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Naomi Campbell: Defying the angry black woman stereotype

ROYAL APPOINTMENT: Naomi at last week’s wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank

WHEN I met her at the Dorchester Hotel in central London last week, Naomi Campbell was in a strident mood. She means business.

“Some sections of the media seem to be determined to portray me as an angry black woman, and it’s got to stop.”

She means it. She’s not playing. Not this time. She’s sending out a warning and, no doubt, she has a plan as to how to make the media tell the truth about how she behaves and what her intentions are.

But if anybody was under the apprehension that Naomi does not have the wherewithal to fight the haters and win, they are very much mistaken.

Of course she is not the first black woman to be portrayed as an angry black woman. As Naomi tells me: “That’s been happening for hundreds of years.”

It’s as if she chose the right time and place to start her fight back against the media. After all, it is Black History Month which is the annual time for us to write our story rather than history. If there’s any correction to be made in the perception of black people it is most effectively done in October in this country and February in the United States. Likewise if we’re going to dispense with any stereotypes.

The stereotype of the angry black woman is pernicious by nature. When you describe someone as angry you are describing them as having lost the argument and being a sore loser at that.

You cannot reason with a sore loser. Moreover the tag of angry black woman undermines anyone who is trying to maintain or achieve something within their talents because it describes someone who is unreasonable and impossible to work with. Who would want to do business with an angry black woman?

Naomi is under no misunderstanding that she is being targeted. She does not know why but she is frustrated because this tag of a diva throwing tantrums undermines all the good she is trying to do.

For example she has started and is a brand ambassador for several charities that help people all over the world from South America to Africa and beyond. But you wouldn’t know that because that does not reflect the image of Naomi Campbell that the media haters want to put across.

As well as causing her much frustration that negative image of who she is will no doubt hurt those charities which she fronts.
It’s disrespectful, too. Let’s not forget that.

Because when we talk about Naomi Campbell we’re talking about the British woman from south London who transformed the world of modelling and off whose back trillions of dollars worth of fashion, beauty and motor cars have been sold.

None of us can imagine how she has been able to do that - pretty much single handedly. There was no such concept as the ‘supermodel’ until Naomi came around, and even her fellow supermodels have to acknowledge that. Indeed, it is not so clear what is so super about any of them without Naomi in the mix somewhere.

But the way her contemporaries are treated is very different from the way Naomi is regarded by her media distractors. I can name at least one supermodel who behaves 'badly' and is celebrated by the very same media that demonises Ms. Campbell.

Naomi wouldn’t say this, she has too much class to, but it seems like it’s one rule for everybody else and another for her. Well, as she says, it’s got to stop.


Dotun Adebayo and Naomi Campbell

STRATEGY

I genuinely don’t know what she’s got in mind as a strategy to take on the giants of the press. What can anyone, let alone a black woman, albeit the most iconic black woman in the world, do in any way to stand up to the abuse?

But I do know that if we don’t accept the maligning of Naomi, if we stand by her as she goes on the next level of her life in which she wants to make a positive impact for all people but not least the young black girls that she is a role model for, if we stand up and are counted in support of Naomi the stereotype of black women as being angry and unreasonable will not be able to stand. It’s up to her.

Naomi is charming. And the person she trusts the most in this country is – wait for it – Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote. No, really.

And the fact that it is Simon that she turns to via guidance and advice tells you a lot about Naomi. She’s conscious. She’s a global citizen with her mind on Africa and she’s considering moving to the continent and setting up home there.

She wants us all to look to Africa, in that Garveyite way, but not necessarily for the coming of a black king as old Marcus said, but for how we can make a difference to Africa and Africans at home or abroad.

But so what if black women get angry. Do they not have much to be angry about? Did the Hottentot Venus not have much to be angry about? Did Coretta Scott King not have much to be angry about or Maya Angelou or Michelle Obama?

Do these great black women not have much to be angry about? Does every black woman not have reason to vent her spleen over one thing or another?

If white women have reason to be angry over #MeToo or any of the other discriminatory positions in this man’s man’s man’s world, then can black women not be angry over the way they are treated not just in #MeToo but also in #BlackWivesMatter or any other of the many hashtags that play a part in the black woman’s narrative?

A black woman is more than the sum total of the way she is mistreated and her attitude consequentially. And so it is in the case of Naomi.

Even if the rest of the media does not acknowledge it she is a phenomenal woman. In the words of Dr Angelou: she walks into a room, just as cool as you please, and to a man, the fellows stand or fall down on their knees, then they swarm around her, a hive of honey bees – it’s the fire in her eyes, and the flash of her teeth, the swing in her waist and the joy in her feet...she’s a black woman – phenomenally.

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