Cameron Russell: It’s Our Responsibility To Use Our Voice For The Benefit Of Others

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In case you missed it, please do yourself a favor and watch Victoria’s Secret model Cameron Russell’s powerful TED Talk from 2013 where she talks about her uber successful career in the fashion biz, and why she tries to persuade girls not to get into modeling. Why? Because when you work in an industry where the pressure to look good is increasing, and by gravity & DNA our bodies are aging, it seems impossible to ever be satisfied.

Instead, this outspoken beauty is encouraging young women to have other ambitions alongside their model careers, and learn why it is important to use your other skill sets, not just your physical assets as a means to make money.

These days, she is known as the “feminist model” by net-a-porter’s The Edit magazine, and chatted with fellow feminist Amanda de Cadanet who is a photographer and creator of ‘The Conversation’ series.

The two spoke about Cameron’s passion to see the younger generation of models live with confidence and own their careers, rather than allow an industry steeped in insecurities dictate how they see themselves.

Cameron says she never grew up thinking  being”good looking” could be a career choice.

“My mother [Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar and a fellow TED talk orator] is a total feminist. She never talked about beauty at home, so I never thought about being pretty,” she says.

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Growing up with a feminist mother definitely impacted her in a big way, and now she is using her own experiences to pass on wisdom to other up-and-coming models.

“I advise [girls] to get a good education and feel confident that they have another career option. Without an alternative, the pressure to succeed increases. I try to parent young models and tell them that if there are things they don’t like, it’s OK to say no, even if it does burn some bridges. They mustn’t feel guilty about standing up for their beliefs.”

Amanda laments how sexism and diversity is still such a big issue, with women having to fight for a seat at the table despite all the “leaning in” we are doing. This is one of the reasons Cameron started her own online fanzine called ‘Interrupt‘ which is all about giving voices to those who are misrepresented or underrepresented by the media, to have their say in a completely open environment.

“I wasn’t exposed to mass media as a kid. We had no television at home; my mom read to us. So when I started modeling, I noticed the power of the media and how, whether I’m talking to a senator or a 13-year-old, when they hear that I’m a model, they want to talk to me. That led me to think about the under-representation of women or people of color in the Senate, and how part of the remedy to that could be giving them a voice by showcasing their stories in powerful and viral ways within mass media.”

For Cameron, the body-image issue goes much deeper than the fashion industry. It is inherently about racism and sexism. While she enjoys and thrives in her career, she says it is about how we can use whatever platform we have right now to make a difference.

“The long-term solution is for women to speak up and change all of their working environments.”

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We couldn’t agree more. The fact that there is such a diverse group of women operating in all sorts of industries and taking a stand against injustice and prejudice is very powerful. Cameron is doing it, and so is Amanda.

“I have always believed that if you have a voice, it is your social responsibility to use it for the benefit of others. That is what Cameron is doing so well: she is using her highly visible platform as a model to start a much-needed and valuable conversation, in an eloquent and passionate way. We need as many voices as possible to highlight the misrepresentation of women – every time another voice is heard we are moving in the direction we need to be, which is to ensure women and girls are given their rightful place at the table.”

It’s about time the positive and empowered female voices in the media were at the forefront of culture. These are the messages girls need to be surrounded by from a young age. If there is one thing we hope to do at GTHQ, is join this powerful conversation and add to the growing masses of women dedicated to making a difference.

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