Naomi Campbell Says Race Played A Huge Part In Her Set Of Opportunities

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imagesby Afiya J. Watkins

An enduring figure whose career has spanned nearly three decades, Naomi Campbell is a rare find in the modeling world. She was the first black model to grace the covers of Time Magazine and French Vogue, and has been a muse for countless designers for nearly three decades. Having been discovered on the streets of London at only 14 years old, she is one of the select few who have earned the right to be called “supermodel”. Even with her high-profile tantrums and diva-gone-wild behavior, she is still widely respected as a fashion industry pioneer.

In addition to modeling, Campbell is a shrewd and outspoken businesswoman turned TV personality on Oxygen’s The Face. The show’s format is basically a model competition which provides viewers unprecedented access inside the world of the fashion industry. Three teams of aspiring models, each led by a supermodel coach, are guided through real-life assignments, including photo shoots and commercials.

In an interview with theGrio’s Chris Witherspoon, the stunner talked about the show’s second season which will feature Campbell and two new super model coaches, Anne V and Lydia Hearst. Campbell also opened up about Oscar winner and rising fashion icon Lupita Nyong’o. Witherspoon drew an obvious parallel between the model and up-and-coming actress, both admired for their rich, dark skin and Afrocentric features.

During her February 27th speech at the Essence Magazine Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon Nyong’o revealed that as a child she experienced “self-hate” because of her dark complexion and used to pray for lighter skin.

“I understand where she’s [Nyong’o] coming from, I’ve heard it many times,” Campbell said. “But I never felt that. I felt like ‘what if I was blonde and blue-eyed? Would I have better opportunity for getting this job?’ Those things went through my mind…absolutely.  But look, she’s done it now and she didn’t have to do any of that to get to where she wanted to get to. She is an inspiration to all young women, especially African women.”

“The hope that she gives… I don’t think she knows how significant she is, and for what she’s done for so many young women all over the world.”

It is clear that Campbell never lost her sense of self, and it is perhaps encouraging to know that in an industry like fashion where delicate, Eurocentric features have been the accepted norm, Campbell maintained the self-esteem and perseverance to not only recognize but also appreciate her unique beauty while conquering the ranks of the modeling elite.

In September 2013, Campbell teamed up with fashion industry veterans Bethann Hardison and Iman to support on fashion runways across the world.

Paris fashion week came to an end last week and Campbell assessed diversity on the runways in 2014. “It’s a little better… yes there is an improvement, but it could be better,” Campbell said.

Known for her candor, the 43-year-old model revealed that she “still feels nervous on the catwalk,” but has no plans to retire from modeling anytime soon.

For all new episodes of The Face tune into Oxygen every Wednesday at 9/8c.


  1. Bert C

    March 15, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Campbell may have been a pioneer, but she never reached back and pulled a fellow Sister along with her. She is like a lot of blacks, once some takes a stand, like the young model who spoke out recently; everyone has something to say. I call that “Black Guilt.”

  2. Denise Russell

    March 15, 2014 at 6:29 am

    Yes she did, she reached out to me on Regis & Kathie Lee. I was simply too afraid to accept her offer. We should not judge someone, especially when you could not possibly know her every move.

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