Naomi Campbell covers V’s Summer Issue and gets candid in an exclusive interview on how to navigate the business at 50-years-old, the growing demand for diversity in fashion, and her new fight for an equitable future for models.

Naomi Campbell covers V’s Summer Issue and gets candid in an exclusive interview on how to navigate the business at 50-years-old, the growing demand for diversity in fashion, and her new fight for an equitable future for models.

Photography: Mario Sorrenti

Styling: George Cortina

Text: Czar Van Gaal

Text: Stephen Gan

This cover story appears in V130's SUPERNOVA SUMMER ISSUE on sale now!

In the 35 years since Naomi Campbell first took the industry by storm, the British supermodel’s legacy has transcended beyond covering countless fashion magazines, sashaying down catwalks, and serving as a muse to premier fashion houses. Yet her most history-making feat has been to continue the work of her own heroes like Bethann Hardison and Iman to proudly celebrate Black beauty and diversity. Ultimately, she has irrevocably altered the face of fashion. At 50 years old, and showing no signs of slowing down, the icon continues to pave the way for models across the world as she pushes for a more inclusive and equitable fashion future.

V: First, I would love to start by just stating how breathtaking the photos are! Absolutely stunning!

Naomi Campbell: Aww, I had such a nice time [on set]. My first shoot in New York since last year.

V: Wow, was it really?

NC: Yeah! It was nice. I hadn’t seen Mario [Sorrenti] in years.

Naomi wears Coat and boots Burberry, Bikini Tom Ford, Necklace Pluie de Cartier High Jewelry, On Body Clarins Moisture-Rich Body Lotion

V: What was it like reconnecting with Mario for this shoot?

NC: It was like old times. Overall, for me, it was just a really lovely afternoon. But I am always nervous to work with the people that I’ve known for so long. And Mario I knew as a friend first, and then he became this huge photographer. I always get nervous with [thinking] how are they going to view you? How are they going to see you? Mario and I have [taken] such great pictures over the years together, so it was like, “How are we going to top that now?” But [when shooting] I just go on trust. It actually [throws] me off if I look at the monitor. So, I just trust...I trust you, I trust Mario, I trust the vibe and that’s how I work: on trust.

V: That’s definitely something that comes through in the photos, and it’s honestly what helps to create the magic behind Mario’s work. Speaking of magic, over the years you’ve managed to maintain this level of supermodeldom, you’ve defied the industry’s expiration date for models, all while aging gracefully. I think it’s safe to say that as you’ve aged you’ve only reached new heights. To celebrate that notion we’ve titled your cover line “Next Level Naomi.”

NC: It’s very kind of you to think that and to say that. Two days ago, on April 14, was my 35-year anniversary, but it doesn’t seem like 35 years to me at all. I think when you love what you do, you are really blessed. I get to work with all these incredible new creatives in our [industry] along with the ones that I’ve known for so long. And I always get a kick out of the whole creative process of how it’s going to turn out and how I’m going to look. I get a kick out of that [reinvention]. It’s a challenge, and I like to be challenged.

V: It’s amazing to hear that you embrace the new guards of fashion while also staying in touch with the people you started out in the industry with. It’s also ironic that you touched on this element of embracing the new but still having that appreciation for veterans because, with this particular issue of V, your cover is one in a series of four that also features three new-age supermodels: Anok, Imaan, and Kendall.

NC: I mean, to be with the young ones is always a little scary because I’m 50 [years old]. But ultimately, for me, it’s about being comfortable in my own skin. I think Imaan Hammam is fantastic. Anok, I absolutely adore. I love seeing all of this diversity now; it makes me happy. We’ve still got a lot of things we’ve got to fix but it’s nice to see that it’s becoming a normality. And of course, you know how much I love Bethann Hardison and Iman who have also fought for the diversity that we are now seeing.

V: I couldn’t agree with you more on the fact that there is still some work to do in the industry on the diversity front. What does that new inclusive and diverse fashion landscape look like to you?

NC: Just this year alone, I’ve seen the way that people have had to recreate and do things in a different way. This last year has forced people to build from the ground up with a new way of thinking and it has pushed some forward. But it doesn’t stop there, we have to keep striving to push the [industry] forward. There needs to be an extra injection into our [industry] of “How can we do things differently? How can we grow?” I think there’s a big change coming in fashion, and it’s very exciting to be here and witness it.

V: Times are changing and I think for the better; 2020 was just the tip of the iceberg. As a veteran and an icon in this industry, is there any advice you could offer to some of the girls who are just starting out?

NC: The most important advice I could ever offer is to do [everything] with passion. It’s not about fame, because I don’t believe in it. I believe that if you do something, you do it your best. I feel like the girls [today] are creative, they’re risk-takers, and they’re clear in what they want in their careers. But what I want to see in our business is that we models have a little bit more ownership [because] we have none. With this whole new way of content [creation], that has to change so that we [have ownership] as well. I think it can be done. It’s not impossible. We’ve seen it done with music and art; we can do it with fashion. If there is one thing that I do leave in this business, it’s that I would like to be a part of that change in making sure that these young ones have that.

Naomi wears Coat Burberry, Bikini Tom Ford Necklace Pluie de Cartier High Jewelry, Ring her own, On Body Clarins Moisture-Rich Body Lotion

V: I think the fact that you are trying to forge an equitable future in fashion for models is groundbreaking. You bring up some valid points and I honestly think this will change the industry in so many ways. What sparked this for you?

NC: With the way that the world has become in regard to content...it’s only fair. Everyone should have some sort of claim or ownership to what they’ve helped create. That’s why I started my YouTube channel because I love that aspect of [owning the content I create]. Never in my whole career was I ever offered anything that I would have ownership of. That aspect is what really lured me in when Derek Blasberg approached me about YouTube. So now for me it’s become this [mission] of “how do we translate that concept of owning our content on platforms like YouTube to also owning our images? We can’t forget about the images.” I was lucky enough that I was able to do my book. I'm lucky enough that people like Steven Meisel, Ellen von Unwerth and many others, were very kind in giving me the authorization to use their pictures in my book. But I know some of my contemporaries, weren’t so lucky, i.e. Linda Evangelista. She wasn't able to do [a book] because she couldn’t get rights from certain people. Linda could have an incredible book because her body of work is absolutely amazing. It’s not right but that’s how it works in the [industry] and it’s something we need to change!

V: I feel like everything you’ve just said relates back to what we discussed earlier. You have this way of merging the gap of the past and the present. Creating your own platform through YouTube where you have rights and then using that element of ownership in the digital realm to address the lack of ownership for models in fashion over the years is brilliant. When you look at those two things side by side, it’s hard not to miss your point.

NC: I’m just in a place of “How can we come together and make this happen?” Because we (models) are a part of the process as well. It's a collaboration of everyone's efforts coming together. I truly believe that it's going to get to this eventually, that's why I'm speaking out about it actually.

V: Definitely! Now we have to get into YouTube. You mentioned how much you loved it so I'm curious to know what has the content creation process been like for you? I feel like the cameras follow you practically everywhere.

NC: I film everything I do when I travel, especially when traveling to Africa because I want to show all of these great emerging markets that I love. I film it all! I show you tid-bits on my YouTube so that people get to see and understand what’s taking place on the other side of the world, in other countries.


Makeup Diane Kendal (Julian Watson Agency), Bob Recine (The Wall Group) Hair (Naomi) Lucas Wilson (Home Agency), Naomi Campbell (DNA), Manicure Honey (Exposure NY), Prop stylist Jack Flanagan (The Wall Group), Producer Katie Fash, Production coordinator Layla Néméjanski, On-set producer Steve Sutton, Digital technician Johnny Vicari, Photo assistants Kotaro Kawashima, Javier Villegas, Stylist assistants Moses Moreno, Mary Reinehr Gigler, Umi Jiang, Jesse Leonard, Makeup assistant Jamal Scott,  Kazuhide Katahira, Hair assistant (Naomi) Sergio Estrada, Set design assistant Peter Davis, Production assistant William Cipos, Retouching Arc Lab


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