Naomi Campbell on Being Labeled ‘Difficult’: ‘It’s Hard to Be an Outspoken Black Woman’

During her rise to living icon status, Naomi Campbell’s name became synonymous with greatness. But to hear her tell it, it’s also become synonymous with “difficult.” And in the new Apple TV+ documentary, Super modelsAlaïa’s muse reveals how she believes racism led to the disparaging label and how advocating for equal pay cost her years of work.

In the third episode of the series, Campbell explains how as she and her supermodel contemporaries became forces to be reckoned with in the industry and really took control of their careers for the first time, they faced serious backlash from those in power.

“It was hard to be an outspoken black woman and I definitely got caned a lot of times for that,” she says. The model goes on to explain that when she left Ford’s Elite modeling agency, founder John Casablancas took her to a business meeting at Revlon because the cosmetics giant was interested in offering her a contract.

“But when they told me how much they wanted to pay me, I said no in front of the whole room. I said, ‘They’re paying me that in Tokyo in one day, why should I take that for a one-year contract?’ ” In addition, she explains that her fellow Supers have already told her how much they are paid and that they don’t take a kuna less.

Apple TV+

But because Campbell turned down the offer, she says, “John got really embarrassed and then decided to call me ‘difficult.’ And then he decided he was going to go in front of the press and say I was difficult and he fired me.” But Campbell counters: “First of all, let’s get this straight. Models can’t be fired. We’re self-employed. Sponsored by our agencies.”

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In an old talk show clip featured in the documentary, Campbell says of Casablancas: “He was very disrespectful. He became very nasty, which I personally thought was just exploitation because he knows my name is going to be in the papers and there’s going to be a lot of press. thing for the Elite. But I have nothing to say about him. I think his behavior was completely undignified.”

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Nowadays, the model adds: “That stigma of his words and his press statement messed up my work for many, many years. I heard ‘crazy,’ I heard ‘nightmare,’ I heard ‘difficult.’ They called me difficult because I opened my mouth. Period.”

Naomi Campbell in "The Super Models," premiering September 20, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Apple TV+

Casablancas died in 2013 at the age of 70 while receiving treatment for cancer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His view of Campbell’s work ethic was not shared by those who worked closely with the supermodel. Legendary designer and former creative director of Christian Dior, John Galliano, admits that while a model can be demanding, she’s also always right.

“I mean, Naomi would have let me have her if she didn’t like her dress,” Galliano says in the document. “And if that meant I had to make one within twenty-four hours for the next day, I did.”

Super models the four-part documentary series spotlighting the remarkable careers of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington, will premiere on September 20 exclusively on Apple TV+.

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