Saturday 18 January 2020

Naomi is the role model women need

It's high time that fierce and powerful females like Campbell were given the platform they deserve, writes Sophie Donaldson

Naomi Campbell’s personality is exactly what’s required in the Trump era
Naomi Campbell’s personality is exactly what’s required in the Trump era
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

Although she never really went away, it feels as though Naomi Campbell is having a comeback. Late last year, she was appointed as a contributing editor at British Vogue. Her first piece for the magazine was not a frothy accessories special, but a one-to-one with mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, discussing institutionalised racism, diversity in Britain and Brexit.

Last month, it was announced that she will be crowned 2018's Fashion Icon by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, an industry body in the US whose awards ceremony in June draws the biggest names in fashion and entertainment.

Menswear magazine GQ put her on its April cover, topless, posing with rapper, and her rumoured boyfriend, Skepta, along with an in-depth interview with the pair in which Naomi again waxes lyrical about pressing political matters like Trump and #Metoo.

In recent days, she has publicly petitioned Vogue to create an African edition after visiting Lagos for Arise fashion week, telling Reuters: "People have come to realise it is not about the colour of your skin to define if you can do the job or not."

Campbell still works regularly as a model - just last week she walked for Dolce and Gabbana's couture extravaganza in New York - and her youthfulness is quite eerie.

Not only does she look pretty much the same as she did in the 1990s, her personality hasn't softened, either.

The GQ interviewer described her marching in, more than two hours late, wearing white knickers and black stilettos and abruptly announcing: "I can't have all these people staring at me. They'll all have to go. And surely we're not talking on this sofa."

Ah. Classic Campbell. Despite the "stony silence" that ensued, never mind the "brown and hideous" sofa, the interview still went ahead. As far as we know, there were no temper tantrums and nobody had a mobile phone thrown at their head.

The now-infamous incident in which Campbell's projectile of choice was her BlackBerry and the target her maid's head summed up the image that Campbell had been cultivating over two decades in the public eye - the ultimate diva.

As if being convicted for physical assault wasn't bad enough, Campbell consequently arrived for her community service cleaning duties wearing couture and became headline fodder for weeks.

Women rarely conduct themselves in such an obnoxious manner, but when men behave the same way, it never warrants the same reaction - just look at Conor McGregor.

A diva may be an anomaly among women, but she would be quite at home at a male-dominated board meeting or on a lad's weekend away or at the President's Club dinner - if women were invited, of course.

Naomi Campbell has remained in the public eye since her meteoric rise to fame in the late 1980s, but perhaps the 47-year-old is having a moment right now because she is exactly what this moment needs.

To be clear, nobody is endorsing the chucking of phones at heads, but it is high time that forthright, outspoken women like Campbell were given the platform they deserve.

The patriarchy has a habit of reducing women to a single dimension - a smart woman cannot be attractive, a sexual woman cannot be pure and an opinionated woman is simply a bitch. Naomi Campbell defies convention by being all of the above, all at once.

Most importantly, she has a massive ego and isn't afraid to let people know. Men are applauded for their ego, told it makes them attractive, ambitious and dominant. Women are told the opposite. For years, the gender divide has dictated very different standards for men and women when it comes to behaviour.

This is most apparent when it comes to sex. While it's perfectly acceptable, and often even encouraged, for men to have multiple sexual partners, it has never been the case for women.

This kind of wanton behaviour immediately makes her both tainted but also fair game for other men. Somewhere along the line, our shared understanding of sex was defined by the male orgasm. A woman's pleasure is often overlooked, misunderstood or not considered at all.

Meanwhile, divas manage to ooze sex appeal while refusing to be devoured by the male gaze. In contrast to a pin-up like Marilyn Monroe, whose sole existence seemed to be for the sexual gratification of men, women like Campbell flaunt their femininity while evading the predatory behaviour that usually hounds attractive women. Divas are always uber feminine - think Madonna, Mariah, Naomi - but this is tempered by a distinctly masculine mentality. The diva is attractive but intimidating, and therein lies her appeal.

Men see a little of themselves in her; therefore they respect her. Regardless of their celebrity, it is hard to imagine these women enduring leery, gropey behaviour.

They wouldn't tolerate it, and most men wouldn't dare. Besides, smartphones are getting awfully big these days.

Sunday Independent

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