Naomi Campbell Talks Tokenism in the Fashion Industry, Says 'It Needs to Change' from Top to Bottom

"Everyone used to think that you liked being the token Black person in the room... I never did," the supermodel said

Naomi Campbell is ready for change.

While appearing remotely on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen Tuesday, the supermodel, 50, addressed Anna Wintour's recent statement to the staff at Vogue, amid the Black Lives Matter movement, about the publication's failure to elevate diverse voices.

“I want to say this especially to the Black members of our team — I can only imagine what these days have been like,” the Editor in Chief wrote in the emotional email sent on June 4. “But I also know that the hurt, and violence, and injustice we’re seeing and talking about have been around for a long time. Recognizing it and doing something about it is overdue.”

She continued: “I want to say plainly that I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators. We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”

Naomi Campbell attends the Amazon Studios 2020 Winter TCA Press Tour at Langham Hotel on January 14, 2020
Naomi Campbell. Kevin Mazur/Getty

When asked for her reaction to Wintour's memo, Campbell said she was looking forward to the change happening in the fashion industry.

"I think things are about to change, don't you?" she asked Cohen. "Things are about to change."

"Everyone used to think that you liked being the token Black person in the room," Campbell added of her own experience of tokenism in the industry. "It's absolutely the opposite. I never did."

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The British model continued, explaining that change would have to begin top-down.

"It needs to change from the board room to the seat. It needs to go right from the top through," she said. "I've been saying this for years, and so I'm truly grateful and happy finally this is happening."

"The way that it's had to come out, for people to lose their lives, it's very sad and my condolences to each and every one of those victims…parents of those people that have gone," Campbell added. "This had to happen. This change had to happen."

Amid the news of George Floyd's death earlier this year — a murder that has inspired protests and movements around the world against racial injustice and police brutality — Campbell shared her sentiments about the senseless killing on Twitter, writing that she is "sick and tired" of "people dying needlessly."

"I don’t have the words. I’m sick and tired of this, tired of being sad about our people dying needlessly," Campbell wrote. "Harassed and humiliated in these challenging times, I thought we could come to together, but it seems like this Coronavirus has bought out more racism in a major way."

"Where does it end?" she added. "I’m black and I’m proud #JUSTICEFORFLOYD."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero ( which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement ( provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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