London Times, August 20, 2007
Naomi Campbell has fired a broadside against glossy magazines, which she believes sideline black models in favour of fair skinned women.
The 37-year-old supermodel singled out Vogue, saying that she found it harder and harder to make it on to its coveted front cover. Campbell said that she planned to set up a modelling agency in Kenya to scout for new African faces in an attempt to redress the balance.
“Black models are being sidelined by the major modelling agencies. It is a pity that people don’t appreciate black beauty,” she said at the weekend during a beach holiday in Kenya.
The model, known for her temper tantrums, has become a frequent visitor to the palm-fringed town of Malindi, on the Indian Ocean coast.
She regularly spends her summers at a hotel owned by her former boyfriend Flavio Briatore, the head of the Renault Formula One team.
“Even myself, I get a raw deal from my own country in England,” she said during interviews at the Lion in the Sun hotel. “For example, I hardly come on the front pages of the London Vogue magazine. Only white models, some of whom are not as prominent as I am, are put on splash pages. I don’t want to quit modelling until I find that black models get equal prominence and recognition by the world media and information instruments.”
Campbell first appeared on the cover of Vogue in 1987, aged 17, just as the term supermodel became widely used. The last time was in 2002.
Several African models captured the imagination of Western designers and photographers. Their tales of hardship and survival contrasted with the stories of pampered excess more usually associated with superstar models.
Alek Wek comes from southern Sudan, which has been ravaged by decades of civil war. Waris Dirie has written about how she was circumcised as a young girl in anarchy-ridden Somalia, where Iman—the supermodel wife of David Bowie—was also born. Such was the interest in African models that Elite, the world’s biggest modelling agency, set up an office in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, four years ago, but it has since closed.
Now Campbell has begun contacting scouts to help to set up an agency that would find and train women to become models. “I believe there are pretty girls from your lovely country who can grace the international catwalk and the front pages of fashion magazines with proper strategies,” she told reporters. Lyndsey McIntyre, who runs the Surazuri modelling agency, welcomed Campbell’s plans.
“You can look through all the big magazines and see hundreds of models and not see a single black one,” she said. “So anything which increases the pool of African talent is a good thing, but it will be a while before we see a big change in the industry.”