Supermodel, actress, singer, entrepreneur, presenter, “youtuber”, activist and philanthropist, Naomi Campbell is one of the most influential models in history and the most famous in the world. Recognized Fashion Icon at the CFDA Awards and named honorary granddaughter of South African leader Nelson Mandela, Naomi Campbell turns 50 with a formidable career behind her back.
Born in the Brixton area of South London, Campbell studied at the Italia Conti Academy theater school and appeared in music videos for Bob Marley’s “Is this Love” and Culture Club: I’ll Tumble “before signing with the Synchro modeling agency, at age 14, when she was discovered by Beth Boldt, while shopping in Covent Garden. Her career took off quickly. Just before turning 16, Campbell appeared on the cover of British magazine Elle.
She was considered by many to be the first black model to appear on the cover of the British edition of Vogue in August 1988, but in reality it was not, since Donyale Luna had already appeared in 1966. She also became the first black model appearing on the cover of the French edition of Vogue (1988), allegedly after his friend and mentor Yves Saint Laurent threatened to withdraw their magazine advertising if they continued to refuse to include black models on their cover. The following year she appeared on the cover of the American edition of Vogue, which marked the first time that a black model had appeared on the cover of the September issue, traditionally the largest and most important of the year.
In 1990, she appeared in George Michael’s video “Freedom 90”. A year later, she was one of the protagonists of Peter Lindbergh’s documentary Models: The Film, participates in the memorable Versace show, along with Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford, was the cover of Time magazine titled Supermodels and appeared, along with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, in the video “In the closet” from the album Dangerous.
We can not forget the epic fall that starred in the Vivienne Westwood fashion show in 1993, which became one of the most remembered moments in the fashion world.
In 1994 she starred in the Prada autumn / winter campaign, becoming the first black model to sign for the Italian firm. And that same year, she debuted as a singer with the song Love and Tears and met Nelson Mandela, with whom she established a close friendship relationship. She collaborated in different charitable causes and named her “honorary granddaughter” three years later.
Together with Christy Turlington, her friend and roommate in New York, and Linda Evagelista, she formed what in the industry was known as the Holy Trinity and opened, together with Elle Macpherson and Claudia Schiffer, the Fashion Cafe in New York. She also posed nude for Playboy magazine and in a series of photos of lesbian eroticism with Madonna for the singer’s famous book, Sex.
However, her skin color made it more difficult for her than the rest and she had to deal with the racism that – even today – is at home in the world of fashion and advertising contracts. While her classmates and friends Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista or Christy Turlington – no one more famous than her – signed lucrative contracts with cosmetic companies, she starred in covers and video clips, opened and closed the most prestigious fashion shows, she was the muse of the end of the century … but was banned from the commercial league until, in 1999, she signed her first cosmetic contract with Cosmopolitan Cosmetics, a division of Wella, through which she launched several fragrances.
In November of that year, she posed with 12 other models for the cover of “Modern Muses” of the millennium edition of American Vogue, filmed by Annie Leibovitz. The following month she appeared on the cover of Playboy. In October 2001, she appeared with rapper Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs on the cover of British Vogue.
Every great celebrity has always been peppered with controversy at some point and Naomi Campbell was no exception. She was accused of receiving so-called “blood diamonds” from the then Liberian President Charles Taylor as a gift during a charity dinner with Nelson Mandela, Quincy Jones, Imran Khan, Mia Farrow and Tony Leung. She was also involved in a narcotics possession lawsuit and has been sentenced to community work for assaulting her assistant. A stain on her record that, luckily, she failed to tarnish her wonderful career.
In 2005, Campbell founded the Fashion for Relief charity, which organized fundraising parades for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, terrorist attacks in India in 2009, earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and Japan in 2011, and also He contributed to the active fight against breast cancer, raising more than £ 4.5 million.
In 2012, Naomi Campbell led, alongside Kate Moss, Karen Elson and Lilly Donaldson, the London Olympics closure.And, in 2013, in an initiative promoted together with the Ethiopian model Imán and the model and activist Bethan Hardison, she published the Balance Diversity manifesto. An open letter in which they explicitly condemned the most international fashion brands that do not have black models both in their fashion shows and in their advertising campaigns.
Naomi Campbell’s fight against racial discrimination in the fashion world is undeniable. During Arise Fashion Week 2010 she raised her powerful voice to appeal to the prestigious Conde Nast publishing group to promote the creation of the African edition of Vogue. However, in 2017 the launch of Vogue Arabia was made public, which led it to reiterate again the need for such creation. “There should be a Vogue Africa. We just had Vogue Arabia, and this should be the next step, ”said Campbell. Taking into account that the weight of the luxury sector in Africa has an exponential growth superior and that generates more than 2.3 million dollars, we hope that one day her dream will come true.
Likewise, when Edward Enninful was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the British edition of Vogue in April 2017, he did not hesitate to count on the supermodel to rise to the top and give top priority to diversity.
The following year, Campbell was named, as we have previously pointed out, Icon of Fashion at the CFDA awards and took the opportunity to highlight her South London heritage and pay tribute to all those black models who are her predecessors and who, along with her, they have managed to pave the way for the new generations. She also participated in the Lagos Fashion Week parading for designers such as Tiffany Amber or Kenneth Izela and in the Leading Women Summit conference organized in Durban by Forbes Africa.
Naomi Campbell is one of the great figures of the late twentieth and twenty-first century. A woman with a powerful and overwhelming personality and an aura so splendid and extraordinary that it can only be overshadowed by Naomi herself.