Naomi Campbell used to feel like the “token black model” when she walked the runway.
The 49-year-old discussed diversity in fashion during an interview at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live event and opened up about feeling uncomfortable in the early days of her modelling career.
She candidly shared the examples of tokenism that she experienced, and while she didn’t name any specific brands, Naomi insisted that the problem was far-reaching when she was walking the runways back in the 1990s alongside fellow models such as Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen.
“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. It was uncomfortable. I didn’t like it,” she explained.
“I don’t want to say names of brands because I’m not going to call people out… I have to believe that everybody is coming from a good place. We’ll discover, as we go along – we will know who is doing it for the token and who is doing it for real.”
She also denied that she didn’t want any other black models walking the runways with her during her heyday, by saying: “Well that’s not true. I did.”
Elsewhere in the interview, she discussed how she now wants to see more representation behind-the-scenes at big fashion houses and wants brands to employ more people of colour.
“You’ve seen all shapes, sizes, colours, different hair types on the runway – we’re still in that,” Naomi 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?”
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