How SELF's February Cover Star Cameron Russell is Shattering Beauty Myths

Model Cameron Russell is accustomed to being a cover star. But this time, for SELF’s February issue, the focus is less on her face. SELF calls her “The model who got 9 million people thinking,” because she gave one of the most-viewed TED Talks, reaching nearly 9.5 million people. 

Her 2012 talk was called, “Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model,” and it explored the importance of image in our everyday world. Russell gave honest answers to questions like, How do you become a model? (“I won a genetic lottery.”) And, Do they retouch the photos? (“These pictures are not pictures of me,” Russell said. “They are constructions.”)

Russell has been modeling for 10 years, walking the runway for noted fashion brands including Victoria’s Secret and Chanel. But she’s proud that her reputation has become more about her opinions. “It doesn’t matter how many covers I’ve shot,” she told SELF. “When people on the street stop me, it’s to talk about TED.” 

Her interest in activism started young. In elementary school, she volunteered to intern for local political campaigns. “I was always up for a debate,” she said. Her mom, Robin Chase, encouraged independent thought, limiting TV and promoting books on tape. Because Chase didn’t wear makeup or mention looks, Russell said, “I grew up thinking it didn’t matter at all.” 

In SELF’s behind-the-scenes video and onstage at TED, it’s clear that Russell has remained grounded. She sees how privileged she is, and she’s working to create a more transparent world. Russell knows her career has given her a platform to make a difference: “My TED talk was about how models get too much attention,” she said with a laugh. “I had a feeling it would get a lot of viewers!”

The full SELF story will be on newsstands January 27

Photo credit: Thomas Whiteside


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Tags: Activism, Self