Naomi Campbell has been highly regarded as one of the most famous supermodels in the world for decades, becoming a household name and paving the way for younger women in the industry. But the London native shared with Vogue that none of that success came easy. In fact, Campbell’s rise was met with scrutiny and even racism that she still experiences and is no longer afraid to call out.
“I never used to say the word racism; I just used to say, it’s territorialism,” she shared in the publication’s November 2020 issue. “I never wanted people to say that I used that as an excuse, that I was throwing that word out. Now I’m happy that everyone’s all on the same page, that everyone feels comfortable to come out about their experiences without feeling some stigma. But for me, nothing’s changed. I’m going to speak the same way.”
Campbell, 50, went on to say that she’s long been an advocate for Black models, even taking younger Black men and women in the industry under her wing. Still, she didn’t immediately understand her responsibility within the industry.
“There were a few things that I would do when I was younger that I was told were bad for my race,” she shared. “Now the things I do are not just for me anymore. I think more of my culture and my race, as opposed to thinking about just me.”
When it comes to speaking on behalf of herself, however, her conviction was often misconstrued as combativeness that placed her within the trope of the “angry Black woman” — a phrase that has specifically been attached to her in the past. “I am quite over it,” she said. “Is it now that we have permission to speak? Well, I have always spoken.”
She recalled a particular interview on a U.K. current-affairs program where she was described by journalist Jonathan Rugman as displaying “anger on a different level.” Years after the 2013 piece, Campbell now maintained that she doesn’t trust the British media.
“I understood exactly what angle [he] was going to come at, and that it would be combative. And I see the things newspapers go for. I see they’d rather write some trash thing that you’ve done, rather than the good that you’ve done. When I was younger it used to upset me, but it doesn’t now—I’m not looking for those validations anymore. But I am still a little skeptical about doing interviews in England,” she said. “They haven’t learned how to be not-racist, period!”
As of her experience as a Black woman in Britain overall, Campbell explained that the issue of racism has yet to come to the forefront. “I’d rather have racism be right in front of my face and know what I’m dealing with, than to have it suppressed. No disrespect to the country I was born in, but we need to dig it up and bring it up and deal with it. No more chucking it down the sides,” she said. “Nothing has changed. Only that I know that I will have the support of my culture now when I speak.”
With that support, Campbell isn’t afraid to ask for what she believes Black people around the world deserve. “I think as a generation, as a whole, can we get reparations for our culture, for what we’ve been through?” she said. “I absolutely believe we are going to get the positive outcome we deserve. But we have to do our work in making sure we get it. I think reparations are important for the people to really see that this is something that’s been taken seriously.”
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