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A model uses her success to underscore some important points about image and privilege.

She exposes that there's a lot more that's fake besides the Photoshopping.

A model uses her success to underscore some important points about image and privilege.

It'd be difficult to find a single one of us who hasn't been influenced by advertising and images.

It's so subtle that a lot of us could probably even tell ourselves we haven't been influenced because it's like the air we breathe — it's around us constantly and we don't even think about it that much.

Case in point — I bet you can finish this slogan without even Googling it: "Choosy moms choose ______." If you don't know the brand, I'd bet you're an outlier.


We're constantly absorbing data and impressions from imagery and ads whether we know it or not, and companies pay big money in the race to be the first to push their impressions into our faces. They certainly aren't paying that kind of cash for something if it isn't effective.

Let model Cameron Russell break it down because she nails it.

She's had success as a model for about a decade, and she took to the TED stage to share some unique insight from her journey.

Here are three great aha moments she brings to the audience.

1. Image can be a powerful influence over our perceptions, and some people are more able to wield it than others.

She came out looking like this, knowing it was going to give a certain first impression.

All images from TED/YouTube.

Then she did the first ever on-stage wardrobe change at a TED talk.

And then she explained why she'd do something so awkward:

"Image is powerful. But also, image is superficial. I just totally transformed what you thought of me in six seconds."

You'd never guess that she hadn't even had a boyfriend before this photo was snapped, right?

2. In response to girls asking whether they can be models, she explains that while there's nothing wrong with being a model, it's not a career path.

Cameron likens modeling to winning some kind of genetic and societal lottery. Her message to young people: Set your sights on something else.

"Be my boss. Because I'm not in charge of anything and you could be the editor-in-chief of American Vogue. … Saying that you want to be a model when you grow up is akin to saying you want to win the Powerball when you grow up. It's out of your control, and it's awesome, and it's not a career path."

She demonstrates what she's learned from 10 years of modeling: what direction to look, how to pose, and the art of looking back at imaginary friends for the camera 500 times.


3. What we see in magazines is a complete fabrication and a construction from something else entirely.

She wants people to realize just how fake what they're looking at in advertising really is. Cameron illustrates it with images of what she really was like during certain times of her life, in contrast with how magazine images portrayed her at the same times.

This side-by-side comparison is a magazine shoot and a family photo taken in close succession. A little different, right?

How much does it floor you that these photos were taken within a few months of each other?

Her entire talk is really fascinating and invites us to look at the advertising we see in a much more educated light.

Cameron makes some incredible points about how she's benefitted from a stacked deck in our society all because she won the genetic lottery, and she juxtaposes that against the different life experiences of others — all based on how society perceives their looks.

As one of my favorite bands says about media and advertising, "There is a war going on for your mind." If you're thinking critically about it, you're winning.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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