British-Jamaican supermodel, philanthropist and contributing editor for British Vogue Naomi Campbell was in Durban, South Africa for the Forbes Woman Africa 2019 Leading Women Summit on March 8 as a keynote speaker.
Held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre and coinciding with International Women’s Day, Campbell passionately touched on a lot of topics including her love for Africa, lessons she learned from some revered South African personalities she was privileged to meet as well the marketability of the African fashion industry.
“There’s many great women. I was very blessed and lucky to meet Miriam Makeba when I came to South Africa. I didn’t know her story but it was just her presence. Then Winnie Mandela… I met many powerful and strong women with inner strength and I am very much attracted to women with strength. You learn from them, you take from them, you observe them and how they speak. I have always considered myself a work-in-progress,” she told Forbes Africa.
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“For me, modeling has been a blessing in my life. I am very grateful. It led me to meet the most amazing people. Where I am at in my life today, is to use the almost 33 years that I have been in this business to help make awareness, to open the minds to the brands that I work with and have worked with all these years.
“They need to come to this continent, not just come in and out and take, but [invest] in the infrastructure and make a commitment to the communities in Africa,” she added.
Speaking with Forbes Africa on the eve of the summit, the veteran model reemphasized the plans she has for the continent and the need to change the negative narrative.
“My passion project is Africa. It is such a beautiful rich culture, with minerals and so many natural resources,” Campbell said. “The narrative and perception also have to change. It is understood in the wrong way.”
Campbell also stressed on how African designers are in-demand largely because of the unique textiles on the continent.
“I don’t want to see that their textiles are copied and they don’t get credit for what they have done.”
“For me, the workmanship, the textiles, this is what we need to keep on the continent. We cannot allow other brands and designers from the West to come in and take your textiles,” she said.
In the interview, Campbell also fondly spoke about her relationship and first encounter with Nelson Mandela, who referred to her as his “honorary granddaughter.”
“I have many great memories here in South Africa, and undoubtedly always with ‘grandad’, when he would send me out to the people, to different townships and villages and just put things in perspective for me.”
“Yes, I was coming from a fashion background, but I am a human being too and coming from a middleclass family, it’s something you feel to do, it’s not something anyone can push you to do. I am not sure what he saw in me and thought that I could do it, but I really love him and miss him,” she said.