Betsy Leimbigler TEDx: Modeling and Academia

Shaaz Nasir

Tedx uOttawa

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring bright minded people together to share a TED-like experience.

Mindthis Fashion and Foreign Affairs Columnist Betsy Leimbigler was one of the 4 student presenters, and her talk highlighted the creativity not only of fashion but also the idea of modeling contributing to her academic experiences and personal development.

The talk took place on October 13th, 2012 where  deep discussions in small groups were sparked in various areas ranging from science to university lifestyles. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including uOttawa’s, are self-organized.

Is Modeling and Academia Mutually Exclusive?

Betsy Leimbigler TEDx - Modeling and AcademiaBetsy explained how she used to perceive fashion and University studies as separate, but began to see how modeling furthered her interest in her academic work, particularly in political studies, gender and ethnicity.  She told the audience the story of how she began modeling, as well as a bit of background as to what it means to be modeling through a professional agency. Some of her anecdotes included being teased for being too tall as a child, agencies that asked her to modify her looks, and how her favourite part of modeling is the creativity and fantasy of the runway. Her 10-minute talk did not criticize or laud the industry – rather, the purpose was to lay out her experiences, describe the creativity of fashion, and discuss how it contributed to her education.

Betsy wound the talk up with three key points learned through modeling that are applicable to all of life situations. 1) being proud of who you are. Modeling can help develop a sense of self and a sense of confidence, especially in regards to height. 2) staying true to yourself and knowing your personal values. This means knowing what you are comfortable with and what you prioritize. 3) Never taking rejection too seriously.

Contextualizing the Worlds of Modeling and Academia

She explored what it’s like to be normalized in an environment that seems quite far removed from our realities at an University. Furthermore, how far removed a young model’s experience on set is from the product he or she may be selling. After getting mixed messages from very different social circles while growing up, Betsy began questioning the ethics of modeling, “So much of modeling is based off of image, reputation, and of course measurements. I’ve seen in others, as well as experienced myself, the highs and lows of success and how bizarre it is to sign away your control over your body to an agency.”

Yet,  Betsy focused on the positives of the industry as she confidently asserted,  “I can safely say that modeling is the major reason that I started getting interested in women’s issues, feminism, and politics — because the power dynamics are blatant in modeling. I’m also fascinated by ethnicity and representation of beauty, all central to the beauty and modeling industry…over the years I’ve been able to grow, learn, fail, succeed, toughen up, and observe how every model has a different experience in this massive industry”

Mind This Model Stereotype

It’s clear that both the modeling and academia world are not mutually exclusive but actually can complement each other with the right mind set. I will be the first to admit that only about a year ago I bought into the stereotypes models faced. Models are just self absorbed people who have little to offer but their looks, they’re just dumb, were my thoughts. Thus one could imagine, with that terrible mind set, how skeptical I was when Betsy applied to join Mindthis.

Within the first 25 seconds of the interview, I knew my previous prejudices were unfounded and in fact I was the one who was “dumb”.  It’s easy to judge an industry after watching a few tv shows or browsing a few magazine advertisements. This is why Mindthis aims to bring unique and bright columnists like Betsy from around the world who push our reader’s boundaries and perceptions.

Mindthis congratulates TEDx for featuring Betsy while continuing to break down stereotypes and proving that modeling is a field filled with intellectuals who are shaping our society for the better. Our generation must understand that the modeling world is one inhabited by practitioners in biology, mathematicians, political theorists, musicians, business leaders, philanthropists and world academics just to name a few.

Watch Betsy Leimbigler’s TEDx Talk

Tedx uOttawa was organized by Jozef Spiteri – Project Manager, Ethan Plato – Event Coordinator and their team of dedicated students who not only took on a very challenging task but delivered one of Ottawa’s finest events in recent years.