When it comes to fashion David Bowie knows a lot about it and what Cameron Russell has recently been talking about at TEDx Mid-Atlantic, in which she described herself as having won “a genetic lottery.” In ‘China Girl’ Bowie sings, “I’ll give you eyes of blue” and it was Hitler and his top brass that talked a lot about being white, with blue eyes, and tall. David Bowie is married to a former supermodel Iman, who once told me, “David always says when you go out you should look like art”. While Iman broke the colour barrier you will learn from Cameron Russell that majority of the models selected for shows are white.
Iman would go to acting classes and Bowie and I would go out to dinner, always working on the craft there just are not that many roles for women of colour, David told me. Soon Iman started her own cosmetic company catering to women of colour.
Modeling is one of the few professions where women actually out-earn men. And across all jobs, studies have found that more attractive women earn more. A woman’s value is too often skin-deep. In 2004 a study found that resumes with very African-American-sounding names were 50 percent less likely to get called for an initial interview. And racial bias in salaries is overwhelming. While white women make an average of 78 cents for every man’s dollar, for African-American women that number drops to 62 cents, and for Hispanic women to 54 cents.
Physical appearance plays an enormous role in who gets seen. When women and other marginalized groups do get access to the media, they often have to fit into a narrow definition of what the people in charge are looking for. Women, for example, are more likely to be portrayed as victims when they get news coverage, and are more likely to be depicted wearing sexy clothing when they are cast in Hollywood’s leading roles.
I could tell you horror stories of actress sitting down with me for lunch and asking me if I thought they got a boob job or the nose fixed it would help them land a part. I always told them, just be good at the craft of acting. Some listened others did not. I had friends who were plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills and going to one of their parties guests came to say hello and asked me how I knew the doctor? I told them “I used to be white”, for a minute they paused to ponder if that could have been possible. Then again I was living in a land Hollywood where looks are everything, and those loosing their looks try everything to hold on to it.
There is a lot one could say about Cameron Russell, but why bother when you can hear it directly from her. Below is a short video clip of her modeling just to give you an idea what she has been up too, if you are not up on your modeling homework and then her talk at the presentation entitled “Looks aren’t Everything. Believe me, I’m a Model” at TEDx Mid-Atlantic, in which she described herself as having won “a genetic lottery.”, In October 2012.
Most of the time we don’t do those things to make ourselves happy, we do them for someone else. I think we should start talking about that. – Cameron Russell