Naomi Campbell Once Flew 70 People Out to South Africa to Meet Nelson Mandela

Naomi Campbell is a philanthropist in addition to being one of the biggest supermodels of all time and a fixture in the entertainment industry. She has dedicated time and money for decades throughout the African continent and has always strived to help the people there with the help of local leaders — including the great South African apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela.

Naomi Campbell
British model Naomi Campbell walks the runway during the Kenneth Ize show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2020/2021 on February 24, 2020 in Paris, France | Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

Naomi Campbell wanted 70 of her friends to meet Nelson Mandela

Campbell first met “Tata” — one of Mandela’s many nicknames — in the late 1990s, and she was so moved that she knew she had to share his wisdom firsthand with her friends. She described the experience in an interview with AMAKA Studio.

“Meeting Tata, the late president Nelson Mandela, for me, is an experience that I can only share with you. And I did share with a lot of my friends,” she recounted. “When I met him, I was like, ‘I want everyone to meet him.’ So I took 78 people from New York City — hair, makeup, and all the models we know — to Cape Town to meet Tata.”

“I know they will never forget it,” she said proudly. “That’s how I am: I want to share as well as connect and communicate.”

Naomi Campbell and Nelson Mandela
Model Naomi Campbell and Nelson Mandela attend the Nelson Mandela Fundraising Lunch at the Gallagher Estate prior to the 46664 World Aids Day Concert on November 30, 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa | Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

RELATED: Naomi Campbell Inspired Gwen Stefani’s Hit Song ‘Hollaback Girl’

Naomi Campbell learned many lessons from Nelson Mandela

Campbell was moved when she was asked what she learned from the late South African president. “So many things,” Campbell smiled. “Sometimes it wasn’t that he even spoke; sometimes it was that he didn’t speak.” She felt his energy when he would hold her hand at the dinner table and absorbed everything he said as well as every little thing he did.

“He taught me so many things: how to use myself, how to help others,” she continued. “I’d say ‘Tata, I’m not your perfect person, I’ve got my issues.’ He didn’t care. He never judged me. It was, ‘Use yourself to help others.'”

“And he let me see how he did it — how he humbly did it with so many people around the world,” she added of his character.

Nelson Mandela and Naomi Campbell
South African President Nelson Mandela (L) hugs British supermodel Naomi Campbell at Genadendal, his home in Cape Town, South Africa| Anna Zieminski/AFP via Getty Images

Nelson Mandela motivates Naomi Campbell to this day

Campbell takes many of the lessons she learned from Mandela with her to this day, namely the motivation to do good in the world.

“When he left on the 5th of December, 2013, I cried. I mourned. But the week later, I got this kick of a drive,” Campbell admitted.

“He was in my life for a reason.”