“I won a genetic lottery and I am a recipient of a legacy” – Cameron Russell
My wonderful friend and colleague Cameron Russell just did her TEDxMidAtlantic talk on the imagery of perceived success and failures. As a supermodel she’s definetely speaking truth to power.
I thought it took a lot of guts for her to admit that “it was difficult to unpack a legacy of gender and racial oppression when [she’s] one of the biggest beneficiaries.” I wanted to talk more with her about the power of truth and images and what was going through her mind when she decided to question a very lucrative privilege.
PCP: Was there an internal struggle you had to overcome to address this issue of privilege on a very public stage?
Cameron: Yes, absolutely. I was worried first and foremost that I didn’t really deserve to be on the TEDx stage. But then I figured everyone has a good story to tell if they just practice telling it. Once I started writing the talk I struggled to find a line between critique and humility, the good and the bad. Fashion, like anything one tries to be honest about, is complex, the story isn’t as clear-cut as the press often makes it out to be.
It was the first time I’d spoken publicly about modeling in such an honest (and lengthy) way. In part this was because it was the first real opportunity I had to do so. But also, I was more ready to speak confidently about modeling then I ever had been. I know it might sound strange but for a long time (the first 9+ years) of my career I lived an almost dual life. As a student in high school, and then in college, I didn’t talk about modelling because it was often negatively received if not just distracting. I grew up in a very academic feminist household and city (Cambridge, MA) where being a model was definitely not seen as cool. But after graduating and working as a model for a decade I am more comfortable sharing this part of my life and speaking truthfully about a job I’ve had for ten years that has been, for the most part, an incredible blessing.
PCP: How did you come to use TED as a platform to get this message out?
Cameron: My mom spoke at TED and I came as her date. When I was there I met Nate Mook who is a TEDx organizer and put on this year’s TEDx MidAtlantic. He asked me to speak.
PCP: Has there been any backlash from the model/fashion community?
Cameron: So far none at all.
PCP: Is there anything you wished you could’ve included or talked about or left out for fear of offending people?
Cameron: Giving an eight minute talk is hard! I cut out a TON. When I started to practice a few stories it became obvious that some topics aren’t as easily expressed in the TED format and require more time to do them justice. I thought there were interesting things to be said about money, sexuality, and power that required more time.
Thanks, Cameron! Check out her latest project, Big Bad Labs
, which brings together artists, technologists, and strangers to create and collaborate in public space.