Since beginning her modeling career at the age of 16, Cameron Russell has worked with numerous photographers including Steven Meisel, Craig McDean and Nick Knight. She has graced the pages of various international editions of Vogue, W, Self Service and Numéro in addition to campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Armani, Oscar de la Renta, and Yves Saint Laurent.
In October 2012, Cameron, a Columbia University alumna, gave a presentation at TEDx Mid-Atlantic. The talk would go on to become one of TED’s 20 most popular talks of all time. In addition to starting her own magazine, Interrupt, and grassroots organization Space-Made, Cameron continues to challenge perceptions and defy expectation.
Your TED talk was one of the 20 most popular TED talks of all time. What does this recognition mean to you?
On the one hand, I know that the very thing I was critiquing — mass media’s obsession with a narrow definition of beauty; skinny, youthful, white, and etc — was also responsible for my talk’s popularity. On the other hand, people email me and come up to me and talk about specific things I said. In those moments, when the talk seems to have inspired real thought, real feelings, in people, I feel confidence in my ability to be vulnerable, to tell stories, to teach, and to write.
You described Interrupt Mag as a “non-hierarchical, anti consumerist, inclusive fashion magazine for the (un)scene.” What do you want readers to get out of this?
Interrupt is an experiment! While we are making each issue, updating the site, editing and re-editing for print, we are always talking to our readers and editors and contributors about what they want media to be. That quote is our most recent declaration of our ideal media outlet. My dream for Interrupt was never to build the most successful magazine, but to constantly interrogate what a media platform is and then try to actually build it. For example, after the first two issues we decided Interrupt should have a rotating editor-in-chief (hence the “non-hierarchical”). Since then each issue has had a different person who curates and creates content.
Feminism has been in the zeitgeist for a number of years, yet of late it has suffered a backlash. What does feminism mean to you and what place does feminism have in 2015?
Feminism is a belief that if we root out gender inequality and find ways to improve women’s social, economic, and political freedom, the world will be better off, there will be less suffering and more happiness. I think in 2015 specifically feminism has served to organize lots of young people, especially online, and focus our conversations and even political action and protest.
The media doesn’t tell you what to think but it does tell you what to think about. What do you think about the role of mass media today, in particular the representations of women?
“Women have less opportunity to contribute to conversations, because they are less likely to own media, be asked for their opinion regardless of their qualifications, be published or be given the chance to tell their story.” – Women Action Media
We need to fix that!
I admire your fearlessness in your pursuit of the truth. It would be easy to rest on your laurels yet you have advocated for women and groups that are marginalized. Why is this advocacy important to you?
I think my generation has to be the activist generation. Not because we are particularly different from any other generation, but because our time demands it. We have to face climate change, and I don’t think our leaders will do the work for us.
Tell us about the genesis of Space-Made and how you plan to evolve the community.
When I started Space-Made I was really inspired by the social justice work I saw artists doing all over New York. I wanted to support, connect, and collaborate with artist activists. I’m not sure exactly what will happen next, but the collaborations and relationships that have come out of the network are really exciting to see. Because social media is being used to organize large groups of people I think media makers who want to get involved are at a really exciting moment. If you can communicate an emotion or message that works millions may regram, repost and respond to it.