Naomi Campbell: Triumph over Adversity
The road to success is not always smooth, and for Naomi Campbell, it was paved with obstacles, some of which were due to the color of her skin. In the new Apple TV+ documentary The Super Models, Campbell opens up about the challenges she faced throughout her fashion career, alongside fellow models Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford. Together, they share their stories from the ’80s and ’90s, shedding light on the dark side of the industry and the perseverance required to overcome it.
Racism Early On
Naomi Campbell’s journey began in an Afro-Jamaican household in the U.K., where she first encountered racism at a young age. She vividly recalls being called the N-word in elementary school at the mere age of five. Unwilling to accept bullying based on the color of her skin, she stood her ground. Campbell explained, “My mother was paying my school fees just like everybody else. I had every right to be there, so take your bullying somewhere else, is how I felt.”
A New Beginning in America
When Campbell moved to the U.S. to pursue modeling, she faced a different kind of struggle. Modeling was not highly regarded in her family, and her mother had no idea she was even involved in it. However, Campbell was determined to forge her own path, despite the warnings of racism and prejudice in America, especially in the southern states. She recalls, “I started to understand culturally that I was going to have to work really hard to feel accepted. There was no way I could go back home with my tail between my legs… I was going to go harder and further.”
Barriers and Bonding
Life in a new place, as a Black woman, presented its own set of challenges for Campbell. She experienced firsthand the discrimination and bias that existed. She recounts instances where taxis would ignore her but stop for her white counterparts like Christy Turlington. Campbell shares, “I would put my hands out many times on New York City streets, and the taxis would fly by. Then Christy would put out her hand, and they would stop. The guy would be like, ‘I don’t want to go to Brooklyn,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not going to Brooklyn.’ I was just like, why is he saying that? It didn’t strike me until, you know, Christy would have to stand out in front of me, get me a taxi to get it to work.”
Despite the challenges, Campbell found solace in her “sisters” within the modeling industry. Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista became her pillars of support. They stood up for her when faced with discrimination. Evangelista bravely confronted designers and agencies, even threatening not to work unless Campbell was also booked. Their unwavering support fueled Campbell’s determination on her toughest days.
Despite the setbacks and barriers she faced, Naomi Campbell emerged as one of the most influential models in the world. Her accomplishments include being the first Black model to cover Vogue France in August 1988 and to open a Prada show in 1997. Campbell’s presence has graced numerous beauty campaigns, and she continues to captivate audiences on runways to this day.
Naomi Campbell’s road to success was not an easy one. She confronted racism, fought against discrimination, and defied societal expectations. Through it all, she emerged as a trailblazer, inspiring generations of aspiring models and proving that resilience and determination can overcome any obstacle.