By Geneva S. Thomas
With over two decades in the game, supermodel Naomi Campbell has served an unmatched fierceness since her first Elle cover. Prominent for her endless legs and cocoa ageless skin, Campbell is arguably one of the most iconic fashion models in recent history. In the past few years, Campbell’s reputation took a turn for the worse. Campbell has been called short tempered, mad and even dangerous.
Last evening a video surfaced showing an ABC News interview with the model. When questioned on an alleged “blood diamond” she received from former Liberian President Charles Taylor in 1997, Campbell became increasingly irritated and left the interview. Reports claim Campbell “punches,” “KO’s,” “strikes out” an ABC News camera and that the model ultimately refuses to testify in Taylor’s case.
News sources are having a field day. E! News says “This is the Naomi Campbell Meltdown We’ve All Been Waiting For” and the Mirror UK even lists a roll of shame detailing the model’s history of “temper tantrums.” Clearly the media gets a kick out of painting Campbell as the archetypal “angry Black bitch.” Still Naomi Campbell hasn’t skipped a beat. Fashionably resilient, the woman pumps out flawless spreads for the most prestigious glossies. If the media’s goal is to destroy Naomi’s sweeping career, they fail miserably.
We aren’t excusing Campbell’s behavior. Assaulting her former assistant with a telephone while threatening to throw her out of a moving car is simply not cool. Nor is punching a news camera. It’s a conclusively fair, Naomi Campbell has a problem with anger. It seems however, whenever Naomi Campbell has outbursts, she’s the eternal wicked witch, but when Kate Moss is caught on camera doing coke, how quickly the public forgives and forgets.
But for many black women, this is nothing new. Seems there’s no room to be upset and black. Seems the smallest confrontations involving black women, evolves into, “she attacked me!” When our counterparts have outbursts or meltdowns, the press solicits the opinions of mental health experts, deconstructing childhoods, blaming every outside influence but the women themselves. A black woman warrants no psychoanalytical weigh-ins, we are continually, inescapably and irrefutably branded as “angry Black bitches” or the more sanitized, P.C go-to congruent, “diva.”
The myth of the “industry black diva” didn’t start with Campbell. Entertainers like Patti LaBelle, Diana Ross and even Grace Jones fall within this working myth. Many of us deal with this regularly at our workplaces and college campuses. How often is our style of communicating angst, rightful irritability and disgust confused with anger?
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