RIYADH: British supermodel Naomi Campbell has been visiting Saudi Arabia this week, appearing at a number of events including the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah.
On Wednesday she took part in a panel discussion titled Diversity and Inclusion in the Fashion Industry. Organized and hosted by Hia Hub, in Riyadh’s Jax district, the event also featured Princess Noura bint Faisal, general manager of ecosystem integration and program delivery at the Saudi Fashion Commission.
Known as an advocate for inclusivity and empowerment in international modeling, Campbell debuted as a model at the age of 15 and rose to fame in the late 1980s early 1990s. She quickly became a household name, known for her outspoken demeanor. Now 51, she has appeared on the cover of more than 500 magazines worldwide.
Princess Nourah paid tribute to the supermodel and her character, saying: “Naomi, from what we see you have always been true to yourself. To be true and to have your own values and to not forget who you are just because a place doesn’t accept you, (it) doesn’t mean you have to change, you just have to be who you are and push that.”
Campbell’s first public appearance during her visit to Saudi Arabia was on Dec. 13 when she walked the red carpet at the closing ceremony of the first Red Sea Film Festival and presented one of the festival awards.
“I had to actually pinch myself and say I am in Saudi Arabia at the Red Sea Film Festival, the first one ever, this historical event,” she said.
“It’s really about the change that’s happening around the world. I have been doing this for 35 years and I am really honored and happy to be here, still, in the business … and to see the change.”
Campbell also visited the historical city of AlUla to explore it’s cultural heritage and breathtaking scenery. In a photograph posted to her Instagram account, she was pictured jumping on a trampoline in AlUla, accompanied by Mohammed Abdul Aziz Al-Turki the chairman of the film festival.
After exploring AlUla, Campbell traveled to Riyadh on Wednesday for the fashion panel, which was attended by fashion designers, influencers and TV personalities.
During the discussion, the model said this is not her first visit to the Kingdom but it is her first time in the capital. She briefly discussed her love of humanitarian work, which began in 1993 in Africa with Nelson Mandela, and the resulting cultural influences she has experienced.
“There is a bridge between Saudi Arabia and Africa,” she said. “There are so many similarities and I really believe that Africa can teach the Middle East (about) textile and the Middle East can teach artisan work to Africa.”
Self-empowerment and mutual support within the fashion world was a major topic during the discussion, and Campbell talked about her continual efforts to assist and support others in the industry.
She also commended Princess Nourah on her efforts to support 100 Saudi brands. The princess explained that they were chosen from more than 1,400 businesses that applied to a special program, and will be given the advice, support and tools they need to develop and realize their potential.
Campbell said that she intends to continue working and campaigning on behalf of women.
“I am not going to stop, even when I step down from the runway,” she said. “Even when I won’t appear on the magazine covers I will still speak for my sisters.”
She said that she often sees people in the fashion field stand up and do the right thing once, but then stop.
“It is not okay,” she said. “It is consistent; you have to maintain it, therefore you have to maintain being there and sticking behind what you believe in.
“You are supporting and doing and choosing in the right way, in a diverse mind, with an equally balanced mind, I’m happy; when I’m not happy, I say it,” she said.
Campbell talked about what it means to stand your ground and believe in yourself, even when you face public opposition or a backlash.
“I have been called all sorts of names when I started speaking up at 18 years old and whatever I did, (despite the public backlash) I am still here 35 years later,” she said.
She ended by thanking the Saudi designer who created her outfit, and told the audience: “It is just such a pleasure to be here in your country.”
Hia Hub is a unique facility, created and unveiled this month by Hia magazine, that combines art and culture. It organizes lectures and exhibitions featuring influential local and global figures, and is set to host a number of art galleries. Events scheduled for the coming week include a calligraphy workshop with Mont Blanc and an exhibition by the Raffles Design Institute.