Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Model's Perspective on Looks

In my Sociology class the other day we were talking about gender inequality, and my TA showed us this video to prove a point he was making about women are controlled by beauty. 


Cameron Russell is an American fashion model. She has worked with numerous famous fashion photographers, has been featured in advertising campaigns for companies like Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein, and has walked in fashion shows for designers including Chanel, Prada, and Victoria's Secret. What a life, right?

Well, not really, according to Cameron. She enjoys her career, I'm sure, and I know she is very grateful for all the opportunities she has been able to have in her life. But, as she tells us in this TED Talks she did, there is a lot more to modeling than skinny women and pretty clothes. Her main focus in the power  of image, and I think it's a video every girl needs to watch.



Source: http://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_russell_looks_aren_t_everything_believe_me_i_m_a_model.html



Here is the transcript to the video as well:

So the first question is, how do you become a model? And 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 me 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 cardio-thoracic 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 cardio-thoracic surgeons, it can just be distilled right into -- right now. So if the photographer is right there and the light is right there, like a nice HMI, and the client says, "Cameron, we want a walking shot," well then 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.
The next question people always ask me 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 with me.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?" I do have too many 8-inch heels which I never get to wear, except for earlier, but the free stuff that I getis 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 percent 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 percent don't like their bodies, and that number goes to 78 percent 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 and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes, and they're the most physically insecure women probably on the planet.
So 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.
(Source: http://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_russell_looks_aren_t_everything_believe_me_i_m_a_model.html)