No break for sis­ters, even in a model world

Sowetan - - Lifestyle - Them­balethu Zulu

There was a col­lec­tive gasp among fash­ion­istas this week when su­per­model Naomi Camp­bell hinted at im­mi­nent re­tire­ment.

The longlimbed god­dess gave the sub­tle hint at her Fash­ion For Re­lief gala event, one of her many phil­an­thropic ven­tures.

She said: “I don’t know if I can walk much longer. But it’s an hon­our to walk… I’d love for it to be car­ried on by the younger gen­er­a­tion and for me to sit in the au­di­ence and watch.”

Camp­bell, whose ca­reer has spanned a staggering 32 years, came to fame as one of the orig­i­nal su­per­mod­els, a “big five” that in­cluded Cindy Craw­ford and Christy Turling­ton.

She, of course, was the only heav­ily mela­nined one in the quin­tet of high fash­ion beau­ties and some of the world’s high­est paid mod­els.

Camp­bell has reached sig­nif­i­cant heights, breaking the mould with her achieve­ments, in­clud­ing be­ing the first black model to grace the cover of French Vogue at just 18, and the first black model to be on the cover of Time.

She has walked shows for some of the big­gest names in fash­ion, mak­ing his­tory once again as the first black model to open a show for Prada. She has also graced a num­ber of ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns for lux­ury designers. But even af­ter all that, and show­ing that suc­cess in The much-an­tic­i­pated royal wedding be­tween Amer­i­can ac­tress Meghan Markle and blue-blood Prince Harry is fi­nally upon us.

Tak­ing place this Satur­day, the wedding has gar­nered a flurry of in­ter­est as Markle is not only a di­vorcee, but also of mixed eth­nic­ity – her mother is black.

How­ever, the for­mer Suits ac­tress is not the first black per­son to the mod­el­ing world need not be lim­ited by one’s race, it comes as a shock (not re­ally, but bear with me for ef­fect), that even now in 2018, we are still cel­e­brat­ing sig­nif­i­cant firsts for black mod­els. Re­cently, Su­danese model Adut Akech be­came the first black model to open a Chanel show. Yes, let that sink in. The 109-year-old fash­ion house only gave the hon­our to a black model for the first time this year.

It is telling that even as the doyenne of “black mod­els” con­tem­plates re­tire­ment, we are in a po­si­tion where we are still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing firsts for black mod­els.

Dur­ing Camp­bell’s reign, there have, of course, been other big­name black mod­els in­clud­ing Chanel Iman, Alek Wek and Tyra Banks. Over the course of her ca­reer, Banks was con­sis­tently pit­ted against the stat­uesque Camp­bell. While for some this might have seemed a typ­i­cal cat fight, for the more dis­cern­ing ob­server, this was an in­sid­i­ous case of the idea that “there can only be one” when it comes to women, and es­pe­cially black peo­ple. This dan­ger­ous no­tion re­mains preva­lent in many spheres to­day, in­clud­ing board­rooms, mu­sic and pol­i­tics, stunt­ing the progress of many women. Mod­el­ling may be deemed friv­o­lous by many, but take a mo­ment to con­sider that even in the mostly make-be­lieve world of heavy make-up, weaves and cou­ture dresses, sis­ters can’t catch a break. Them­balethu Zulu is the ed­i­tor of ■ S Mag, the quar­terly Sowe­tan lifestyle mag­a­zine. For more sto­ries go www.sowe­tan­ to


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