Naomi Campbell Learned How to Runway Walk While Listening to This Lionel Richie Song

Naomi Campbell has been known for many things throughout her career, but nothing more so than her her iconic runway walk. The British supermodel made a name for herself thanks to her signature stomp and sway that has made its mark on countless catwalks and landed her on the cover of hundreds of magazines. Surprisingly, Campbell herself never had a professional runway coach; instead, she learned everything she knows from her mother, who taught her the moves using a beloved song by Grammy-winning singer Lionel Richie.

Naomi Campbell
Naomi Campbell attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 24, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Naomi Campbell is known for her iconic runway walk

Naomi Campbell was discovered on the streets of London when she was just 15 years old. She had been studying dance since the age of 3 and was on the path to becoming a professional dancer.

Beth Boldt, the head of Synchro modeling agency, was windowshopping in the Streatham area and spotted Campbell. The supermodel recalled the incident in a 2016 article for The Guardian

“It was a warm April afternoon, and I was hanging out with my friends after school,” she recalled. “Suddenly, a woman came up to me and asked if I’d ever thought of modeling.”

“My immediate reaction was surprise and excitement. But when I told my mum, she wasn’t into the idea at all,” she continued. Her mother Valerie wanted her to stay in school and finish her exams, but she eventually came around and agreed she could model as long as it didn’t interfere with school. 

Campbell’s career quickly took off. She booked her first big shoot a few months after signing with Synchro: the cover of British Elle magazine. The April 1986 issue came out just a few weeks shy of Campbell’s 16th birthday.

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 learned how to catwalk from her mother

Campbell has graced the cover of over 500 magazines since she first burst on the scene in the late 1980s. She soon became a presence at fashion shows around the world because of her powerful, confident, and refined walk.

At the launch of her modeling show The Face in 2013, Campbell revealed that her mother was the one who taught her how to catwalk, as well as the music that she used to encourage her. “I have my mentor here, my mum,” she said. “She used to teach me how to walk the runway down the passages to Lionel Richie.”

Lionel Richie and Naomi Campbell
Lionel Richie and Naomi Campbell attend the de Grisogono “Crazy Chic Evening” cocktail party at the Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc on May 18, 2010 in Antibes, France | Michel Dufour/WireImage

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Naomi Campbell’s mother played 1 Lionel Richie song on repeat

In 2021, Campbell sat down with Richie himself on her web series No Filter with Naomi and told him about his impact on her runway coaching.

“My mom showed me one time and one time only,” Campbell recalled. “That was in our house in southwest London in Streatham. We used to have this green carpet all over the passageway, dark green — I’ll never forget it.”

“And the music that my mother showed me,” she continued, “was to ‘All Night Long.'”

Richie was taken aback, and was thrilled to hear that his chart-topping 1983 single helped her find her footing on the runway — literally.