Nokyoung Xayasane
April 25, 2013

Model Cameron Russell Gives Powerful Talk About Body Image (VIDEO)


Like it or not, we’re judged for the way we look. Image is powerful. No one knows this more than Cameron Russell.

A model for the past decade, Russell reveals what it means to be a model, the harmful myths surrounding the industry and her role in perpetuating what a “sexy girl” should be.

She speaks candidly about her experience posing for the cameras in a powerful 2012 TEDx talk called “Looks aren’t everything: Believe me, I’m a model.”

“[Models] have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes, and they’re the most physically insecure women probably on the planet,” reveals Russell.

“The thing we never say on camera is, I am insecure. I’m insecure because I have to worry about what I look like every day.”

Russell acknowledges how modeling paid for her tuition, and allowed her to travel and work with inspiring and creative people. She also recognizes the perks she’s received because of her looks, such as free clothes, shoes, and professional visibility — but she wants to emphasize that image is highly superficial.

In the talk, Russell effectively juxtaposes images of herself modeling with those of her being a “normal” girl. What she wants us to realize is these modeling images are not her, but “constructions by a group of professionals.”

When young girls tell her they want to become models, Russell can’t help but gently dissuade them from taking the modeling path.

“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.”

She equates modeling with winning a genetic lottery and inheriting a legacy that values a specific type of beauty: tall, slender, feminine and white.

This beauty legacy is extremely harmful to girls and women: “53 percent of 13-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This grows to 78 percent by the time they are 17,” reveals Russell.

Russell still experiences biases because of her modeling past. Although she runs the blog and is the director for The Big Bad Lab, she still feels she’s judged solely for her appearance.

“In the last month, every time a TV producer has contacted me, they’ve wanted to see headshots,” says Russell in an April blog post. “Even though they’re reaching out in response to my TEDx talk, in which I talked about the need to include women in discussions about the media. (Not bios, or clips, or anything a sane person curating a panel would ask for.)”

It’s refreshing to hear Russell speak so candidly about modeling and its negative impact on how girls and women view themselves.

Take a look at Russell’s powerful TEDx talk below.