Naomi Campbell is an icon. One of the original supermodels, her career spans almost three decades, a rarity when so many models are considered “too old” for the industry by the time they hit their early 20’s. But Naomi–she needs no last name–is no ordinary model, she was the first black woman on the cover of French Vogue in 1988, and the first black woman on the cover of American Vogue’s September Issue a year later. Appearances in George Michael’s classic model-filled Freedom! 90’, and Michael Jackson’s steamy In the Closet music videos, cemented her place in pop-culture, in case there was any doubt that she belonged there.
Now in her 40’s, her career is doing better than ever; she recently landed the Burberry Spring/Summer 2015 campaign alongside model Jourdan Dunn, and is slated to appear in Fox’s new TV show Empire. We sat down for a quick chat with Campbell and it’s clear that she shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Yahoo Style: Tell me how the Burberry campaign came about?
Naomi Campbell: Mario (Testino) and Christopher (Bailey) came up with this idea of having myself and Jourdann be the two girls for Spring/Summer 2015, and when I got the phone call I was like “No, I don’t believe this, it’s probably not going to work out.” I called up Mario and I said “I want to come on a go-see, I want you to see how I look.” So I did a go-see for Mario! At 44 years old!
YS: A go-see! Do you go on many go-sees?
NC: No! I don’t go on go-sees anymore. But if I’m committing to something, I’m willing to do what needs to be done. It’s an ad campaign and you need to make sure you’re on point in terms of what they want. I need to talk about hair, and figure out if they want long or short or bangs because I’d rather not get it done on the “day of,” I just want to get to work and focus on the job.
YS: People have responded very well to the campaign, and one of the reasons is that it features two black models together, which is rare.
NC: I love that Christopher dared to do it. It was done in a very elegant way, and I don’t feel in any way whatsoever that it was done because of a trend, it was simply what he and Mario wanted to do. That’s why I love it, and that’s what I felt on the set, which is why it was so much fun and everyone was so enthusiastic. There was no agenda behind this, it was real.
YS: Do you see any changes now from when you started modeling?
NC: There’s a huge difference in the world of modeling these days, it’s much more of a corporate business. I mean, people look at your Twitter and Instagram numbers before they give you a job! Before, people just looked at your book and checked to see if you didn’t have any spots or pimples.
YS: You’ve also been cast in the new show, Empire, tell me more about that experience.
NC: It’s a lot of fun and I am so overwhelmed, so blessed, and honored to be working with Lee Daniels. I love the risks that he takes, the boundaries that he pushes. Working with Terrence Howard is so amazing, it’s all so new to me and he’s so accommodating and warm and helpful and supportive. Also working with Taraji P. Henson, who’s an Oscar nominee, she’s an amazing talent. I’m so proud to be a part of his Empire family.
YS: I saw on your Instagram that you were in the recording studio recently, do you sing in this show?
NC: Guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out!
YS: You’ve always been an activist, and now with everything that is happening in the US, do you think we have made any progress with race relations?
NC: I’ve always been an activist, not for public adulation either, I started becoming involved in 1993. What’s happening in the US saddens me, it really shouldn’t be happening. It doesn’t look like we’ve made any progress. I love what Russell Simmons is doing. The march was amazing, and the important thing is that you cannot get away with these things anymore, it doesn’t matter where it’s happening, like everything that is going on in Sweden right now, it’s all coming out. It has to stop and justice has to be done.