She has walked the catwalk runways for brands such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and appeared in the pages of Vogue. But Victoria's Secret model Cameron Russell is warning girls away from a modelling career. The 25-year-old, who recently spoke at the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Palm Springs, condemned the fashion's industry's obsession with beautiful, skinny white women.
For the past few centuries we have defined beauty not just as health and youth that we are biologically programmed to admire. But also as tall, slender figures and femininity and white skin. This is a legacy that was built for me and its a legacy that I have been cashing out on.
Warning young girls about the perils of becoming a model, she said:
The real way I became a model is I won a genetic lottery and I became the recipient of a legacy - I've received all these benefits from a deck stacked in my favor....Saying 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 awesome and it's out of your control and it's not a career path.
The talk, which was posted online, has now been viewed more than a million times and grabbed the attention of both the fashion and political worlds.
In a follow-up interview on CNN she said she was the winner of a "genetic lottery" and that her looks merely fit a narrow definition of beauty.
Writing for the channel she explained why she wanted to give the talk because she "wanted to tell an honest personal narrative of what privilege means."
Hard work is not why I have been successful as a model. I'm not saying I'm lazy. But the most important part of my job is to show up with a 23-inch waist, looking young, feminine and white. This shouldn't really shock anyone. Models are chosen solely based on looks. Even if I did give a good talk, is what I have to say more important and interesting than what Colin Powell said? [He spoke at the same event and his talk has about a quarter of the view count.] Like many young people I believe I have potential to make a positive impact in the world. But if I speak from a platform that relies on how I look, I worry that I will not have made room for anyone else to come after me. I will have reinforced that beauty and race and privilege get you a news story.
Miss Russell, who models underwear for Victoria's Secret, studied economics and political science at Columbia University.