STYLE

Cameron Russell's TED Talk Exposes The Truth Behind 'Sexy' Fashion Photo Shoots

08/12/2015 14:43 GMT | Updated 08/12/2015 14:59 GMT

A model has chosen to expose the truth about the modelling industry in a powerful new TED talk.

Cameron Russell, who has been a model for 10 years, admits that her career doesn't always make her happy.

Her nine minute talk, titled 'Looks aren't everything. Believe me, I'm a model', reveals how her successful career is based on gender and racial discrimination.

Russell's message to young people? Set your sights on something else.

cameron russell

In the video, Russell answers the questions people always ask her about modelling, with a refreshingly honest twist.

How do you become a model?

"I always say: 'I was scouted', but that means nothing," says Russell. "The real way I became a model is that I won the genetic lottery and I am the recipient of a legacy."

Russell describes this 'legacy' as the way our society has defined beauty for the past few centuries: "Not just as health and youth and symmetry - that we're biologically programmed to admire, - but also tall, slender figures and femininity and white skin.

"This is a legacy that was built for me, and a legacy that I've been cashing in on," she said, before mentioning the terrible lack of diversity in the fashion industry.

cameron russell

Can I be a model when i=I grow up?

"What I really want to say to these little girls, is 'why'? You could 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 is really cool because you'd be the first one.

"If, after this amazing list, they still tell me they want to be a model, 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 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."

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Do they retouch all the photos?

"Yeah, they do retouch all the photos, but that is only a small component of what's happening," says Russell.

Russell goes on to show a number of her high fashion shoots juxtaposed next to real life photos of her from around the same time.

cameron russell

"This was the first time I'd worn a bikini, I hadn't even got my period yet," she said of the above magazine photo, shown next to a picture of her with her grandma taken only a few months earlier.

"These pictures are not pictures of me, they are constructions by professionals," she said, noting the hairstylists, makeup artists, photographers, pre-production and post-production people that helped to "build" the image.

Do you get free stuff?

While Russell does mention her abundance of eight inch heels, she reveals most of the things she gets for free are in "real life" such as being given free clothes in shops when she forgets her purse, or being let off from speeding tickets.

She notes how unfair this is as "there are people paying a cost for what they look like and not who they are," referencing the biased treatment of black and hispanic youth by police in America.

cameron russell

What is it like to be a model?

"The thing we never say on camera is, 'I am insecure'. I have to think about what I look like every day.

"If you were ever wondering: if I have thinner thighs or shiner hair, will I be happier? You only have to meet a group of models - because they have the thinnest thighs and shiniest hair and coolest clothes... and they are the most physically insecure people on the planet."

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