Richard Eden, London Telegraph, August 29, 2009
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.