Cameron Russell “definitely burned a couple of bridges” when she started modelling.
The 26-year-old star hit the headlines in 2012 when she gave a talk at TEDxMidAtlantic, in which she insisted looks aren’t everything and said her career was based on a “genetic lottery” she’d been lucky enough to win.
She has always been outspoken, which didn’t always make her popular when she first started in the industry.
“When I was 16 I definitely burned a couple of bridges by saying, ‘I won’t do this!’ I was not diplomatic about it. I came to a fitting and was like, ‘I don’t wear fur, cancel this show!’ Or, ‘I don’t want to go topless.’ A lot of [the clothing] is quite sheer, so I’d ask for a retouch,” she told British magazine Elle. “Remember, I wanted to be president, so I was quite outspoken and aggressive. There were a couple of people who didn’t work with me because of that. They were like: ‘You’re annoying.’”
Cameron is proud of her career to date as it’s given her financial freedom. She wouldn’t deter anyone from following in her footsteps, but worries young girls have unrealistic dreams about the industry.
She first lived in a models’ apartment in New York City when she was 16 and it was an eye-opening experience. One of her roommates slept in a park for three days after she arrived in the city from Brazil too early.
“There was a girl from Florida who was a jiu-jitsu black belt – a 16-year-old girl who looked so sweet but could kill you with her bare hands… It was two bunk beds to a room and the bathroom was constantly in use,” she recalled. “I was bringing in Lucky Charms cereal and one day an agent put a stop to that. She said, ‘You’re making all the girls fat.’ They took it off our grocery order. That was the most dramatic thing that happened.”
Cameron again spoke of the importance of young models thinking about the future. The nature of the career means most women are unlikely to do it forever and she always wants ladies to think about “using their minds” more.
Part of this comes from Cameron’s mother Robin, who founded vehicle sharing firm Zipcar. Robin showed her daughter there are more important things in life than appearance when she was growing up; sometimes with embarrassing consequences.
“I was bullied at school. My first day of high school I wore brown boys’ corduroys that my mom had sewn Sesame Street elastic into – they were my coolest pants – and a lime green Patagonia fleece that my mom found at Goodwill. I loved fleece. And then these hilarious Payless [an affordable shoe retailer] shoes, because my mom wouldn’t let me have the skateboarder shoes I wanted, so I have non-brand shoes and she would then Sharpie over the logo, so they didn’t look like they were from Payless. And I showed up thinking, ‘I am looking fly today!’ I came home that day and said, ‘Mom, all the girls at school are women,’” she laughed.
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