Image is powerful
Image is Powerful. Image is Superficial.
Cameron Russell is a underwear model. She has walked runways for Victoria’s Secret and been on the cover of Vogue Magazine. In her Ted Talk in January 2013 entitled; ‘Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model’ she imparted some of her 10 years of experience in the modelling world and answered the questions that she is commonly asked with a brutally honest twist.
Her message begins with the statement that: Image is powerful but also superficial. She describes that for the past few centuries we have defined beauty not just as health and youth and symmetrical features – which is what we are genetically programmed to admire. But we have defined it as tall, skinny, feminine, white women (what is known in the industry as a ‘sexy girl’). This legacy has been built upon in the modelling world and social media. She, as a ‘genetically blessed’ individual has been cashing out on this legacy. Despite some very famous ethnic supermodels for example; Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Liu Wen in 2007 an NYU Ph.D student counted all the models on the runway and found that only 27 of the 677 models hired were non-white.
She questions why young girls want to be models when there is a world of other possibilities. From poetry to medicine; these young girls have the capacity to be anything, do anything or achieve anything they choose. However, if it is the fashion world they want to be in why not try to be the boss? Be the CEO of H&M or the Editor in Chief of Vogue Magazine! Create your own vision instead of being someone else’s.
The modelling world is a very fake place, with pre-production, post-production, makeup artists, stylists, photographers, lighting and touch-ups the pictures that are taken are constructions created to give a certain image. They are not pictures of her. She describes her first ever photo shoot in a bikini when she was 16. She hadn’t even had her first period yet. But she looks sexy and sophisticated and much older than she really is. The photo along side shows her only a few months before on the beach with her grandmother. This message is similar to that of Enessa O’neil. The instagram model took a stand against the fakeness of social media by adding truthful captions to all her posts.
What she is trying to demonstrate is that young girls want to be models based on what they see in magazines. 53% of 13 year old American girls are unhappy with their bodies and this figure grows to 78% by the time they reach the age of 17. They think that if they have skinnier thighs and have shinier hair, like models do, that their life will be so much happier and fabulous. When in fact models are probably the most physically insecure women on the planet.
She hopes what young girls and women take away from this talk is that we should all feel more comfortable acknowledging the power of image in our perceived successes and our perceived failures.
Cameron Russell’s Ted Talk is available at: Ted Talk
By Olivia Hobden