Articles, Blog

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)


  1. R L Author

    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…

  2. Cram Crey Author

    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!

  3. Faizan rehan Rehan Author

    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 look and then the rest falls!!

  4. Someone Lonely Author

    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.

  5. Sweet Love Author

    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!

  6. Sweet Waiter Author

    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.

  7. mashed potato Author

    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 🙂

  8. Miguel Trujillo Author

    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 !

  9. pale star 8 Author

    This whole Ted talk is really confusing to me… So I guess her point was is that her perfect looks don't make her happy in the end? and models are insecure? Why not just say that rather than go off and focus on all the successful things in life that were basically handed to her because of the way she looks??? That just made the message very mixed up and confusing. The point of the talk really got lost in everything else she was trying to say about how great being beautiful really is and everything it got her. Looks defintly matter though… They use looks to sell products, in movies, magazines… It's everywhere and constantly engraved into our minds that we must be beautiful to achieve and to succeed. It's just like going on social media. I did an experiment recently… I posted a post straight from my heart and soul, barely any recgonition at all. But if I post a revealing picture (or if I was brave enough to post one of my backside), lots of recongition then, comments and likes and all that… I'd rather be recongized for my mind and heart rather than what I look like, but the fact is, that none of that stuff matters except for the way I look. It's been confirmed multiple times to me that my heart and soul does not matter over looks. My heart and mind go under appreciated. Society is very messed up unfortunately. But yes, this talk was very confusing. If the message was simply that modeling didn't make her happy and that they are some of the most insecure people, it would have only taken seconds to say that…

  10. Nathalieu, Exploring Joy and Happiness Author

    Love it! I am glad I was open-minded and open-hearted enough to watch the whole video. I realised that I was prejudiced against models at the beginning… thank you, Cameron, for opening up my eyes to this. Plus, I have been following some training in public speaking and have to say that your talk is VERY well put together and delivered. Congrats!

  11. David Chan Author

    In the animal kingdom the strongest will survive, the most appealing ones will likely reproduce, and finally dominant genes will prevail in the gene pool.

  12. StarofVela Author

    It seems most people missed the point of her talk. That real love and affection and success does not come from the outside but from what you bring from the inside. That is being a caring inspiring and creative human being

  13. R L Author

    Cameron's a beautiful girl the only thing we have in common is we have feelings. A ugly person complains on how life is and people reject there stories. Someone pretty complains an we embrace there every word. Living in the ugly is just ugly….

  14. Joanna Papa Author

    A person with nice personality and nice look always has more advantages.But a person with the same personality and ugly doesnt have the same.This is unfair.But the worst is that and be with a excellent personality sometimes it hasnt matter.Because the look not always but a lot of times wins.Always the person with good looking has more advantages always.Ugly people who work a lot at themselves they cant win that which beautiful people has with a little work and sometimes nothing.And for that simply reason this is UNFAIR!THE TRY DOESNT MATTER

  15. Sky Budgen Author

    can people actually shut up. FFS. What she was saying is that this is a privelage yes but it doesnt make your life automatically great. She had to grow up way to fast. in that picture of her in the bikini she looked like an adult but she didnt even have her PERIOD. God people can be so frickin' annoying this isnt about you.

  16. Bird Man Author

    I dont know why women keep telling people that,nobody actually believes that looks are everything and even the ones who do theyd be interested in having fun with "looks" while making sure they dont give more than the acceptable amount of "payment" for these looks,thats why women demand more when they look good,call it what you want,a ride a date an apartment or "feelings" depanding on how much a man has of what hes willing to give up,but looks are the filter that separates the sexually desirable from the undesirable,theres way more investigations going on in a mans head than women can comprehend.

  17. monbebe gaylord Author

    Then please explain how I got a lot of date requests, a better job position, and generally good treatment ever since i lost weight and had a nose job! i wasn’t even that unattractive but oh my god looks ARE ALMOST *EVERYTHING*!

  18. ngjequier Author

    Did i just watched 9:38 minutes of someone telling me how easy their life is because they are beautiful ? Lol thanks, exactly what I needed 😂

  19. Anli Haywood Author

    Okay hold the door. Everyone saying "pretty people saying looks aren't everything is like rich people saying money isn't everything". She was born this way. If you are saying she what is saying is discredited because she is pretty than you are part of the problem. This is such an important message that she is sharing with the masses and she is sharing it especially because she is in an industry where looks is everything and she can see how it is affecting people and hurting them. Her voice should weigh more than ever before because she is probably one of the most qualified people to talk out about and speak up about this topic. So if you are saying she can't have this TED talk because she is pretty then you really need to listen to it again and really listen to what she has to say. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

  20. Nisco Racing Author

    When people already have the looks, they always look further to be PERFECT.
    And someone looking up to that, and has not the looks will think the person is spoiled in life.

    AKA: We live in our own universe in our brains.
    And trying to comprehend what is happening in that other universe takes great amount of peace in yourself.

  21. cm Author


  22. Esra Tepe Author

    She says looks aren't everything, but she talks about the benefits she got from her look through her speech. It looks like her look made huge impact on her life. She doesn't understand how privileged she is. Of course, looks are important. But it is not the magical formula to fix other aspects of your life. Does it helpful? Yes. Does it the god to solve all your problems? No. Happiness and insecurity is completely different subjects of another discussion. You can't expect looks to fix internal problems

  23. Jungwoos skrrt Author

    I don’t think most people in the comments understand the point she is trying to make. She’s not saying that looks don’t matter. She says that no matter how beautiful other people perceive you at the end of the day you can still be very insecure and unhappy with your looks.

  24. Andras Libal Author

    All those genes working for thousands of years to make her beautiful. 
    White people working for hundreds of years to create a civilization that pays for this. 
    She working for 15 years from her young age to create perfect pose and looks.
    All the stylists and photographers working to create her perfect shots.
    There is nothing wrong with this,. GOOD FOR HER.

  25. Booty Warrior Author

    That has got to be the worsed TEDX speaker i have ever heard with people like this things are not gonna change anytime soon. If white is so beautiful ? Myself as a black man why do white women approache me or show interest in me if they are so beautiful and perfect . What a load of rubbish

  26. jammin6816 Author

    So then are white men oppressed because they’re a minority in football and basketball? And are black men oppressed because there are no surfers who are black?

  27. hannuh zzz Author

    to be honest, i dont really care about my body, because that’s something that can be trained and it’s not something that defines you but i agree with the part about “lottery” because my face—

    it just cant ever be changed

  28. Jass Singh Author

    As long as men have lust the industry for superficial looks will be there. So as the industry exists there will always be girls who will sell their looks for fame n "$". But due to existence of these practices the status of normal girls lower as compared to boys as if girls r only a decoration. Its true cuz most of billionares, scientists ,heads of things etc r men. If this industry stops which is on girls to boycott easy cash can the true gender equality be aquired.

  29. Camille Banks Author

    I used to be morbidly obese, I lost weight. The contrast to how im treated now compared to then is revealing about society. People can be really shallow and often don't even realize it.

  30. Eduardo Blanco Author

    Ok, but one thing you must to understand is: people through the time is becoming more tolerant with bad features, yes BAD, because obesity isn’t healthy at all, I am over 50 years old and probably still have a better look than a lot of LAZY young men🙈 and women are becoming just LAZY, you can create thousands of excuses trying to justify your just lack of self awareness you don’t take care of your selves 👆🏻
    Then how many of us have a model like type of body? A very low percentage, and normally is a result of hard work 👆🏻 what the rest are doing? Just inventing excuses for don’t care if their selves 😡

  31. Maryan Abc Author

    "-Does look matter?
    -You know, 82% of people on the Earth confirm they get not enough money. Do you get enough?
    -I show to the people how i look"

  32. Leah Addari Author

    i cant tell if i am really ugly because i think that i am pretty but im not getting free stuff and when girls talk about the benefits of beauty i get so confused by whether or not i am an idiot for thinking im pretty or that they are just trying to make people feel better about themselves because obviously whether she was paranoid about his speech or not, she wont have to worry about much. I just feel like i look for answers and get more confused

  33. B Tillie Author

    These comments are so annoying. If you think that looks matter, then you place way too much of your identity in the way that you look. It really is about charisma, personality, and confidence. Attractive people do typically have more of this for obvious reasons, but unattractive people can have that too. I know plenty of unattractive people with lots and lots of friends, and in relationships. Of course if you’re unattractive then whoever you’re in a relationship with is probably going to be unattractive as well, but who cares? You all need to stop being so superficial, open up your eyes, and see that looks are going to fade one day but a heart of gold can stay with you forever. If I get into an accident tomorrow and my face is destroyed, I know that I can still be happy with myself because my self esteem doesn’t come from the way I look, it comes from the Lord. ❤️


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