racism, friendship, and north korea: naomi campbell's brutally honest reflection on her career

'I understood what it meant to be black. You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good.'

by i-D Staff
22 March 2016, 2:08pm

We throw around the word icon a lot these days, largely because we really are surrounded by countless inspiring figures. But if we did have to regulate our use of the word, we know who would hold onto their title. If anyone truly embodies the spirit of an icon -- especially in the world of fashion -- it's eleven time i-D covergirl Naomi Campbell. Her career never seems to slow down. After defining what it meant to be a supermodel in the 80s, she continues to mentor young black models and point out racism in the industry. She just headlined Kanye West's Yeezy Season 3 presentation -- and stole the show, may we add. If anyone's got juicy fashion tales to tell, it's her.

Thankfully, Naomi knows this. She's going share some of her candid stories in the two-volume book Naomi Campbell, due in April. The Guardian was given a peek inside, revealing unheard insight into the covers, friendships, and photoshoots that minted the OG super. Here are the soundbites that got i-D excited...

On being in a Bob Marley music video...
Of all the videos [I starred in] Bob Marley's 'Is This Love' was the most exciting. Our family loved reggae. I was just seven, and didn't know what it would involve. I didn't realize Bob Marley would be standing right next to me, tucking me under a blanket. He was the most handsome man, with beautiful bone structure; mellow, too, and soft-spoken, with a strong Jamaican accent, the kind I already knew from home."

On meeting Azzedine Alaïa after having her wallet stolen in Paris...
"[Model] Amanda Cazalet, who was also shooting that day, suggested I come back with her. She had a fitting with a designer first -- why didn't I come along? That was how I met Azzedine Alaïa. I didn't know who he was. When we got to his house, I remember being very timid. I explained I had just come from England and that my money had been stolen. He was very giving and suggested I stay with him instead of at a hotel. He spoke to my mom on the phone in French, and the next day I moved into his house on Rue du Parc-Royal... from then on, whenever I was in Paris, I stayed with Azzedine."

On Blackness...
"When I started out, I wasn't being booked for certain shows because of the color of my skin. I didn't let it rattle me. From attending auditions and performing at an early age, I understood what it meant to be black. You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good."

On her friendship with Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington...
"I was lucky to have Linda and Christy stand up for me. They told certain designers that if they wanted to have them in their show, they had to book me, too. That kind of support was unheard of. We were truly friends and people labelled us 'The Trinity'."

On North Korea...
"I often think I would have liked to have interviewed Kim Jong-il of North Korea before he died, if only to find out why he shut his country off from the rest of the world."

Azzedine Alaia