Even if they asked for a blonde, I went to audition: Naomi Campbell at HTLS 2017 | htls | Hindustan Times
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Even if they asked for a blonde, I went to audition: Naomi Campbell at HTLS 2017

At the 15th HT Leadership Summit, Naomi Campbell said she took great pride in being able to represent her race, the women of colour, in the industry.

htls Updated: Dec 01, 2017 23:03 IST
Lubna Salim
Naomi Campbell during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on December 1.
Naomi Campbell during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on December 1.(Sanchit Khanna /HT Photo)

For 32 years, Naomi Campbell has scorched the ramp across the world, achieving stardom at a very young age, living a fairytale life among the who’s who of fashion and glamour.

Among the very few black models in the 80s when she started her career, the 47- year-old Campbell said she took great pride in being able to represent her race, the women of colour, in the industry.

“I was told many times, ‘we are looking for a redhead or a blonde’. I went nevertheless to let the casting director see me and perhaps remember me for something else,” she said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Friday.

For the British supermodel, it’s the lessons she learnt as a youngster from her mother, a ballerina, which have guided her and helped her face the world with confidence.

“I get my physical and mental strength from my mother... My mother sacrificed a lot for me,” Campbell said.

In a free-wheeling chat with Indian model and actor, Milind Soman, Campbell shared nuggets of her life’s journey — from her early struggles as a model, learning to handle criticism and her love for yoga and organic products.

Campbell recalled being raised by a nanny before being sent to England for her schooling while her mother stayed back in Switzerland.

“She sacrificed a lot and I’d see her only on vacations... she was very supportive of my modelling career but couldn’t come with me because of my baby brother,” added Campbell, who had dressed for the occasion in a sari designed by Manish Malhotra.

Campbell also recalled the father figure in her life, designer Azzedine Alaia, who passed away recently at the age of 77.

An emotional Campbell — she was seen wiping tears — said she deeply valued the presence of Alaia in her life and how he was a mentor, guide and protector for her.

More than confidence, it was the drive to challenge herself and to do something different that made her the person she is today.

“For 20 years I was associated with Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund privately as it was not for public adulation. I’d visit him (Mandela) in Johannesburg and was blessed to have such a kind and generous human being in my life,” said Campbell, who has also dabbled in acting and singing.

The supermodel said her connection with India dated back to 1994 when she travelled to through Agra and Jaipur and has been coming over ever since.

However, a life-altering visit happened in 2012 when she spent a month mastering yoga in Kerala.

“I just couldn’t get yoga and understand the mind, body, spirit part of it so I closed my phone and computer and came to Kerala to learn yoga. I was a late bloomer,” she added.

On a question comparing modern models who are a judged by the numbers of followers on social media and those during her time, Campbell said: “The current generation may be the Instagram girls, but my girls and I have enough pictures we could put up every day for the next 35 years.”

She also expressed her desire to travel to India to share her knowledge gathered during her career.

“I’d like to hold a master class with girls to give them confidence and empower them,” Campbell added.