Naomi Campbell is a British model. Discovered at the age of 15, she established herself among the top three most recognisable and in-demand models of the late 1980s and 1990s, and she was one of six models of her generation declared "supermodels" by the fashion world. Her personal life has been widely covered, particularly her relationships with prominent men — including boxer Mike Tyson and actor Robert De Niro — and several highly-publicised convictions for assault.
Campbell was born in Streatham, South London, the daughter of Jamaican-born dancer Valerie Morris. In accordance with her mother's wishes, Campbell has never met her father, who abandoned her mother when she was four months pregnant and was unnamed on her birth certificate. She took on the surname Campbell from her mother's second marriage. Her half-brother, Pierre, was born in 1985. Campbell is of Afro-Jamaican descent, as well as of Chinese Jamaican ancestry through her paternal grandmother, who carried the family name Ming.
During her early years, Campbell lived in Rome, where her mother worked as a modern dancer. Following their return to London, she was left in the care of relatives while her mother travelled across Europe with the dance troupe Fantastica. From the age of three, Campbell attended the Barbara Speake Stage School, and at ten years old, she was accepted into the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, where she studied ballet.
Campbell's first public appearance came at the age of seven, in 1978, when she was featured in the music video for Bob Marley's "Is This Love". At the age of twelve, she tap-danced in the music video for Culture Club's "I'll Tumble 4 Ya". In 1986, while still a student of the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Campbell was scouted by Beth Boldt, head of the Synchro model agency, while window-shopping in Covent Garden. Her career quickly took off—in April, just before her sixteenth birthday, she appeared on the cover of British Elle.
Over the next few years, Campbell's success grew steadily: she walked the runway for such designers as Gianni Versace, Azzedine Alaïa, and Isaac Mizrahi, and posed for such photographers as Peter Lindbergh, Herb Ritts, and Bruce Weber. By the late 1980s, Campbell, with Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, formed a trio known as the "Trinity", who became the most recognisable and in-demand models of their generation.
When faced with discrimination, Campbell received support from her friends; she later quoted Turlington and Evangelista as telling Dolce & Gabbana, "If you don't use Naomi, you don't get us." In December 1987, she appeared on the cover of British Vogue, as that publication's first black cover girl since 1966. In August 1988, she became the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue, after her friend and mentor, designer Yves St. Laurent, threatened to withdraw his advertising from the magazine if it continued to refuse to place black models on its cover. The following year, she appeared on the cover of American Vogue, which marked the first time a black model graced the front of the September issue, traditionally the year's biggest and most important issue.
In January 1990, Campbell, who was declared "the reigning megamodel of them all" by Interview, appeared with Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, and Tatjana Patitz on an iconic cover of British Vogue, shot by Peter Lindbergh. The group was subsequently cast to star in the music video for George Michael's "Freedom! '90". By then, Campbell, Turlington, Evangelista, Crawford, and Claudia Schiffer formed an elite group of models declared "supermodels" by the fashion industry. With the addition of newcomer Kate Moss, they were collectively known as the "Big Six".
In March 1991, in a defining moment of the so-called supermodel era, Campbell walked the runway for Versace with Turlington, Evangelista, and Crawford, arm-in-arm and lip-synching the words to "Freedom! '90". Later that year, she starred as Michael Jackson's love interest in the music video for "In the Closet". In April 1992, she posed with several other top models for the hundredth-anniversary cover of American Vogue, shot by Patrick Demarchelier. That same year, she appeared in Madonna's controversial book Sex, in a set of nude photos with Madonna and rapper Big Daddy Kane.
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