As one of the original supermodels Naomi Campbell's long and illustrious career has not been without its tantrum-throwing headlines. But there's one thing the British model has always proudly (and rightly) championed - and that is racial diversity in the fashion world. Say what you will about her personal conduct, Campbell's quest to input more models of colour on runways, editorials and advertising campaigns is nothing short of remarkable.
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In a recent video with British photographer and filmmaker Nick Knight for his SHOWstudio site, the supermodel spoke frankly about her disappointment with the lack of progress from designers and fashion influencers who have to power to choose who gets seen and who gets shelved. As an active participant in the Diversity Coalition alongside founder Bethann Hardison and fellow model Iman, Campbell's involvement is paramount to the cause. "There is still an issue of ignorance in our fashion world," she says. "I don't even like to use the word racism... I find it to be the word 'ignorant'."
Labelling it a "territorialism where they just don't want to budge," Campbell voiced what many industry naysayers have been saying for years. "They [fashion insiders] just don't want to change the ideal, be more open minded to just booking a beautiful girl, regardless of creed or colour." Firing off stats taken from the end of the 2014 international collections, Campbell spoke of seeing just 6.8 per cent black models and 7.9 per cent Asian models in the shows. "Not great," she says.
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She also spoke about nurturing a group of young models (through a WhatsApp group - cute) that includes Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, Malaika Firth and Riley Montana. And those "babies" are the fuel that feeds Campbell's current career aspirations. "I feel like I can't duck out yet. I feel I still have to represent and watch my little babies and be there for them," she says. "And believe me, a lot of their hearts were broken this time in Paris... I got the calls and I got the texts."
Aside from calling Miuccia Prada "amazing" for the diversity cause and citing the huge influence of Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, Campbell's pledge to keep the cause alive was palpable. "It's something that I won't stop talking about until I see a bigger improvement. I do know that Iman and Bethan feel the same way."
Considering Campbell's career spans three incredible decades and she's still calling for change, her parting words were powerful indeed. "What's so scary to me is that I don't want it to be a trend. I didn't work 28 years for it to be a trend. It's not just one person [of] a certain colour walking into a store and buying clothes - it's everybody."