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. Looks aren't important! It's a bit rich hearing that from someone who works as a model. Where would she be without her looks?

  2. I'd like to think that looks doesn't matter but deep down i know that's a lie that's just how the world works and we can't change that

  3. Please stop feeling bad because of how and what you are. Yes the system that people created are maybe flawed but God does not make mistakes, you are white and beautiful and became a successful model, so why apologize?

    Every Olympic games a Kenyians wins the 800m and an African American wins the the 100m race. I don’t see them feeling ashamed of being black, fast and full of muscle!?! They are proud and so they should be, they are the best in what they do….

    People think you are beautiful and you make a good living out of that, so whats the problem? Be thankful for what God made you, and glorify Him with that just as the athletes mentioned above do with their talent that God gave them.

  4. その見た目でいわれてもなあ…笑笑
    結局世の中見た目はめちゃくちゃ大事だし得するよ。

  5. If i would have been good looking
    I would also have gone confidently to the stage and said "Looks don't matter".

  6. tu puedez cambiarte como quieras para eso eres guapa las mojigatas y las feas se van a enojar no deberia importarte

  7. Consider me confused. Why am I going to listen to a model tell me how looks aren't everything? What would she know about what it's like to NOT be good looking?

  8. ルックスがいいから中身まで見てもらえるんですよ。不細工は中身まで見てもらえない。でも、私は美人に生まれなくてよかったと思っています。変な男にストーカーされたりしないし、惚れられたりもしないし、日々平和に生きていけるので。美人は大変だな、と思います。美人じゃなくてよかった。

  9. 外見がいいと得をする。これは紛れもない事実。でも、得をしているからといって必ずしも幸せとは限らない。得たからこその辛さは得た人にしか分からない。

  10. It is always to better to have an advantage instead of being 0 in it. Worst, we will suffer consequences for having negative values in said advantage. Being beautiful will be beneficial, being average looking will be neutral and being ugly will lead to negative social starts. This is reality. Same with natural physical, mental and emotional abilities or family support such as wealth, history and connections. It is always better to have them. But that does not justify people being exploited because of this though.

  11. "I won the genetic lottery blah blah blah"….doesn't she know that EVERYONE wins a genetic lottery? Nobody looks, sounds and acts the exactly the same. How does she know that that officer give them a pass because of how she and her friend looked…officers give people passes all the time. Is it that she never got a traffic ticket?. It disappoints me whenever people give gimmicky TED talks like this; the model is the gimmick and the subject matter is something that we can certainly live without.

  12. She seems to be implying that her "insecurity" and whatever other negative consequences she alluded to were a result of being hot af. I mean, she could've had the exact same body and pursued a meaningful career in say, medicine (just as a random example) and I'm sure she would've been just fine in that regard. You're prone to feeling objectified and not being highly respected for anything other than your body when your job basically requires that to be your entire identity. Feels like in this talk she's just taking a shortcut to virtue by, for some reason, talking about racism and portraying herself as privileged because she lacks meaning in other aspects of her life.

  13. Just cause you're a model doesn't mean you're good looking either. Looks are all subjective. I don't really find runway models that hot, they way to skinny and that's not physically attractive to me. Sure this girl has a pretty face but that's about it

  14. Nobody will respect me like they do Oprah, or Will Smith. No one will listen to me like they did with Steven Hawking, and this broad will never let me bang her. Life isn't fair, oh well

  15. It says looks arent everything. Yes it matter but it's not everything.
    In the end we are all humans. We always look for something we dont have and whats missing. As for their part as a model. It seems like everyone only care for their looks and that's it, though their on a big advantage. We humans are complicated.

  16. honestly I do believe that looks get better/worse with personality. I am talking to this guy rn. Before I thought he wasn't too attractive. But then we started hanging out more. He is really funny and nice and now I realize that he is like really cute.

    I also have a opposite story. There is another boy I had a crush on for three years. I thought he was so beautiful. His face is perfect and his lips are amazing. But then I talked to him and he treated me like gutter trash. He made me feel bad about myself. I don't think he is very attractive anymore…

  17. “I also know that I’m quite privileged…” that’s where I stopped listening. (Especially bc she said whatever about her outfit change & how we were “lucky” to witness that.)

    The implication of “trust me, I’m a model” in the video title is horribly arrogant, idc what she had to say, how she looked, what she wore, etc. don’t care about her name, her genes or her “sexy white chick” legacy. The ick factor is too thick here: 👎🏼 nope.

  18. To fight for what is right, even when you are the biggest beneficiary is very difficult.. this is profound and I have faced something similar in India..

  19. これタイトル変じゃね
    元々お金持ちの家に生まれた人が人生は金じゃない!って言ってるようなもんやろ
    まだ内容見てないからわからんけど

  20. ‘I’m insecure because I have to think about what I look like every day’ that’s what literally every human thinks about every day

  21. Looks/beauty is a very powerful phenomenon that is for sure but the Beauty is actually the product of our own thought and thoughts are not real so in reality, the looks aren't everything indeed.

  22. うーん、良い事を言ってる風だけど核心に迫ってないなあ。
    結局生まれもった遺伝子で人生決まるだけなのかと。
    もっとモデルの闇を伝えてほしかった。ランウェイをかっこよく歩いてて、華やかに見えるモデルのほとんどは借金まみれで、パパが居ないと生活が成り立たない程だと言う記事も見かけるし。

  23. Poor little insecure model who needs to look good every day. People with analytical, intellectual jobs have to be smart every day, yet they don’t seem to feel insecure about their intellect. Nor do they ask for sympathy for the pressure of having to think correctly & efficiently all the time. Moreover, her virtue signaling was utterly annoying. Ugh, this was appalling.

  24. I wish there was a heart button for the first time on YouTube the like button isn’t doing enough for me ♥️ 🤗🍀

  25. She wants to impress people by her speech, so, we would think…Oh, !! she is very intelligent too, which she is not.!!!

  26. Yeah people, she knows that beauty is not important in the end of the day bc she has it but for your inner true healthy happiness it doesnt make a difference. And she is right. I wont myself to be happy with me and people to be happy with me bc I achieved something great or I have a job where I can help others and not because I look a certain way wich is just the 'fault' of my genetics and my parents but I didnt do anything for it. And I dont think being beautiful isnt something that is making you happy in the end.

  27. I’m not going to believe this women cus she’s a model wtf i would more likely believe an ugly person if they said this

  28. As a black guy living in Asia i would say … looks matter and skin color matter very very very very much. hahaha

  29. My friends have two daughters. Both are highly intelligent and have wonderful personalities. One is beautiful and one is homely. I always knew the homely daughter would marry well because her husband would love the person inside her, rather than her sister whose husband is loving a pretty face.

  30. Every attractive person facing some difficulties in his/ her life (which everyone does) says looks don’t matter 😪

  31. 80% of her speech: how easy things r for her for being a model

    20%: I still face difficulties, my life ain’t perfect!

    What’s her point?

  32. When you acknowledge your Privilege and Benefits and still ask for sympathy 😂😂😂 i feel so bad for you!!

  33. Y’all see a model. She’s a human being who wants to be happy and enjoy life’s beautiful moments like the rest of us. A lot of people in the comments are an example of giving into the stigma of beauty the society has. A lot of people in the comments succumb to what society expects, they don’t question it.

  34. What I noticed. She is a model, she thinks every white woman is like her and doesnt work. She assumes other people are privileged because she is. She doesnt know that everyone works but her. She is delusional about her own importance. She looks average, and got a job where she does not contribute to society. She objectifies herself and thinks that is what others do. She thinks beauty is what runs the world. People do not notice beauty in real world jobs and professional environments everyone is trained and works hard to serve the public. She stands there and looks pretty. She cannot speak for anyone but herself because she is a wall flower not a working professional.

  35. Appearance matters, folks. Take care of yourselves. Imagine, you go for a job interview and you are equally qualified with your rival applicant, chances are the better looking one will be selected.

  36. From my opinion, looks DEFINITELY matters. When I was attending high school there was an Indian girl who was constantly getting bullied because of her looks and she had an unibra. And I still don't understand why she was getting mistreatment by her classmates and it made me upset inside and some of them were calling her GODZILLA because she was chubby. Now we all can agree on one thing and that is "LOOKS DEFINITELY MATTERS." Ugly looking people don't get the same treatment as the beautiful looking one. AND THAT'S AN UNIVERSAL FACT!!!!

  37. Beauty is truth. Beauty is self evident, beauty is obvious. Beauty is not taught, it is not a social construct, it doesn't need to be. Beauty does not need others to draw attention to it, it demands attention through it's own existence. Beauty does not require an explanation or justification. It should be cherished, not ashamed.

  38. In details how to improve and have a healthy self-image
    Read the original
    "Psycho-Cybernetic" Maxwell Maltz
    Or See you at the Top Zig Ziglar
    They were recommended by Kevin Trudeau

    The topic that little or nothing written about until recent decades

  39. She still doesn't get it. It's not because she's white; very few white girls get to be in her position, yet she indicts "all" white people as privileged. Even when she "dressed down", those were not frumpy clothes. Too much vanity!

  40. Three minutes in and I’m out! White apologist…just means she may have won the genetic lottery,but was deprived of an actual important life skill… critical thinking. That’s not what is going on here however, just your garden variety propaganda.

  41. Oh believe after 12 years in the British Military…looks believe me go along, long way it will get you promoted, this is coming from an ugly Soldier.

  42. looks are like a first door to a person. if you’re beautiful then that door is opened and people will go to the second door which is personality, who you really are, etc. if you’re not attractive then the first door remains closed and people won’t even bother trying to get to know you. Beautiful people say looks don’t matter simply because it’s something they don’t struggle with (so eventually personality will become their main focus) You can be unhappy for various reasons, but it’s unfair to say something doesn’t matter because /you/ don’t struggle with it. Ideally we all should focus on what’s inside but the vast majority of people will never bother that much if they’re not impressed after a first, superficial glance towards someone.

  43. Y’all she’s just acknowledging her privilege and asking for more diversity in the beauty industry and change in the beauty Standards. She’s not saying looks don’t matter,she’s just saying that they shouldn’t.And yeah,it is unfair,but you can’t say you never thought about modeling to afford college (at least I can’t 😕).Also she said that a pretty face and a smaller waist won’t take all of your insecurities away,proving that beauty isn’t everything in a mental healthy way,but it doesn’t mean you won’t be privileged so stop coming after her.

  44. Maybe 80% of models are white because 80% of the clothing, makeup and magazines they're hired to advertise are purchased by whites. This idea that we need to suspend reality and free market forces to meet some kind of racial balance is crap. Yes, fashion is dominated by tall, skinny white women. But professional sports is dominated by tall, built black men. It's funny but… I'm a short, fat Jewish guy… and I'm not complaining or demanding equal representation. I dont want to see more people like me on the runway. I dont want to see more people like me on the gridiron. There's no inherent bias here… no systematic prejudice. It's just life. There are always going to be people who 'won the lottery' and have advantages I dont– I say, God bless them… take advantage of it! But I'm not going to sit here and play the victim or complain about how unfair life is because you get to do things or take jobs that I dont qualify for. I have two arms, two legs and a working brain. That's all that I need to carve our MY success in life and it's more than I deserve.

  45. If you're complaining about being ugly… too bad, go do something about it and quit crying… the world ain't gonna stop for you and give you a hug and a kiss to make you feel better. Go do some squats or lift some weights if you're so desperate for the attention or the upsides of being attractive.

  46. Seems most people have an issue with the title, which I admit is not apt and reductive. The talk, however, hits the nail on the head and is a very good one in which she highlights industry biases

  47. I would prefer to hear it from average person who is not concidered atractive in our society. We all need hear story about person who achieved goals without look and being rich

  48. I don’t want to sound negative but looks aren’t everything said by one who is already have the privileged to be pretty

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