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)

Comments 100

  • Wey el título es en español y el vídeo está en inglés 🤔

  • Looks are everything for someone whose face got deformed in an accident. S/he won't be able to go anywhere without people staring and making nasty comments. They will be denied a spot in some schools, or denied a job in most places, money will most likely always be an issue with very few exceptions.

    Kindly change the title because it's obviously distracting from what the speaker is trying to say.

  • I don’t buy that crap that models are the most insecure people … gimme a fucking break !

  • For me she is not beautiful at all and she was skinny too. Very thin. If i found her walking on the street and didnt knew she was a model, i wont even look at her. Models are just too skinny.

  • How much you wanna get half the people in the comments didn't watch the video?

  • So most of yall apparantly not only ugly but also dumb.
    I really think people should appreciate authenticity more.
    I also think all big commercials are trying to imitate exactly that, and this being said her talk was more beautiful than all of her campaigns in a way.
    But if yall just want to continue feeling ugly about your ugliness then do that.. just stop bashing her for trying to point something out

  • Did y’all watch the video?!!!! Geesh!

  • I want my 10 minutes back . No articulations with a clear point just random events and connotations.

  • thats exactly why i don’t believe you lol

  • To bad that she makes everything about race. Sad…

  • Lol looks aren't everything? Say, what a fucking genius!!! I have been believing a lie all my life but this has opened my eyes. I definitely needed a model to tell me this as well because I never would have believed it otherwise. 😂

  • Personality isnt everything. Trust me im a good guy.

  • Everyone in the comments is saying that it's easy for her to say because she is pretty. But if she wasn't and she said those that pretty people have it easier people would be calling her bitter.

  • lol what a terrible ted talk. It’s like she wanted us to feel sorry for her?

  • It’s not important? That’s literally the number one rule in the game of reproduction, it’s not about right or wrong, it is what it is, sad but real. Not to mention there is no such a thing like love, it’s human’s illusion, it’s just a function in our brain that severs for social interaction to survive as a group at a better chance.

  • You ever seen someone get dealt with pocket aces in poker and still complain? I just saw one in this video, yes just like with pocket aces you can still lose, but MOST OF THE TIME you are good, so just move on and take your advantage along then STFU. ALWAYS LOOK AT PERCENTAGES instead of specific scenario.

  • Look does matter
    Believe me
    I'm not a model

  • I appreciate and respect her for putting this forward 😊

  • Then why did you get 20 million views just because the title has model in it?

  • Jesus Christ is the only way

  • Just love this intro.

  • Today's age, anyone can be a model with outlets like Instagram and Youtube. So, she's a little off with that.

  • She is very beautiful, but she is not white, and I do not agree that society associat white skin as more beautiful, not at all. This lovely lady is very brave and make a good point though 🙂

  • The title is very misleading…

  • I do not like how this chick is talking about insecurity when she was on french vogue and telling us how an officer let her pass by because he looks, on top of that come out in a tight dress and heels… I’m sorry I just got horrible vibes from this.

  • It’s almost as if people who are beautiful know what it’s like to be beautiful. And you don’t, hmmm…

  • She is a beeeeeech!

  • What she said is that you should know that looks are what people percieve of you when they see you. But they are not everything, but they matter.

  • never forget thicc thighs save lives!

  • She is not so pretty by face tho it is all about the teams who make their looks

  • Looks aren't everything but CERTAINLY A FUCKING GAME CHANGING FACTOR. Believe me, I'm disfigured.

  • Wow this speech and the woman both are incredible.👍

  • You have nice heart sister.

  • That's not beauty that's all are construction.

  • "Looks aren't everything"

    – a supermodel

  • We 're living in an artificial, shallow life deprived of authenticity. We are all victims one way or the other of societies around the world. It's NOT how beautiful your HEART is but how beautiful your FACE is. In this sense, we are all more visual than kinesthetic. We are being attracted and deceive through our eyes.

  • Wow!! This was so informative and inspiring perspectives.

  • e-file.ny.StateTrooper.live.streaming.com

  • truth is
    looks will give your personality a chance..

  • she's too honest…

  • I didn't get your point well.

  • She was brave to speak about her experience , God bless her

  • Beauty is mostly in the bone structure. White skin? No. There are Asian women and black women (especially Somali) are knockouts. They all share a beautiful bone structure.

  • We watched this in high school health class, and I like the message

  • Interesting talk, but the direction or impact was missing.

  • It's all about $$$. At some point someone figured it's highly profitable to grab a tall white girl and do photoshop and makeup on her. She just has to look fair and tall. Also, good looking people do get favoritism everywhere in society. It's like a sexual hierarchy that everyone understands deep inside their minds. That the prettier one is valuable and is in the position to say yes or no. So this is subconsciously perceived as a form of power and other people want to be in good terms with them.

  • Tall and fair skin is actually beautiful. I think it's part of what psychologists call universal beauty. And the modern world knows the power of makeup. If you can fill in tall and fair skin, makeup can finish the rest if you have a universally average face. Average means perceived to be well proportioned to human eyes. The white face tends to be like this on average compared to other notable ethnic groups. So it's just the way it is. No hard feelings. And every ethnic groups have favoritism for their own people.

  • Eyes isn't everything trust me i have two eyes

  • But beauty priviledge still exist

  • Fabio: "What you are looking at is not real me. I am more than that (but I made all my life and career on what you are looking at)."

  • Gist of the Talk: Im sorry I won the genetic lottery and it sucks for P'sOC and ugly people, please applaud me for my realization!". I have no clue why people are applauding her in the comments, but she could have added more to her story about maybe helping others, than just crying about how she got everything in life because she was hot. Compare this with an amazing Ted Talk by Sting. He narrates a life story, and doesn't go on telling the audience about how 'talent is his curse' or something.

  • What a fucking joke…….

  • Why do rich and beautiful people always have the need to tell people that money and looks doesn’t bring happiness. Like huh?

  • people never talk about how they don’t help themselves in the looks category either. having pride in oneself is attractive in itself

  • Courageous. Well Done!

  • we can say looks don’t matter, but deep down everything to do with the way we look determines how we are treated everyday

  • Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive , and beauty is fleeting , but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Lord Jesus Christ is our true Savior🙏❤️🕊 Repent, believe in the Gospel

  • She should have put a sweatshirt on…and a hat. Cuz as a guy, I never heard a word she said!

  • Poor guy: Money isn't everything.
    People: you say that because you never had money

    Rich guy: Money isn't everything.
    People: You say that because you always had money.

  • Okay guys if looks were everything i guess u would not watch even a single teds talk's videos of any of the successful people she is here because she is successful not for her looks nd even if she wasn't pretty she might had been here for some other reason so being successful is all matters nd that definitely is in ones own hands

  • Просто ж_ыдам нужно плодить уродство, по этому они и обсирают красивых белых людей.

  • All the assholes in this comment section are so misogynistic and dense, completely missing this woman's point because they simply don't want to listen.

  • Looks are the everything. What makes you believe in this was how you were treated. How about you find a real gentleman? Maybe you already found. Whatev

  • Looks are everything. She's ungrateful

  • That's a drag queen

  • I really enjoyed listening and watching this👍😊👏

  • Loved it 💞💞💞

  • WOW 😮

    This bish is HOT

  • I think for someone who’s had it all,
    It’s brave to come out and say nothing is what it seems and that she STILL feels insecure about herself.
    What she said about race was thought provoking and it is wrong and unfair for certain groups to always be picked on by the police but unfortunately they are the ones most commonly found to be doing the things that are against the law.

    Nothing will ever change.
    The world and it’s leaders are just as horrible and vile as those years before.

    Education and faith are two of the most important things.
    Whenever either of these lack- humanity lacks, leaving individuals to lack – therefore the whole of society lacks and we have conflicts that will never stop.

  • I love this

  • Glad this lady tells the truth, as an aspiring biochemist I plan to make drugs that will make people better looking probably going to be one of the few that will do research and development in this. I think models learn the truth about looks through their career.

  • That was probably the worst ted talk I've watched yet

  • Out of jealousy some people treat good looking people badly, and they block them in every possible way

  • I think the title doesn’t say what the piece is about. In her case: Looks aren’t everything but they are a lot. I mean she says herself that bc she is a white, beautiful woman she has had a lot of benefits. This doesn’t mean that she is necessarily happy and feels good about herself as well.

  • Actually loooks give happiness for others and money give insecurity to others and for self peace ✌️ u should b completely control of your mind or u never feel happiness and secure with beauty and money

  • being pretty is not all it's cracked up to be. i have seen beautiful people being broken by ugly jealous people. the sexualization and potential dangers that come with being pretty still scares me. by the way happily fat and ugly here, no media is going to tell this disenfranchised aboriginal woman what to be..Do you know what I find weird though people from my Rez don't treat me good, yet people of any other community or race treat me like gold and I am grateful for that! nothing but love for you all, sorry if i am off topic

  • It took a lot of courage to come out and speak the truth. Thank you for being honest.😍👍

  • One doesn't care about the things that one has. One cares about things that one doesn't have. People are greedy. But once they get what they want, they don't care about it and lose interest. It's reality.

  • My question is, did any ugly lady ever say that looks don't matter? U're kidding me

  • Yes aren't everything but something of everything

  • She turned orthodox jewish in 5 seconds with that skirt.

  • I think the point she was trying to make was that you get treatet based your looks a lot and that it's unfair and that doesn't indicate how capable of a person you are. And even if you're lucky it doesn't mean that you're happy. Not that looks don't matter, it's just that it's not everything.

  • Most people should watch the video again . U guys dont understand anything.

    Stop bashing her.

  • And here she comes the typical woman that can't avoid talking about race and ethnicity. She just couldn't help it. You totally ruined what could have been an interesting talk and yep looks sometimes are pretty much everything when it comes to getting a better, higher playing and more interesting job and in most if not all social interactions.

  • Poor little rich girl

  • You dont look like a model.

  • I commend you Cameron for your raw honesty on the benefits you have received/receive from being beautiful. Transparency on this topic is rare. What’s even rarer and more commendable (in my opinion) is your courage to publicly admit and discuss that you have insecurities too, just like the dang rest of us! As a woman, I appreciate you sharing this with me! That’s a very personal AND powerful insight from someone who’s physical features are idolized by the media, thus the public. Although I’m not a super model, I am a white female American, so I appreciate the reminder that I do receive certain benefits from something I had nothing to do with, and that on the flip side of that, there are obstacles that others will have to overcome through no fault of their own. Great message. Great depth. Great delivery. You go girl!! 😘

  • LOVE this talk so much! And more people need to actually try and watch the video before trying to blabber the same thing over and over again based on the title alone. Seriously, it's not even that long.

  • first model who admits she won a genetic lottery; thank you !! I am a daughter of an average italian mother, who is average height and weight; monica bellucci is not the typical italian woman; and so accept who you are doesnt mean dont make any effort to be the best version of your self….I lost insecurity somehow, when I gained power over what people think of me and my looks…. and above all, not being a model helps to accept that I am not perfect and yet feel charming 🙂 enjoy

  • Um, lots of males who dress up as female to be models. Take a closer look friends, its male

  • She's so gorgeous

  • It's a mix of lies and truths, what do we do in these cases? Yes, you look beautiful because you have the profile that heterosexual men like (I am not hetero sexual btw, ew – see, here I am deconstructing the norms, by showing contempt to something that most people admire and aspire to.) Now, black and latino teenagers also fit profiles, these guys are usually more prone to being violent and criminal. Are they simply being discriminated for something they don't deserve? Maybe, but the reality is many of them are indeed criminals, or dishonest, or bad character. These are profiles and they have some truth to them. And just like profilings have bad traits, they also have good traits. So, your speech is biased towards their good sides, whilst totally ignoring the bad side.

  • I have the heart breaking impression that no one is really understanding what she's trying to say. :-/ I thought this Ted Talk was …. my ah-ah-moment.

  • It's just funny how you all don't get it – she has the look and still doesn't have everything – therefore she says: Looks aren't everything.
    Seriously how stupid are people here?

  • I love how the majority of these comments didn’t even listen to what she was saying… and instead just shared their preconceived notions while she was trying to explain they weren’t 100% true

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