Pre-thinking:

Today, television schedules feature many reality shows about the wild and wacky world of modeling. We are taught that being a model is not about just being pretty – but being intellectually, physically and emotionally tough. In this talk, Cameron Russell, a model who has represented such brands as Victoria’s Secret, Ralph Lauren and Chanel, and who’s image has been a staple in Vogue for a decade disagrees. Her observation is that appearance, shaped by genetics and Photoshop plays into an artificial and superficial, not to mention damaging, view of women.

Why should you Listen:

Cameron Russell admits she won “a genetic lottery”: she’s tall, pretty and an underwear model. But don’t judge her by her looks. In this fearless talk, she takes a wry look at the industry that had her looking highly seductive at barely 16 years old.

This talk has had over 9 million views as of the date of this posting. It has stimulated discussion on body image, beauty, as well as appearance, social perception and the image of women

Who is she:

Cameron Russell has spent the last decade modeling. A Victoria’s Secret favorite, she has appeared in multiple international editions of Vogue as well as in ads for brands like Ralph Lauren and Benetton.

Cameron runs the blog ArtRoots.info, which is dedicated to covering grassroots public art and political power. She also experiments with creating street art herself. In addition, Cameron is the director of The Big Bad Lab, which creates participatory art that aims to include people in radical demonstrations of positive social change.

She’s a co-founder of the new web-based magazine Interrupt, about women, identity, the internet and taking action.

Discussion questions:

  1. What was your reaction to Cameron Russell when she entered the stage and began to speak? What message did she send when she changed her clothes?
  2. She said, “So today, for me, being fearless means being honest”. What are some other terms and concepts that have been linked to being fearless?
  3. “If you ever think, ‘If I had thinner thighs and shinier hair, wouldn’t I be happier,” you just need to meet a group of models. They have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes and they are the most physically insecure women, probably, on the planet.” Why would some of THE most beautiful be THE most insecure?
  4. Research some programs, like Girls on the Run, that help young women to develop health self-esteem. Share the information with someone else and get their feedback and their input of other programs. Put the information together on a one page sheet and file it in a place where you can get to it if needed; be on the lookout for people to share your information with – and do not be afraid to do so.
  5. Cameron makes the point that most professional models are white women (677 to 27 ratio), but she really does not develop this theme. What does the statistic say about the advance of diversity an/or multiculturalism in this country. If you have access to international (ie non-American) magazines or if you can find international advertising images on the internet, compare them and try to determine the similarities and differences across culture.
  6. Based upon Cameron’s talk, what messages do you think parents should send to their daughters (and son’s) about the role of appearance? Can you think of some ways that parents could actually get their sons and daughters to listen (and not just tune them out)?

Thigh Gap Surfaces as Teenage Girls New Image Obsession

Looks aren’t everything, believe me, I’m a model with Cameron Russell

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