myth. Gender privilege is (mostly) a myth.

    Economic, class, disability and physical privilege on the other hand, exist to some extent.

    This woman is trying desperately to avoid admitting to herself how good she has it.

  7. Looks aren't everything, but life sure is easier for good looking people than ugly people. The same applies for tall men, smart people, rich people, etc. And while you can't take it with you it comes in pretty handy down here

  8. Notice how she makes no mention of ugly men. Only of girls and black and Latinos, but she mentions they're men only as an afterthought.

  9. There are so many comments on here hating on her. How are we supposed to work for a better future if the people that are benefited from birth don't realize that they are. At least she realizes that she is lucky, and I think we should give her a chance to speak her mind.

  10. Nice sentiment, but it just doesn't apply in this reality. It's easy for someone like you to disguise your beauty, but someone not as fortunate – Impossible.

  11. It's still up to you how you choose to cultivate yourself.
    Just because u have a pleasant bone structure doesn't mean u have to just be ur looks

  12. Such a sweetie…love her soul. Yes!!! I SAID SOUL!!!! Have been with as and more beautiful and a lot less. The Soul…is what makes the difference…to me.

  13. Пиздец логика, негров задерживают. И чё? 99,9% преступлений , совершают негры.

  14. Look is not the way to judge us .. but on the other hand, no one feels displeased when he is praised.It’s natural but in many cases people praise ..with comparison.

  15. I’m Vietnammese and i gonna learn English, Anyone here want to learn VNamese or travel to VN??? I can’t help you and we’ll become friends ???

  16. Of course looks matter. Look at Mother Nature. We are also of Mother Nature. Most good looking people dont complain because they were born with genes from their ancestry line. Not-so-attractive or ugly people complain because they dont have what they want and are jealous because their parents didnt have the good looking genes to pass on. This is why Mother Nature created this judgement, to control the population by only having the best looking and strongest survive. Look at animal breeders. They breed for profit based on many physical traits. Human relations is no different it seems, its why we fight for equality. Because others have a better way of life or are treated better and they want what they have and then demand equality. This is why I believe business isnt personal its profit. Just another way to segregate our species into categories and adjectives to organize our species. If you cannot accept the way you are born the only people you can honestly blame is your parents. However, we cant choose our parents but we can choose how to behave even if society is against you. Choice

  17. People can say looks don’t matter but they are the same people that judge too. You would date a beautiful person because you love their looks, but y’all won’t date an ugly person even though y’all know they’re nice. It’s just a fact we have preferences on looks and it’s not a bad thing.


  19. Funny, because all these models and so called "beautyfull women" are like ´meh´ to me. Actually, tall, skinny girls are not sexy to me at all. I think mostly because this beauty trend is dictated by homosexual fashion designers 😀

  20. This model is good looking then how she is inspiration for us ..if somebody black in colour is model then i thought he or she is change our thought but not now

  21. give me a woman who is average looking, funny and smart, over a beautiful woman any day..every man wants a beautiful girl, but a woman with a good heart is priceless..

  22. How dare you show the presentation… your looks are contributed to your life everything that other people cant experience as you done…why do I find this video tonight…

  23. Yeah right honey, you try being an ugly chick and see how men treat you. As a man I can say with steel confidence that LOREAL ain't a billion dollar company for no reason!

  24. I disagree!!!…looks comes first!!!…..and then the rest follows!!!!……….if Ur handsome and Ur behaviour is ugly then it won't help anyone!!!!……people judge u first ..by look and then the rest falls!!

  25. All of you people here are whining about how only pretty people say that looks don’t matter and only rich people say that money doesn’t matter, that’s because they already got the looks and money and they realise more than anyone that all those things won’t make anyone happy it can actually make you more insecure and sad.

    That was what she was trying to explain throughout the video, too bad no one understood.

  26. When I saw the title, I thought it would be going a bit arrogant way of video. "Believe me (*because*) I'm a model. But she was there being vulnerable and being humble. This talk changed my mind about her and the subject. Thanks!

  27. Model is a good looking person but at the same time they are so affraid everyday about their looks because of pressure of their work

  28. thats so difficult.I hate my body,i hate my face,i hate my appearance in general.But i can say,that i heard that im pretty from soo many people,that i cant choice between my self hate and someones good opinion about me.Cause they say:"Gosh youre so pretty,i wish i was you",i look at them like"what tf are you saying",then look at myself,then at them again and it occures to me that they are just wanna be nice with me,cause i think im much uglier that they are.And when i see a really pretty girl,then we just talk and i understand that shes so insecure in herself and i cant get it around my head,really.

  29. I think some of you missunderstood the meaning of succes in life ; its to be generally grateful and happy with what you already have and who you are as a person. If you dont have that, then there are not much things that will make you temporarily happy. I mean sure being rich is great, but what when you buy everything you ever wanted and more, and you're still feeling empty and shallow? It doesnt really matter what you have or not, but how you percieve your situation and make the best of it.
    Also, i think you're beautiful and special <3 🙂

  30. "looks aren't everything" does not equal "looks don't matter at all".

    Please learn how to read between the lines people.

  31. Wow this is making me cry it is so Beautiful she is so beautiful and amazing inside and out a great soul that care a lot about others that care very much. Love Her !

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