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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. i dont really get it what is she trying to say.. She got the legacy the body that women always dream of, she got into the industry that giving her a lot money and privilege, but shes insecure? thats just telling me shes being ungrateful..

    And 53% blabla people arent happy with their body.. umm.. blame the industry youre into.. hypocrite lol

  2. Looks REALLY matters. Normally I get no attention at ALL and get treated like a trash for my appearance. However when I dress up well or more like "attractive", people start noticing me and being nice. Well it's same when it comes to social media. I post high quality photos taken by me (I'm quite good at photographing), but I get max 10 likes on each post. However the girls that I know get about 500-800 likes for posting whether their a$$es or pretty faces. Because this is what people really want to see.

  3. "Looks don't matter" the next day she has an accident and loses her beauty. Commits suicide the next day.

  4. I just don't want to be treated like trash because I'm very ugly, that's all. I want to be treated as normal. I don't ask too much.

  5. Looks aren't EVERYTHING, but they're very, very good to have. Her looks have elevated her entire life and have her living in luxury. That being said, I liked her presentation. Very honesty and self-aware. Plus, she was obviously nervous and a bit socially awkward, which was endearing. 😊

  6. Let me tell you, looks matter a LOT. People judge you by your looks. Attractive people are more likely to be trusted, and more likely to gain promotions. They’re more likely to be let off with warnings. They’re more likely to be able to attract a more desirable mate. People are more polite to attractive people. Pretty much everything about life is easier if you’re attractive.

  7. Just another video reinforcing its not OK to be white in the USA anymore. Stop dividing the world. 99% of people are out there focusing on paying the bills, not whats the color of your skin. Only the people without money problems are talking about race all day.

  8. Health doesn t matter. Said no sick person ever. Yes looks matter. They open doors and a 6 feet tall slim woman with long legs and symmetrical face will never have to scrub floors or wait tables no matter how stupid she is.

  9. Looks aren’t everything…..but she makes a living because of her looks lol. For her looks ARE everything. Her life would be drastically different without her current sexual market value.

  10. This woman is pathetic, no wonder she's insecure.  Yeah, looks don't matter…until you don't have them anymore!  Believe me, she will miss them when she hits the wall and since beauty and youth is fleeting, it won't be that long.  One of her problems is that she has not experienced the converse of being good looking…being born ugly.  For her to stand on stage and tell unattractive people that look don't matter is the height of self absorption, something she is trying to convince the world (and herself) that she is not.  Then on top of things she plays the race card and she's white.  Oh please, beautiful women are beautiful women regardless of skin color, not having as many on the catwalks doesn't change that fact.  Besides, less women of color in modeling is only due to the markets being majority white people, not some issue of discrimination.  Models in Africa are almost all black, guaranteed, does that mean they're racist?

  11. it would be better if they put a really ugly fat lady up there who can say Looks Aren't Everything- believe me- I made it.

  12. Her number one problem is that she's insecure? There's a whole lot worse things that can happen to somebody's life.
    On one hand she admits she's won the genetic lottery and lists some advantages that brings, yet humble braggingly lists some ways this is still not good enough for her to be happy. Does she want me to feel sorry for her?
    This speech has problems all over it. I'm not even sure what it is she's trying to say. Don't strive to be a model, strive to accomplish something better? I'm so perplexed I don't even know what else to write.

  13. 别说了,好的外表让你有更高起点,更容易获得成功。因为我长的丑26岁都还是单身。

  14. Transformed the way i think of you?… mmmmmmnot quite, all I thought was "she's trying to change the way I think of her by putting on more clothes, but all I see is the exact same personality and the clothes mean nothing to me unless she was full on nude or something extreme."

    It's not like she put on a Godzilla outfit is it…

  15. I read somewhere here, one of the comments stated
    "Looks not important because she had to work hard to this stage after competing with other beautiful girls"

    I don't think becoming a successful Pornstar require to compete with other "beautiful girls'. If you have the looks and give up on finding job/ become successful, there always another "back-door Production' waiting for you.

  16. I just hope she can find a ,man who will marry her and support her.

    Good luck to her.
    White guilt. Just donate the money to charity

  17. It's not the looks, it's the perception. How you and rest of the world might perceive beauty and humanity? It is true that an attractive person stands out from the crowd, but only at first glance. Seeing that face over and over, makes you get used to that attractive face, same with yourself. You grow up looking at yourself in the mirror as you are, it stays the same until you see new changes as "acne or scars, etc" on your face or when someone points it out for you, which ends up making you aware of yourself. Same analogy with the body, dramatic changes stand out like loosing your weight, even though, you internally haven't changed at all.

    Another thought that comes into my mind with how people perceive beauty is by jealousy. In history, stories, myths, etc, the villain is perceived to be the bad one who gets jealous of main character whether it's looks, money, power, talent or other but the villain wants to have these yet can't attain them. This is a very natural yet common phenomenon that might go on till the end of humanity because humans can never sustain themselves and always want more. If our ancestors were perfectly satisfied with their living environments, they would've had never made a recent comfortable world for us. It might also be seen as improvement, innovation, but to me, it's as humans just can't get enough, they would be greedy after more things because that is what's in our nature, what we possess. There are humans who overcome these (monks who shave their heads, strip themselves of a comfortable living to spend life in complete yet peaceful solitude with their beliefs). Same with nuns, and also same in many other religions who teaches to not be greedy and control our nature. In conclusion, the world, society, universe is quite bigger than our imagination, yet majority our stuck with their narrow minds and uncontrollable nature to perceive humans and the world recklessly. It's only good that we make ourselves aware of most scenarios, situations through others stories and struggles to understand ourselves and other humans more like the lady in the video. Keep feeding onto wisdom and understand yourself more to understand others around you.

  18. Good looking people know nothing of the real struggles of ugly people. Shes talking about dodging parking tickets… Thats nothing. Thats the cherry on the cake of pain.

    Try the embarrassment of not getting any matches on tinder ever, or getting blanked in a club repeatedly coz people dont even want to speak to you. Watching the way people speak to your attractive friends. Who are probably married with kids.

    Pretty people would be stunned at how overlooked and shunned ugly people are. Its brutal.

  19. What she’s really trying to say for looks aren’t everything. Is to tell others especially little girls that want to be models that it isn’t as worthwhile as it seems. Everyone thinks models are always happy and everything is awesome. But the reality is not that cheerful. Her message is not to always have your focus on looks because “looks aren’t everything”.

    And also if anyone listens to Billie Ellish she says in her song “if teardrops could be bottled there would be swimming pools filled by models”. Because she thinks they’re one of the saddest people.

  20. Notice that she is saying looks are not everything which i also believe but is a quality which actually matters . Well if you are not gifted with this then do not regret and believe on yourself and your quality One day people will absolutely give your example that actually "LOOKS ARE NOT EVERYTHING"

  21. Great information. How do we change the narrative? We are all beautiful in some way and deserve to be treated with respect until the respect is violated.

  22. As someone in the comments pointed out, looks are the first impression. The vast majority of the people you meet in your life will only get a first impression of you. Looks are important.

  23. Glad she admitted that most of what we are fed through advertising and entertainment is a construction, not reality.

  24. Just that title of the video sounded really 'up yourself' well duh we know looks aren't everything even if you're a model cause some models be ugs asf but tall n skinny asf

  25. The only benefit i got from this speech is that she is "insecure" ! The question is are u gonna do something about it ?

  26. The majority of comments here reflect so much insecurities and fear…it's crazy. Don't judge her that much!!!! Judge your words and thoughts before because it's the only thing you can control.

  27. 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?

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. その見た目でいわれてもなあ…笑笑

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

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

  33. 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?

  34. 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。

  35. 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。

  36. 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.

  37. "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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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

  40. 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

  41. 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.

  42. 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…

  43. “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.

  44. 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..

  45. これタイトル変じゃね

  46. ‘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

  47. 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.

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