Naomi Campbell: Fashion industry doesn’t want black models in a recession


In so many ways, Naomi Campbell is a pioneer. She was the first black model to appear on the cover of several international fashion magazines, including Vogue UK and French Vogue. At one point in the 1980s and 1990s, Naomi was one of the three highest-paid models in the world, forming one part of “The Trinity” – which included Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista. Since the late 1990s signaled the end of the age of the supermodel, Naomi has spent the past decade still maintaining a pretty great track record with ad campaigns, runway work and print work for a model her age – she’s 39 years old in an industry where women are “over” at the age of 25. In addition to her modeling career, she’s been involved in charitable projects in Africa, and she’s always been an outspoken advocate of more racial diversity in the fashion industry.

Of course, there are parts of Naomi that aren’t so admirable. I’ve lost count of how many people Naomi has allegedly (or not so allegedly) assaulted. Lord knows you can’t hand her a purse, a blackberry, a drink or a shoe, because she’ll just beat you with it. Last year, when Naomi got into that incident on a British Airlines flight where she basically fought with her fists and her mouth, there were many reports that claimed Naomi’s tirade included racial slurs (something about “white slags”).

I’m bringing this up because Naomi has given another interview where she’s talking about racial diversity in the fashion industry. Naomi claims advertisers and magazines are using the recession as an excuse to drop models of color. Here’s the thing – Naomi’s got a point. But is she the best person to make the point?

Never afraid of speaking her mind, Naomi Campbell has accused the advertising business of using the recession as an excuse to drop black models.

The 39-year-old supermodel, who is a close friend of Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister’s wife, claims that major companies are refusing to use non-white women to promote their products.

“This year, we have gone back all the way that we had advanced,” she says. “I don’t see any black woman, or of any other race, in big advertising campaigns.”

Campbell, who was born in London to a mother of Caribbean descent, refers to the publication last year of a special edition of Italian Vogue dedicated to non-white models.

“That made some noise, but, unfortunately, we are the same as before,” she says. “People, in the panic of the recession, don’t dare to put a girl of colour in their campaign, full stop. Nor of any other race. It’s a shame. It’s very sad.”

The model, who is a friend of Nelson Mandela, has won support from Bruce Oldfield, the designer of the wedding dress worn by Samantha Cameron, the wife of the Tory leader.

“It’s absolutely true that black models will be not as popular for advertising companies and magazine covers as white girls,” the designer tells Mandrake. “In a recession, it’s probably doubly difficult for black girls to get a booking.”

Oldfield is thought to be the son of a Jamaican boxer, but never knew his natural parents and grew up in an orphanage. “In this climate, things are worse, but it is compounding a problem that already exists,” he adds. “Cover editors are going to choose white over black. Naomi is not far off the mark.”

In 1988, Campbell appeared on the cover of French Vogue as its first black cover girl after Yves St Laurent, her late friend and mentor, threatened to withdraw all of his advertising from the magazine following its refusal to place Campbell, or any black model, on its front page. She also became the first black model to appear on the cover of British Vogue.

Earlier this year, she described the fashion industry as “racist”. In a magazine interview, she was quoted as saying “You know, the American president may be black, but, as a black woman, I am still an exception in this business. I always have to work harder to be treated equally.”

In June, she attended the Glastonbury music festival with Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah. The pair were promoting the Million Mums charity, which aims to help prevent women from dying needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth.

[From the Telegraph]

I don’t have all the facts and figures to know if all of this is technically accurate, but I suspect it is. The only black people I’ve seen on magazine covers the past year have been the Obamas – and to be fair to them, I think those Obama covers still sell really well. As for the larger issue of more racial diversity in advertising and the fashion industry as a whole – I tend to think advertisers will get smart about this stuff sooner rather than later. When someone like Tiger Woods is the highest earner in sports, just because of his advertising contracts, the sea change is coming. Speaking as a mixed-race woman, I know I appreciate it when I’m not just staring at vapid-looking blonde models on every page of Vogue. I’m still not sure if Naomi is our best spokeswoman though.

Here’s Naomi and her boyfriend Vladislav Doronin enjoying the beach together in St. Tropez, France on August 20th. Images thanks to Fame Pictures .

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36 Responses to “Naomi Campbell: Fashion industry doesn’t want black models in a recession”

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  1. QB says:

    Every couple of months she says the same thing but with a different excuse. Is not about being black or white is about having the look. I don’t see Chanel Iman complaining about not getting jobs , maybe thats because she is young , fresh and haves the look designer are looking.

    Fashion is about trends a couple of years ago it was the brazilian who where taking all of the covers and after that they had the russians.

  2. wow says:

    Naomi gets on my last nerve with her off the wall behaviour, but she is telling the truth here. It’s not only less African Americans models, but other non-caucasian races as well who are not getting these types of covers or exposure. It’s an issue that I don’t think will ever go away until minorities take on more behind the scenes jobs of those who MAKE decisions on who gets these contracts.

  3. ! says:

    This is the same person who not long ago openly claimed she’d never been picked for a Vogue cover because she’s black…when in fact she’s had at least 8.

  4. Kaboom says:

    If there is racism in the fashion industry and they try to sell in non-white markets, the first one to hire black models (or whichever color crowd they try to sell to) will make the money. Unless, of course those customers prefer to see their fashion presented on white girls. In that case though: tough titties, sister.

    As for Naomi specifically: who still wants to see her? She’s near impossible to work with and so overexposed after all that time that she’s a liability to any brand she’d be hired to promote.

  5. Just a Poster says:

    Umm Naomi, I don’t think that is it.. perhaps more along the lines of “We don’t want to work with a phone throwing psycho” might be more like it.

  6. OXA says:

    Not true Naoimi, they just dont want you and your ego.

  7. Ron says:

    Isn’t that kind of like black models who only date rich white men Naomi? What are the rich black men to do? It’s sad.

  8. Praise St. Angie! says:

    Ron, that was right on.

  9. RobN says:

    Yeah, I can picture all the magazine folks sitting around thanking God for the recession so they don’t have to hire people of color anymore. Thank goodness advertising has dropped like a rock and finally we can revert to being closet racists. Hard to figure what one has to do with the other, actually, but hey, crazy Naomi says so.

  10. furrrball says:

    ditto Ron

  11. Cinderella says:

    Sour grapes! What does she care. Isn’t there some billionaire’s yacht she should be boarding right about now?

  12. Laura says:

    It’s not so much actual racism as it is what people think of as the standard of beauty. And dark-skinned black women will forever be on the low rung of beauty than their white, asian, hispanic, etc counterparts. Plus people want to see who they can relate to. Miranda Kerr is more relatable with her brownish-blonde hair and blue eyes than Selita Ebanks or Chanel Iman.

    Even the black community itself follows that trend. Has anyone heard of that study where they had black girls, aged 4-11, pick the doll that was the prettiest? They had a black doll and a white doll to choose from. And they consistently chose the white doll most of the time. It was done first about 20 years ago, I think but then repeated a few times a couple years ago.

  13. Cheyenne says:

    People want to see what they can relate to? I can’t relate to some anorexic Eastern European blonde-haired blue-eyeed walking clothes-hanger.

  14. hunnybe says:

    I for one think that Naomi is beautiful so I would love to see more of her in magazines but instead the work goes to that nasty,rabies looking,mangie,dirty Lohan.hmmm I wonder why.To Laura that is because of the white run media basically saying’it’s allright if it’s white’.That is such a sad message because I see beautiful people in every race.

  15. Munkey says:

    Cheyenne: Good point. The majority of models, regardless of their ethnicity, look like creatures from another planet to me.

    As far as Naomi, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for someone who’s obviously such a self-entitled b*tch. I’m not saying she doesn’t have a point (I don’t read fashion mags, so I wouldn’t know), but she’s become such a detestable character that anything she says is suspect.

  16. jzhz says:

    I think she’s gorgeous, and doesn’t look 39, that’s for sure.

  17. tor says:

    What rich black men are you talking about? And what do her dating preferences have to do with anything?

  18. Laura says:

    @ Cheyenne Don’t sound so skeptical. Okay, when I say “what they can relate to” I don’t mean straight looks like them being thin. I mean being white and what the entertainment industry as a whole chooses to be the most attractive.

    Why do you think Janice Min from Us Weekly said that the reason why Beyoncé and Jay Z’s marriage did not make the cover of any weekly magazine was because “Black cover stories do not sell.” They are HUGE stars, but the most they got was a side blurb. There are many black actors and actresses that work constantly but do not get even a modicum of publicity.

    And before you say “Well, they just don’t have a big fan base” people like Sophie Monk, Amanda Bynes and other useless non-black “celebrities” do jack sh-t and still get photographed as though they are the second coming.

    The only time black stars get recognition from magazines is when they are specifically made to show that this is a black issues, ie, the special Italian issue of Vogue which featured ONLY black models and African American catered magazines like Ebony or Essence.

    Like I said, between Chanel Iman/Selita Ebanks and Miranda Kerr, people are consciously or not prefer to see Kerr than they do the other two. Did you read the second paragraph of my first comment?

  19. lola lola says:

    She’s been in her 30s for about 16 years. Hilarious!

  20. Trashaddict says:

    I don’t read the glam mags as much as I used to, but since Barack Obama got elected I have seen many more African Americans in television ads. Even as the “recession” haha progresses. And it’s nice to see more black male father figures in ads.
    Maybe Naomi should stop throwing things at people, use some of her bucks to start an ad agency, and put women of color out there. Put up or shut up, honey.

  21. lisa says:

    No one wants to hire her specifically because before she was young, and now she is at least 40, she should put down the crack pipe and look in the mirror that is the real reason no one wants to hire her.

  22. Alexa says:

    I hadn’t thought about race in the model/fashion industry lately. But now I’m really PISSED about it! I want to see fashion pictorials that mimic the “United Colors of Benneton” -look that was so popular in the 80s! All pics, representing ALL COLORS – NOW!

  23. ... says:

    Naomi reminds me so much of Omarossa from the Apprentice. eww

  24. Oenix says:

    Laura – Your analytical abilities leave me speechless. Has MENSA contacted you yet? I will gladly give you a reference.

  25. Eliza says:

    Slags is a word we use in London.Its like calling a woman a cow or a slapper its not the worst word to use actually. I am not agreeing with her violent behaviour but she has done a lot of good and great work. She was pretty pi$$ed off on that occasion…So, I guess u would use all the naughty words in one’s vocab in that suitation. Her new bf is trying to get her into the straight and narrow especially on her temper and he seems to be a great influence. I better get myself a Russian Billionaire too. he he he. Every month, I do not slap someone he puts a million in my account he he. The odd thing is that Hugh Grant also had a problem with British Airways where he throw water on someone and was pretty verbal again about the luggage suitation during the time when BA moved to Terminal 5 however, the Papers carried Ms Campbell’s story more than Hugh. Just saying… Also, to be a black women in that profession is hard work. I am half black and work in Marketing and I have to work twice as hard because if $hit hits the fan, they remember the Tall Black chick. There are only 10 Black people in Senior Management in my company, and we all have to be super mentally strong.

  26. Jill says:

    Tiger woods, does not consider himself Black.He has said this himself and due to this the Black community world wide appreciate that he has done a great thing being one of the best golfers of all time. He has done zero for his ‘black’ community and I bet he would feel terribly sorry about this on his death bed.

  27. Jill says:

    To Laura, I have never heard of this study but if what you say is true…then if one is a non white and has been brain washed most of their life to think that the only pretty people are white then I am not surprised. Jesus is white, Father Christmas is white, Barbie is white. White people get the nice jobs and the big house. I can give you a fact that you can google. Black women globally spend more on hair, perfume and make up then anyother race. This is way L’oreal, Unilever and many other FMCG have bought black hair/make up companies in the last 5 years. So, Laura please do some research before posting biased information.

  28. Eliza says:

    I think is really funny that white ppl think that all Black women are like Naomi or have some agression problems…you should all work for the FBI. Naomi has her own money and her Billionaire’s boyfriends money. She is not complaining about her self she is speaking up for other women of colour.Chanel Iman has never been on US Vogue smartie pants…and its very likely that she would never been on US Vogue. She is common looking and nothing special. There is another delish Black girl in London right now and Anna Wintour will be meeting her this week. So you negative ppl can suck eggs and watch another delish Black model front Vogue US ha ha ha

  29. ToRon says:

    Naomi can date whom ever she wants. she is not using your time, your body or your bed. What is your problem? Go sell crazy somewhere else? When white ladies are dating on Black men especially the Black sports stars, do u see Black ppl complaining?

  30. Zoe (The Other One) says:

    I fail to see how the global economy has anything to do with the ethnicity of models. Christ on a bike, that’s a seriously tenuous link.

  31. hannah says:

    to ellen(i think, i can’t read the name, the page doesn’t display properly on my computer)

    who said white people think black women are all like naomi or have aggression problems? where did that even come from? That wasn’t even brought up. Naomi does have that problem, however.

    Also, notice the blonde stigma again? blondes are perceived as stupid. I don’t think it is only the blonde models who look vapid, i would say it is most models.

  32. Kelly Taylor says:

    Umm how come I see her surrounded by white people all the time??

  33. Bec says:


    Magazines are only able to operate based on ad dollars and sales.

    Advertisers buy space well in advance of a publication going to print and vie for issues they believe will sell best. There is a host of criteria which goes into this decision, and who is on the cover may be the most important factor because studies have show race plays an important factor.

    Covers depicting black women do not sell as well as covers with white women (and the same can be said of the success of ad campaigns.) However, this is not an inevitability but a catch 22. Do we find black women less attractive and therefore buy fewer magazines with black covers as a result, or are we less accepting of varying types of beauty because the majority of magazine covers feature white women–thus shaping our ideas of what beauty can be. In a recession, you’s better believe magazines are having these discussions. No one dares miscalculate when the margins are so thin.

    Having worked in publishing, Zoe, I can tell you the link is not at all tenuous but paramount. I would also think that someone like Naomi–who has been in the fashion industry for 20 years–might have a better handle on it than you.

  34. Laura says:

    Thank you, Bec.

  35. Laura says:

    Given the choice, black children will often choose to play with white dolls over black ones ( ). It’s not racism, it something far more perfidious: hegemony and the internalization of inferiority complexes for those who feel they don’t fit the hegemonic definition of what is “best”.

    And America does not hold the monopoly on this. In Japan, most major advertising campaigns featured Caucasian models. I thought it odd that a country that is 98% racially homogeneous would choose white models for its ad campaigns over its own beautiful women.

    Hegemony is a powerful force.