Forerunning on the Catwalk

If you’ve seen the October edition of Vogue, You’ll notice on the cover a black model and actress named Jourdan Dunn who is English of Jamaican, Grenadian and Syrian ancestry. If you open it up, you’ll find models of colour throughout the publication. It could be argued that this is at least in part because the editor, Edward Enninful is black. I don’t read the publication enough to know how much the publication has changed since he became the editor. I can say, that the content of most fashion publications have changed over time with a more diverse range of models.

It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, until Naomi Campbell came along, I don’t believe you’d have seen black models on the catwalk or in publications. So love her, hate her or feel indifferent to her, Naomi is a pioneer – a forerunning as the first Black British Model and one of the first five supermodels.

According to Naomi’s website:

“One of the five original supermodels, Naomi Campbell was born in London and caught her break when she was 15 years old. She has graced the covers of more than 500 magazines during her career, and has been
featured in campaigns for Burberry, Prada, Versace, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana,
Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino.

She was the first black model to appear on the cover of TIME magazine,
French Vogue and Russian Vogue as well as the first British black model to appear on the cover of British Vogue. The runway was her domain as she showcased the collections of top designers, including Chanel, Azzedine Alaia, Christian Dior and Versace.

Additionally, Campbell has appeared in countless TV shows, music videos
and films, including “The Cosby Show,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Madonna’s “Erotica,”Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” and Michael Jackson’s “In The Closet.”

People typically like to have a role model when setting out on a career path – typically that is relatable, that they can identify with in some other way – ideally, for many, someone that looks like them. It provides courage, confidence and comfort as people step forward on their path. Naomi didn’t have someone that she could identify with in that way – she faced a lot of discrimination and push backs, but she pressed on forging her own path and creating openings for other models of colours. It all makes her accomplishments extra special.  Now there are quite a number of accomplished British models such as Jourdan Dunn, Adwoa Aboah, Paoloma Elsesser, Beverley Heath Holyland and Leomie Anderson. I can’t say how much Naomi may have influenced their careers, however, she doesn’t strike me as someone that has just been satisfied with her own success as she is a supporter of the organisation, Balance Diversity which amongst other things, encourages the industry to be inclusive of racial diversity when preparing casting of models for their company needs.

One of the great things about Naomi is that she’s used her success to have a positive impact beyond the catwalk supporting causes on an international basis such as Fashion for Relief support Care International; Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund; AmFAR for AIDS Research, Citizens for Justice and Peace; and Breast Cancer charities.

I believe it’s difficult not to have a marked respect for Naomi. We need people like her in all industries – people that are forerunners; understanding and supporting others coming up in their chosen profession; with an eye for the needs of wider society.


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Susan Popoola

Mosaic Fusions

Mosaic Fusions:

Author: Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain

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