Dressing for success...suprising secrets from a top model

By Neil Patrick

We live in an age where what we look like plays an unreasonably large part in our life chances. And even though we know that such superficial judgments are morally and rationally wrong, most people still persist with them.

We all know that we have a few seconds when we meet someone new before they decide who we are and what they think about us. If they like how we look, we’ll likely be more successful than if they don’t.

So if you’re a model, you ought to know a thing or two about how what you look like affects how people see you. And it's true, but not perhaps in the way you'd expect.

Being a model is, in the words of Cameron Russell, possible because she won a genetic lottery. She’s 26 years old, tall, slender, has very shiny hair and is white. She spends her time posing in front of cameras so that fashion companies can sell more of their stuff. She has the job that millions of young women aspire to.

Since beginning her modelling career at the age of 16, Russell has worked with numerous successful photographers including Steven Meisel, Craig McDean, and Nick Knight. Her pictures have appeared in Vogue and Numéro. She has featured in advertising campaigns and fashion shows for many fashion companies including Benetton, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Versace, Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren, Victoria's Secret, and Diane von Fürstenberg.

She got into modelling because her mother had a friend who worked at Ford Models and she signed with that agency in 2003. She later moved on to DNA Model Management in 2006, switched to Women Management in 2008, and finally moved to Elite Model Management in 2011.

          Cameron Russell         Credit: F8 at English Wikipedia

This talk by Russell at TEDx demonstrates in the starkest possible way, how the way we look and dress affects how others perceive us.

When originally released, it went viral under the title, "Looks aren't everything...trust me, I'm a model".

It’s actually a kind of reverse makeover. It also shows how the images we see every day in the media are totally manufactured and do not in any way reflect the true nature of the people they depict.

She admits she is insecure and that models are some of the most physically insecure people you will ever meet. Suddenly it doesn’t sound quite such a wonderful career after all…

She has a social conscience too as she shows when she says: "it was difficult to unpack a legacy of gender and racial oppression when I am one of the greatest beneficiaries".

Her work doesn’t make her feel particularly fulfilled and I suspect she is smart enough to realize that she cannot rely on her modelling income to carry her through her thirties and forties, let alone her middle age.

In her own words, she is cashing in on her inheritance. And who can blame her?

So what can we take out of all this? Well first, I think it shows that we shouldn't make presumptions about anyone’s character or capabilities just because they are good looking. Second, that being a model like most jobs has its fair share of drudgery.

And last but not least, sadly there’s no sign that people are going to change their habit of making judgments about any of us based on how we look. But at least we can all choose what we wear.

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