Feuds are inevitable. Sometimes people don’t get along and that’s fine. Feuds in the fashion industry are even more inevitable. A tough industry is usually filled with tougher people. Feuds that are pushed by the media are completely inevitable. Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks are proof of this.
For those of you who don’t know, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks are popular models that had a “feud” in the 90s.
Naomi Campbell was one of the most in demand models of the late 80s and 90s. She is also one of 6 models that are known as supermodels. She was the first black model on British Vogue and Vogue Paris. She is still a highly successful model, she started a YouTube channel recently, and does a lot of activism.
Tyra Banks was a model who began her career at 15. She was the first African-American descent featured on GQ and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Tyra was also a Victoria Secret Angel from 1997 to 2005. She has acted in The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, Gossip Girl, Glee, and co-starred in her movie Life Size. In 2003, she created a successful reality show America’s Next Top Model.
So, you would think people would let two successful models coexist in the same era. I mean Kate Moss and Christy Turlington were allowed to. Why couldn’t Tyra and Naomi?
To answer that question, you have to be aware of the time period. Naomi and Tyra didn’t cross paths till the Azzedine Alaïa Ready-To-Wear 1992 show. Prior to that, Naomi was super successful. She opened a lot of doors for black models and was making history. That’s a lot for a young woman in her 20s to have accomplished so soon. So when all of sudden the media starts to say your days are numbered and you’re going to be replaced by younger model, I would be pissed too.
There were headline after headline of a feud between them before they even met. It’s alleged, by Tyra herself, that at the Azzedine Alaïa Ready-To-Wear 1992 show Naomi confronted her. Tyra said on her talk show ‘The Tyra Show‘ that she was excited that she was walking at the same show as Naomi. Tyra was huge fan of Naomi prior to all of this. So, Tyra called her mother and talked about how excited how she was. Naomi misinterpreted Tyra and thought she was gossiping about Naomi behind her back. Naomi then, allegedly, confronted Tyra and told her “I heard you talking about me,” then called Tyra a bitch, and continued to say “We have a photo shoot to do in Anguilla and its not going to be pleasant if you’re talking about me like that.“
Later, during a trip to Anguilla for a Vogue photo shoot, Tyra got seasick. She was trying to rest a little in between the photos. Apparently, Naomi then came to her and tried to talk to Tyra. Years later during an interview with Naomi on The Tyra Show, Tyra say this about discussing what happened that day, “You came in and sat next to me, and I think you let me put my head in your lap or you put my feet on your lap. And you’re like ‘Sweetie, are you okay? Are you okay?‘ and I said ‘actually, yeah. I’m okay.‘ You said ‘I have to ask you something.‘ You see, I remember this because I was so new and young. You said ‘I have to ask you something. Do they try to make you look like me?‘ And I said ‘I don’t know about so much now, but in LA, yeah they really do with a little short black wig.’ And Naomi, you got up and pushed me away and said ‘Yeah, I thought so‘ and you turned. You went from the sweetest woman that was giving me vitamins to someone that terrified me on that trip. I was told on that trip that I was sent home because you don’t want me there anymore.”
Naomi then responded with “No, that’s not true. I don’t have the power of Anna Wintour.“
Not only did the media pushed two talented models against each other, they almost pushed Tyra out of industry. After being kicked out of a Versace show during Paris fashion week, which Tyra thinks Naomi was at fault for, Tyra thought she couldn’t deal with the intense feud anymore. In Tyra’s words “I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the payphone. I called my mother and I said ‘Mom, I can’t take it anymore,‘ I dropped down to my knees in that payphone. People were watching by trying to help me in french and they didn’t know I was okay, I was just emotional. I said ‘I can’t take it anymore’ and I said ‘If she wants it this badly, she can have this entire industry. I got accepted to five colleges. I’m coming home and I’m going to school.‘ That’s what I told my mom. My mom kind of calmed me down and I said ‘Well, the only way I can do this is if you are by my side every single day.‘”
This exaggerated feud created real insecurities and problems between two talented, beautiful models. The fact that the media had that much of an effect on both parties, is sad to say the least. Naomi ended up saying this about the media’s impact, “But don’t you think some of the things are like blown up a little bit? When I would read the press, I would be like ‘But this didn’t happen! We didn’t have a fight on the runway. I mean it really was blown up by the proportion.“
I think Naomi and Tyra’s feud is a huge example of a journalist’s power and a racist industry. Whether you chose to be aware of it or not, the media has a huge impact on our lives. Journalist’s have the responsibility to be transparent and truthful. This feud is a tiny example of what happens when the media isn’t being transparent. The media wanted one main black model. They took an opportunity to invalidate Naomi’s success and it created a whole mess. If the media wants a feud, they’ll create one. Luckily, Naomi and Tyra have put the ‘feud’ to rest multiple times. From what I know, they’re on good terms.
(Extra note: I got a lot of my information off of a Tyra and Naomi interview on The Tyra Show. Here’s the link. And there is a YouTube’s who did a great analysis of the situation, so if you’re interested in that: here’s the link.)
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