By Caroline Davies
Fiery supermodel Naomi Campbell has attacked the fashion industry and glossy magazines for sidelining “black beauty” in favour of fair-skinned models. The 37-year-old said even she found it harder to get onto the coveted front cover as editors of magazines like Vogue consistently chose less prominent white models for news stand impact. And she has vowed to set up her own modelling agency in her beloved Kenya in an attempt to redress the balance.
“Black models are being sidelined by the major modelling agencies,” she told local journalists at a press conference in the beach resort of Malindi, Kenya, where she is on holiday. “It is a pity that people don’t appreciate black beauty”. She added: “I even get a raw deal from my own country. For example, I hardly come on the front pages of London’s Vogue magazine. “Only white models, some of whom are not as prominent as I am, are put on the front pages”.
Campbell, notorious for her temper tantrums and who has earned a lucrative living as one of the world’s most famous black models, was speaking at the luxury hotel owned by former boyfriend Italian billionaire Flavio Briatore, the head of the Renault Formula One team. A regular visitor to Malindi, she is now expected to fly to Nairobi to scout for talents among modelling agencies. “I don’t want to quit modelling until I find that black models get equal prominence and recognition by the world media and information instruments” she added.
Born in London, and a model since she was just 15, Campbell first appeared on the cover of Vogue aged 17 in 1987. She last made the cover five years ago. Several African models have done phenomenally well. These include Alek Wek, from southern Sudan, Waris Dirie from Somalia and Iman, also from Somalia and the supermodel wife of singer David Bowie. But, even the model agency Storm acknowledged she may have a point. “There is a growing ethnic diversity, but it’s not happening quite as fast as was predicted,” said Storm director Simon Chambers. “None the less we do expect the very best black boys and girls in the industry to reach the highest echelons of modelling – like Naomi and Alek have done”.
Miss Campbell, who is with the IMG agency, said she had now begun contacting scouts to help set up an agency that would find and train women to become models. “I believe there are pretty girls from your lovely country who can grace the international catwalk and the front pages of fashion magazines with proper strategies,” she told the Kenyan press. A spokesman for Vogue said they had no comment.