For two years now, my daughter has had one dream that keeps me up at nights: she wants to be a model when she grows up. So when Victoria's Secret supermodel Cameron Russell showed up at a recent TED session to talk about girls growing up to become supermodels, I was all set to be angry. And then she surprised us all.
Cameron Russell, who has modeled lingerie in televised fashion shows and appeared in campaigns for the likes of Prada and Oscar de la Renta, who has been a model since she was a teenage girl, admitted that she does NOT think girls in America should be following her down the catwalk.
Well, glory, glory, hallelujah! I can't agree more. If only it were all that simple.
Russell discussed the troubling fact that some 78 percent of girls in America are unhappy with their bodies. She posited that if she were able to talk to girls, she would ask them why they dream of being models, suggesting instead:
You know, you can be anything. You could be the President of the United States or the inventor of the next Internet or a ninja cardio-thoracic surgeon poet, which would be awesome because you would be the first one.
I love her spirit!
But as the mother of a girl still talking about being a model, I have to admit it's not that easy. My daughter is quite intelligent. She is a reader. She is being raised by two parents equally devoted to promoting girl power and gender equality. She's also being raised by a recovering bulimic who is particularly careful about how we talk about our bodies, and incredibly fearful of the chance that a career in modeling would send her down my rabbit hole.
All that said, I can't talk her out of her dream of being a model.
Yes, I have made gentle suggestions that she pursue other paths. I have laid down the law that she must attend college, even put forth the idea that there are fashion institutes where she can get a good education (and hopefully choose another career path!). I'm pretty confident she will give up on modeling one day because kids tend to change their minds.
But the really troubling part of all of this, what makes it so hard to do as Cameron Russell suggests and tell her that modeling is a no-go, is that I can't simply piss on her dreams.
She's a kid, and right now, that's what she wants. All too soon, she will find out that -- if nothing else -- her shorter-than-most parents did not pass on the leggy gene required for a career in the industry. She will be disappointed. She will move on.
Or maybe not. My high school guidance counselor once told me that I was the only student who showed up in her office every year from sixth grade through senior year saying that she wanted the same thing. And in case you're wondering: I wanted to be a writer ... and well, you can see where I ended up.
If she's half as stubborn as I am, watch out.
If it happens, I will have all the worries Cameron Russell has, and then some. But I've done what I can to raise her with a high self esteem, to help her love her body, to make her a woman more like Russell. That will have to do.
Check out Russell's whole talk:
Would you tell your daughter she can't be a model?
Image via TEDxTalks/YouTube