“I have never been a victim”

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell


After explaining how brands helped propel her extraordinarily long career, British supermodel Naomi Campbell is now urging them to use their influence to give hope to the disadvantaged.

Campbell, one of the iconic global supermodels of the 1980s and 1990s who has been on an endless number of magazine covers and catwalk shows, now also uses her celebrity status for various international humanitarian projects.

During her Fashion as Cultural Influence keynote interview yesterday, she acknowledged how the symbiotic relationship between brands and fashion has contributed to the careers of numerous models and designers.

“Advertising was the meal ticket for my era of models,” she said. But she acknowledged how digital media has shifted that relationship. “You now have social media on a global scale and advertisers want to work with people with a large number of followers.”

But after more than 30 years in the profession, she believes brands and fashion can join forces to help the less fortunate. “With the right promotional messages, brands can encourage the young to be their own advocates in the causes they believe in.”

Campbell admitted that her achievements have not been easy to attain. She recalled the days when several model friends, who had become influential global brands in their own right, would boycott designer labels that refused to work with Campbell because of her skin colour.

“My life has been a challenge but I have never been a victim,” she said and referred to 1988, when the late legendary Yves Saint Laurent threatened to pull a whole advertising campaign from French Vogue magazine, which openly discriminated against her.

Despite much progress in diversity since then, she called out to brands to be more open-minded.

She was disappointed that in 2018 she cannot find luxury wristwatch ads with models of diverse colours, apart from the ones with legendary golfer Tiger Woods. “I don’t want the current improvements to be a trend; it can’t go backwards, that’s my worry."

Harriet Palmer