Naomi Campbell Discussed How It Felt To Be The Token Black Model On A Runway

Naomi Campbell, '90s, '90s models, Fashion Show, Runway
Instagram / Naomi
And how it felt to be the 'diversity hire'

As one of the first women of colour to become a major supermodel, Naomi Campbell has spoken about how she felt being the token 'diversity' casting choice in a room full of other non-black models.

Speaking at a Wall Street Journal conference on October 23, 2019, Campbell opened up about filling the role of the 'diversity hire' in the early days of her career, and how it made her feel.

"I know what it's like to be the token and it wasn't a good feeling to have to always be the only black model in a show of 70 girls," she said, calling the experience "uncomfortable".

Campbell on the runway in 1991

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Despite the uncomfortable feeling of being cast as the only model of colour, Campbell still agreed to do the shows, on the basis that there'd be no models of colour if she didn't.

"You've seen all shapes, sizes, colours, different hair types on the runway—we're still in that," Campbell said. "But now it needs to go deeper than that.

"We need to see within the actual companies, in the offices, are you going to give the diverse staff a seat at the table to advise and be part of the projects that you do? Instead of when [problems] arise—when there's a hiccup, when there's a mistake, when there's an accident—having to then build these advisory boards."

By "advisory boards," Campbell is referring to fashion labels hiring in-house diversity experts, a strategy used by brands like Gucci and Chanel.

While Campbell "didn't want to call people [or brands] out," she said: "We'll discover, as we go along, we will know who is doing [diversity] for the token and who is doing it for real."

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Campbell has always been refreshingly candid about her experiences with racial discrimination, both inside and outside the fashion industry.

In July 2019, the modelling icon recalled a time she was turned away from an exclusive Cannes hotel due to her skin colour, telling French magazine Paris Match: "It's because of revolting moments like this one that I'll continue to express myself and make myself heard."


From Harper's Bazaar Australia

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Naomi Campbell, '90s, '90s models, Fashion Show, Runway
Instagram / Naomi