Celebrating 30 Years of Naomi Campbell

Her unmistakable long legs, her perfectly symmetrical angled eyes, her unfathomable beauty…Naomi Campbell may just be the most memorable model in her 30 years in the industry. Born in London in 1970, her attended Dunraven School and the London Academy for Performing Arts as a youngster. When she was just ten years old, she studied at Italia Conti Academy, a stage school. It was at this point in her life where she studied ballet endlessly, thinking a ballet dancer is where her future would lie.

Campbell’s first public appearance came when she was featured in the music video for Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?” Later, she went on to tap-dance in the music video for Culture Club’s “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”. In 1986, while still studying ballet at the Italia Conti Academy, Beth Boldt of the Synchro Modeling Agency scouted Naomi Campbell. Boldt recognized something unique in Campbell, and knew she had the world’s next biggest sensation right at her hands. She signed with the modeling agency, and less than being with the agency for a year, Naomi Campbell broke major ground immediately. People everywhere began noticing the beauty, and being that there were not so many black models having as much success as her, she became one of the most recognizable faces. She became the first black woman to appear on the covers of French and British Vogue.

Her super modeling career instantly blew up. And how could it not with someone like Campbell’s exquisite splendor? She went on to become the “it” model during worldwide Fashion Weeks. She walked the runway for some of the greatest designers throughout history, including Gianni Versace, Isaac Mizrahi, and shot with photographers like Peter Lindberg, and Bruce Weber. In December of 1987, she appeared on the cover of British Vogue. The publication had not used a black model in over 20 years. The very next year, she broke major ground and became the very first black woman to ever appear on the cover of French Vogue. Now, there’s no doubt someone like Naomi Campbell did not face discrimination in her time. She’s been commonly quoted speaking highly of her mentor and friend, designer Yves Saint Laurent. In that year when she graced the covers of French Vogue, Yves Saint Laurent himself had threatened that he would withdraw all of his advertisements from the publication if it continued to refuse to place people of color on its cover. In 1989, Campbell was photographed on the cover of American Vogue on its September issue, which is traditionally the year’s biggest and most important issue.

Campbell, along with her fellow super models such as Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, and Linda Evangelista, had nothing but offers and offers coming their way. Together, they formed a group called “the Big Six”, which consisted of the most sought-after models by the fashion industry, with Kate Moss even being part of this highly elite group. In 1991, Campbell broke another record again when she became the first black model to appear on the cover of Time magazine.

By the mid 1990’s, she had taken her talents to other areas of the entertainment industry. She worked with celebrities like Spike Lee, Madonna, Vivienne Westwood, and many more. By the later end of the 1990’s rolled around, Campbell had mostly retired from walking the runway but continued to do print modeling. Her time was spent working on her newly signed, multiple fragrance deals.

Despite being known as the most famous black model of her time, Campbell has openly stated she has never earned the same volume of advertising assignments as her white colleagues. She has also mentioned she was not signed to a cosmetics company until as late as 1999, when her modeling career was in the later end of its timeline. In 1991, she stated “"I may be considered one of the top models in the world, but in no way do I make the same money as any of them.” She’s been known to be completely and utterly outspoken against the difficulties she’s had to overcome as being in the fashion industry. The racial biases she’s experienced have really gotten to her, despite all the luck that’s come her way. She publicly spoke out against the prejudice she’s been a victim of, stating “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.” Fellow super models Iman and Bethann Hardison, along with Campbell herself, created an advocacy group called “Diversity Coalition.” Together, the triplet wrote an open letter to the top leaders behind global fashion week shows and called out many high-profile designers who had just one or no models of color in their Fall 2013 runaway shows, claiming it was a “racist act” and needed to be changed.

Today, after three decades, Naomi Campbell remains to be on the most in-demand entertainers. In the numerous connections and friendships she’s made along the way, she continues to make occasional appearances for her friends in music videos, advertisement, runway shows, and even television shows. She’s been seen on some of today’s biggest dramas like Empire and American Horror Story: Hotel.

It’s a common question, for someone with her magnificence, to wonder how her love life has gone throughout the years in the public eye. While Naomi Campbell has definitely dated people along the way, she has never married. In the late 1980’s, she was with boxer Mike Tyson, which was followed by a tumultuous relationship with actor Robert De Niro. In 1993, she was engaged to Adam Clayton, the bassist from U2, but they later separated. In 2002, she shortly dated Sean Combs, but was later quoted saying their relationship had transformed into a meaningful friendship. To this day, this supermodel has not received her traditional “happy-ending”, as some may call it, of walking down the wedding isle with loved ones watching. Perhaps, and it’s a safe assumption to say, Naomi Campbell’s first and last love will always be her career. She has given the public so much in the past thirty years, broken so many barriers along the way, and continues to be an astonishing woman to look up for all youngsters, not just aspiring super models.