People only become legends when they are dead? That's so not true — just ask Naomi Campbell. Making her debut on the runway in 1986, she has broken barriers and opened doors for models of color — and continues to strut her stuff on the catwalk today. In 2023, she proved she still had her iconic runway walk with her appearance at the debut of her collection with PrettyLittleThing in New York. So, let’s take a look back at Naomi’s long-standing success on the runway and off.
Naomi Campbell Signed Her First Modeling Contract at 15
While young and determined Campbell is not new to the spotlight, her life took a serendipitous turn when she signed with Synchro modeling agency at 15. Did she know this would catapult her into the limelight? Maybe, maybe not. But on the cusp of her 16th birthday, Naomi found herself gracing the cover of British Elle, replacing another model who had dropped out at the last minute.
This unexpected cover marked the inception of Naomi’s meteoric rise. The fashion industry, captivated by her striking features and undeniable presence, quickly embraced her. She became the first Black model to feature on the cover of British Vogue in 1988, setting the stage for her groundbreaking career.
But the path was not without challenges. In an industry grappling with racial prejudices, Naomi faced discrimination. However, she stood resilient, supported by friends like fellow models Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, who boldly declared, "If you don't use Naomi, you don't get us." Naomi quickly became one of the highest paid models of the ‘90s and 2000s, with her current net worth estimated at $80 million.
Naomi Campbell’s Career Extends Beyond the Runway
Naomi Campbell's dynamic career is marked by diverse ventures and influential contributions. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she launched "No Filter with Naomi," a YouTube series featuring conversations with notable guests like Cindy Crawford and Jean Paul Gaultier. Partnering with Studio71 in August 2020, Naomi expanded her digital presence across platforms.
In 2021, she took on the role of tourism ambassador for the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, gracing the cover of i-D magazine, emphasizing her collaboration with a photographer of color, and became the face of Hood by Air's relaunch campaign. Her accolades continued in 2022 with an honorary doctorate from the University of the Creative Arts in London for her global fashion impact. Naomi was also the executive producer for Invisible Beauty, a documentary about fellow Black model Bethann Hardison, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival that same year.
And Naomi shows no signs of slowing down. In 2023, Naomi was featured in Victoria's Secret Icon Collection and a Hugo Boss campaign. Debuting her collaboration with PrettyLittleThing during New York Fashion Week, she showcased her collection, which she designed alongside Victor Anate and Edvin Thompson.
Further recognition came with her inclusion in the Apple TV+ docuseries, The Super Models. Plus, the Victoria and Albert Museum announced a solo exhibition in Summer 2024, highlighting Naomi’s philanthropy and activism through 100 curated outfits. Additionally, she serves as a special advisor to Gamma, a music company founded by Apple Music executive Larry Jackson, solidifying her multifaceted and enduring impact in various industries.
What’s next for Naomi Campbell?
Naomi Campbell's continued reign on the runway is a tale of evolution, resilience, and influence. From shattering glass ceilings to designing collections, she remains an unparalleled force. As the first Black supermodel, philanthropist, and businesswoman, Naomi’s impact on the runway is not just a chapter in fashion history; it's an ongoing saga of inspiration and transformation.
Now, is she a living fashion legend or not?