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On Friday, Naomi Campbell, after over four decades in the arts, has earned an honorary PhD from London’s University of the Creative Arts for her work in fashion.
Though she adorned a cap on the special day, Dr. Campbell has worn many hats since arriving on the world stage. She’s been a supermodel, actor, activist, singer and businesswoman and most recently, a mother.
Dr. Naomi Campbell is a cover model like no other
With her natural hair blown out while holding her baby on Vogue’s cover, Campbell unabashedly promotes Black motherhood and lives what she speaks. Drawing from her own experiences in the fashion world, Campbell was vocal during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. In an interview with Reuters that year, she expressed hope that “change” was, at last, coming as brands made promises to better recognize and value Black lives. This included hiring more Black talent “as designers, stylists and make-up artists,” as well as in editorial and executive roles.
Dr. Campbell has modeled in campaigns for labels like Versace, Givenchy and Calvin Klein. The “Empire” actor has also walked in runway shows for brands like Alaïa, Valentino, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. Though she’s rolled with the heavy hitters of fashion for years, she hasn’t let the bright lights blind her from the realities of racism and discrimination.
“When I was younger, I encountered this same issue. I would be backstage at shows and there would be stylists who didn’t have any experience working with Black models,” she told Teen Vogue in a 2016 interview. “It’s disappointing to hear that models of color are still encountering these same issues all these years later.”
Campbell uses her platforms for good
Dr. Campbell recently spoke with the BBC, adding: “I’ve always spoken because it’s what my experience is and I am allowed to speak of my experience and what I’ve gone through, and how I feel, and how I’m going to deal with it, fair enough, if I’m going to accept it or not. And I didn’t accept it then and I won’t accept it now.”
She continued, “And they always tried to shut me up, to be honest, in many different ways. [They said I was] difficult. Okay. But the people who knew me, knew that’s not who I was.”
At the commencement ceremony, she remarked, “Never let anyone change the way you feel, change the course of what you and your vision and what you want for yourself.”
Campbell also noted how she was raised by a group of “very strong women,” including her mom, sisters and grandmother, as well as “three Ds” for success: dedication, determination and drive.