In Apple TV+'s new documentary 'The Super Models,' Campbell says that advocating for equal pay cost her years of work as a result of the pervasive racism that flooded the industry
Over the course of her rise to living icon status, Naomi Campbell's name has become synonymous with greatness. But to hear her tell it, it's also become synonymous with "difficult." And in Apple TV+'s new documentary, The Super Models, the Alaïa muse reveals how she feels 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 that as she and her supermodel contemporaries became forces to be reckoned with in the industry and really took charge of their careers for the first time, they faced some serious backlash from those in power.
"It was hard to be an outspoken Black woman and I definitely got the cane for it many times," she says. The model goes on to explain that when she left Ford modeling agency for Elite, founder John Casablancas took her to a business meeting at Revlon as the cosmetics giant was interested in offering her a contract.
"But when they told me what they wanted to pay me, I said no in front of the whole room. I said, 'I get paid that in Tokyo in one day, why would I take that for a contract for a year?'" Plus, she explains that her fellow Supers had already told her how much they were getting paid and not to take a penny less.
But because Campbell turned down the offer, she says, "John got very embarrassed and then decided to call me 'difficult.' And he then decided he was going to go to the press and say I was difficult and that he fired me." But Campbell counters, "First of all, let's get this clear. Models cannot get fired. We are self-employed. Sponsored by our agencies."
In an old talk show clip featured in the documentary, Campbell says of Casablancas, "He was very undignified. He got very nasty, which I personally felt that it was just exploitation because he knows my name will be printed in the paper and it will be a big press thing for Elite. But I have nothing to say about him. I think his behavior was totally undignified."
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Back in present day, the model adds, "That stigma of his words and his statement to the press messed my work up for many, many years. I've heard 'crazy,' I've heard 'nightmare,' I've heard 'difficult.' I was called difficult because I opened my mouth. Period."
Casablancas died in 2013 at 70 while receiving cancer treatments in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His perspective on Campbell's work ethic wasn't shared by those who worked closely with the supermodel. Legendary designer and former creative director of Christian Dior, John Galliano, admits that while the model can be demanding, she's also always exactly right.
"I mean, Naomi would let me have it if she didn't like her dress," Galliano says in the doc. "And if it meant I had to make one within twenty-four hours for the next day, I did."
The Super Models four-part documentary series, spotlighting the extraordinary careers of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington, debuts Sept. 20th exclusively on Apple TV+.
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