Naomi Campbell: Thick Skin is Very Important in Fashion

By Naomi Campbell

This week’s episode of The Face was centered on modeling a new hairstyle.  The challenge was a shoot to impress the one and only, Frederic Fekkai.

But you would be forgiven if you thought the episode was about skin: the bareness of it, the color of it, the thickness of it.

Beyond their newly coiffed hair, our girls had to do the shoot completely nude. Let me tell you, it is a very intimidating experience being nude for the first time in front of a camera! I remember one of my first nude shoots was for the Pirelli calendar, shot by Terence Donovan. I couldn’t sleep the night before. When I arrived on set I didn’t know whether to act cool about the situation, or whether it was okay to show that I was a bit nervous. Terence was a true professional who must have known I hadn’t done a shoot like it before and so he was very kind and patient.  The team you are working with makes all the difference.

When going nude in any setting, I think most of us initially worry about being judged and feeling vulnerable in that there is no place to hide our insecurities – they are totally exposed for everyone to see.  But being nude can, in fact, be very liberating.  I’m not saying everyone should go out and become a nudist, but what I am saying is that accepting yourself without clothes can be empowering.  No matter what shape or size you are, if you can love yourself stark naked, you have the makings of a healthy self-esteem.

It is this confidence that we are trying to bring out of our girls from the start.  Of course, there were a few initial nerves on set, but overall our girls confronted this task with professionalism and they rose to the challenge.

During this episode we had to address a troubling incident in relation to skin: prejudice based on the color of it. Most will be aware of my work with Bethann Hardison and Iman in drawing attention towards the lack of diversity in fashion and trying to redress this issue, and there has been a little improvement since we spoke out last autumn; the recent fashion weeks were a bit better, there are more black models being used in advertising campaigns, and we have seen some amazing black models coming to the fore like Jourdan Dunn, Riley Montana, Betty Adewole. 

So when discrimination came up in the episode, I think you will have seen that I was not mad or upset, I was shocked at what I was hearing. I couldn’t believe that in 2014 one contestant would even think that another contestant would not win the competition because of the color of her skin and the country of her origin.

It goes to show there’s still work to be done with regards to racial equality- and it is important for us to realize ignorance still exists…  Even today.  

Finally, and still on the subject of skin, thick skin will be an ongoing theme of the show. Thick skin is a good thing to have in life – and a very important thing for our aspiring models to develop. In our challenges, the mentors have to give tough love in order to push our teams to excel. I know I can be a bit of a drill sergeant, but it is because I see what my team is capable of. It’s a competition and none of us mentors want our teams to be the weakest and risk losing one of our beautiful girls in an elimination.

In my nearly 28-year career I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to face rejection and have someone criticize me.   Early in my career I was put up for a campaign that I really wanted.  I knew I was right for the job and I knew it was going to be my big break.  Then the call came in from my agent to tell me I didn’t get the job and I was crushed – I questioned whether I was in the right business, felt sorry for myself for a day - but I picked myself up and carried on.  Funny thing, I did actually get the job a few years later. Tenacity and perseverance in life pays off, you just have to trust in whatever higher power you believe in that things will work out…because they do! 

Our girls were put through their paces this week and I hope it has taught them a thing or two; not only about the real world of modeling, but also about being a strong female in the world. 

Skin, it has so many meanings, but as a model the most important thing is to be comfortable in it.

Don’t forget to tune into The Face next week on Oxygen at 10pm for more lessons in fashion.

Love and light,



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