Naomi Campbell has received a lot of negative press over the past few decades and has dominated the headlines for being hot tempered and outspoken. What remains constant through the years and not so evident in the media is her charity work, her love of Africa and her drive and determination to give its people the recognition they deserve. More recently we are seeing the result of this- bringing African fashion to the western world.
Decades of charity work have at times been obscured by scandal. But un-phased and unapologetic, Naomi continues to support and represent causes close to her heart.
As one of the most famous supermodels in the world Naomi uses her platform for good. She says this is down to her relationship with the late Nelson Mandela who named her his “honorary granddaughter” and praised her for her activism. He gave her advice and taught her things she didn’t really understand until years later in adult life, “I am not sure what he saw in me and thought that I could do it”.
It’s clear that Naomi has always had a softer side, despite the media’s perception of her, labelling her “an angry Black woman”. She fights fiercely for what she believes in and has evolved into a role model for young women and fellow models.
Motivation to Make a Difference
It is fair to say that her experiences as a model in the early days of her career have influenced her in helping others, who face disadvantages, come into the spotlight.
Soon after getting her big break in the modelling industry aged 15, it was clear that she was in a unique position. Her mother had always told her she would have to work a little bit harder than others. She didn’t let rejection phase her. “ From attending auditions and performing at an early age, I understood what it meant to be black. You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good.”
She was brave enough to speak up even when it was not what someone wanted to hear. She recalls times where she was aware of being paid less for jobs compared to the other white models. “When I got there, I told them why I was there and that I knew what they were doing so that way I didn’t feel like… they thought I was some stupid little black girl getting ripped off and she didn’t know about it….I chose to take it for the artistic and creative reason”.
With the support of fashion designers and fellow models, namely Yves Saint Laurent, Christie Turlington and Linda Evangelista (who would refuse to do jobs unless Naomi was accepted as well) Naomi went from strength to strength becoming the first black model on the cover of French Vogue in 1988 and American Vogue the year after on the September issue, the most important one in the Fashion calendar. Even 30 years later, Naomi is still modelling and on the catwalk.
It is this unwavering support that has steered her in the same direction to help others. As well as supporting the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, UNAIDS and Breast Cancer Now to name a few, Naomi is also an ambassador for the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.
She is a founder of the charity We Love Brazil, which raises awareness and fundraises to fight poverty in Brazil through the sale of fabrics made by local women. She also founded Fashion for Relief, organising fund-raising fashion shows to benefit victims of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the India terrorist attacks and the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. Naomi also takes to Instagram to support Global Citizen, highlighting their campaigns to end world poverty.
The Future of Fashion
In 2019, the same year she won the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Icon Award, Naomi was a Keynote speaker at the Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit and expressed her desire to continue investing in Africa, integrating African and international luxury markets. This led on to Naomi’s 2020 project aiming to introduce young African fashion designers to the global industry in collaboration with Arise Magazine, based in Nigeria whom she has worked with for many years.
Naomi has no intentions of stopping there. She will continue to use her status and place in the fashion industry to its fullest, lifting countries out of poverty, boosting their economy and making the world better for generations to come.