SU­PER DUPER

The leg­endary Naomi Camp­bell con­tin­ues her stylish reign

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Bazaar -

The leg­endary Naomi Camp­bell – in Sin­ga­pore for a quick 24 hours – has trans­formed her­self from model to men­tor; party-goer to ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. And yet she still works the cam­era like a sea­soned pro and shows what great ba­sics such as a leather jacket, a body­suit, and a sculp­tured dress can do for any woman of any age. Styled by Ken­neth Goh. Pho­tographed by Gan.

The suite is warmer and more hu­mid than the rest of the ho­tel where Naomi’s stay­ing – she’s in Sin­ga­pore to walk for Dig­i­tal Fash­ion Week. Her back faces me and her legs are propped atop the desk while her per­sonal en­tourage works on her hair and make-up. For a few sec­onds, that’s all I see – her end­less legs. I take the chair next to Naomi and she looks up and smiles warmly. But she is dis­tracted, with her Black­Berry in her hands and her iPhone on her lap. Naomi’s stun­ning face and firm body, loosely clad in a colour­ful sun­dress, are in full view. And yes, those legs. Naomi is all legs. Look­ing at her, you re­alise why the 43-year-old is still soughtafter even af­ter 27 years in the fickle fash­ion in­dus­try.

Be­fore I ask a ques­tion, Naomi reels off a list of re­quests to her PR team and hair­styl­ist: “Can I get a small pil­low for my back?” “Is this the hair that BAZAAR wants? Let’s just go right into the hair they want so we don’t waste time. Can you get me a cup of hot chamomile tea? Make sure it has honey in it.”

What comes across as strong to some can also be per­ceived as de­ci­sive­ness by oth­ers. “When I’m com­mit­ted to some­thing,” Naomi says about her lat­est project The Face, “I’m in. I’m fully in. And I make de­ci­sions quickly and firmly.” The orig­i­nal supermodel is the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, star, and men­tor of the new re­al­ity TV show that sets out to help young mod­els be­come suc­cess­ful in their ca­reers. “What’s great about be­ing part of The Face are the dif­fer­ent peo­ple you get to meet and the dif­fer­ent girls you get to work with from all over the world. But most im­por­tantly, you’re help­ing some­one un­der­stand and learn about the busi­ness they re­ally want to be in and it’s won­der­ful to be able to share that.”

Help­ing young as­pir­ing mod­els is some­thing close to Naomi’s heart. Af­ter all, she was merely 15 – from work­ing-class Streatham – when she was tal­ent-scouted while win­dow shop­ping in Lon­don’s Covent Gar­den. By the time she was 16, she’d al­ready flown to the US via a pri­vate jet for a mod­el­ling as­sign­ment and five years later, was the first black model to grace the cover of Time mag­a­zine.

“I was kind of thrown into this high-fash­ion world at that young age. I didn’t know how to walk, but I had my bal­let train­ing and my mum was a pro­fes­sional dancer.” Naomi re­veals, “She was the one who taught me how to walk the run­way.”

And it’s a walk that Naomi is fa­mous for – from fall­ing down in 1993 in those Vivi­enne West­wood plat­forms to strut­ting down the cat­walk to an over­whelmed and hushed au­di­ence re­cently at the Ate­lier Ver­sace Au­tumn/Win­ter 2013 show. And even Sin­ga­pore got a piece of Naomi’s star­dust at the re­cent Dig­i­tal Fash­ion Week run­way show, where she wowed the crowd in two looks by Zenchi. Yes, Naomi’s hip-swing­ing cat­walk strut doesn’t change, re­gard­less of the sit­u­a­tion.

As the con­ver­sa­tion goes on, I no­tice how pas­sion­ate Naomi gets on the topic of shar­ing. Her eyes light up when she talks about her char­ity work for Fash­ion for Relief, an ef­fort she ini­ti­ated in 2005 when New Or­leans got hit by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina. It’s since gone on to ben­e­fit vic­tims of the Mum­bai ter­ror­ist at­tacks in 2009, the Haiti earth­quake in 2010 and the 2011 earth­quake and tsunami in Ja­pan. More re­cently, Fash­ion for Relief raised, and con­tin­ues to raise, funds for the vic­tims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philip­pines.

Even be­fore Fash­ion for Relief, Naomi has been an ac­tivist for the women and chil­dren in South Africa, shortly af­ter she vis­ited the coun­try in 1992. She is also in­volved with the Nel­son Man­dela (whom she re­gards as her grand­fa­ther af­ter he de­clared her his “hon­orary grand­daugh­ter”) Chil­dren’s Fund and founded the char­ity We Love Brazil to raise aware­ness and funds to fight poverty in Brazil in 2005. “I don’t talk about my char­ity work much so it’s not a well-known fact that I’m an ac­tivist,” Naomi shrugs, “which is okay, be­cause the pub­lic­ity is not why I do it. And some­times the press wants to fo­cus on other things; there’s noth­ing I can do about that, ei­ther.”

How­ever, the one thing Naomi def­i­nitely wants the me­dia to fo­cus on is another is­sue she’s pas­sion­ate about – the un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mi­nori­ties in the in­dus­try. “In 2013, only nine per­cent of the faces used in shows and ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns were Asian and six per­cent were black,” Naomi says an­i­mat­edly. “That’s such a poor rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the world’s pop­u­la­tion! In fact, the num­ber of Asians in the me­dia used to be worse. China has eco­nomic power now so com­pa­nies are sit­ting up and think­ing that it makes fi­nan­cial sense to have more Asian faces. It’s not be­cause they feel for mi­nori­ties.”

“Hav­ing more mi­nori­ties in fash­ion shouldn’t be about trends,” Naomi says ur­gently. “Bal­ance and diver­sity should be the way in ev­ery as­pect. With so­cial me­dia now, you have ev­ery race and creed buy­ing de­signer clothes. You can’t say ‘Oh, this coun­try or this per­son, just due to the colour of his or her skin, doesn’t go in the store to buy this brand or that.’ You can’t say this is true any­more.”

Naomi con­tin­ues to speak out about the mi­nor­ity is­sue and last year, joined fel­low black mod­els Iman and Bethann Hardi­son in an ad­vo­cacy group called Diver­sity Coali­tion. She rem­i­nisces about the days when “my girls, Linda [Evan­ge­lista] and Christy [Turling­ton] would tell the de­sign­ers and mag­a­zines, ‘If you don’t use Naomi, you don’t get us.’ And that’s how we should sup­port one another. And it’s not just in fash­ion, but in ev­ery as­pect of life.”

To sur­vive Naomi has had to be fear­less. But some­times this fear­less­ness can be viewed by the me­dia as ag­gres­sion. “I un­der­stand how I can be viewed that way and it doesn’t bother me any­more,” Naomi says, “I am in a good place. If I need to shut off, I just go off on my own into the jun­gles with a book and read. That’s me at my hap­pi­est. It’s re­ally that sim­ple.”

“My girls, Linda and Christy, would tell the de­sign­ers and mag­a­zines, ‘If you don’t use Naomi, you don’t get us.’”

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