Looks Aren’t Everything

Cameron Russell partially establishes her ethos before this Ted Talk begins. The title “Looks aren’t everything, Believe me, I’m a model”, establishes her expertise on the topic of beauty due to her profession. She further develops her ethos as she begins to talk, stating that she has been a model for the past 10 years. She uses the audience’s knowledge of the connection between modeling and beauty to present the idea that since she is knowledgeable about the art of modeling, she is also knowledgeable about the art of looks. After establishing credibility she further expands her ethos through self deprecating humor. She changes her clothes on stage to demonstrate the difference one’s presentation can make on perceived credibility. She says “that was awkward” after changing her clothes in front of the audience. By laughing at herself she is able to build a connection with the audience.

Russell evokes logos to appeal to her ethos. She discusses an NYU study conducted on runway models. According to the study only 27 out of the 677 hired models were non-white. Less than four percent of the working models were non-white. She uses this to show that the modeling industry is highly racialized and controlled, a superficial system in need of examination. She also states that last year in New York of the 140,000 teenagers who were stopped and frisked, 86% of them were black and Latino, and most of them were young men. She discusses how our looks can be used as weapons against us, especially when it comes to race.

To finish her presentation Russell further expands her ethos through her humility. She acknowledges the privileges she has received in life through her looks. She states that she has been able to travel, has a solid career, and often receives no citations when pulled over by the police due to winning the “genetic lottery”. Russell is aware that she is actively benefiting from the current system, stating; “It was difficult to unpack a legacy of gender and racial oppression when I am one of the biggest beneficiaries”. The audience is able to trust Russell’s speech due to her honesty.


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