There are always obstacles in life, and even if I did see obstacles, I never looked at it like, “Okay, we can’t achieve what we wanted. We can’t achieve what needs to be achieved.” I’d look at whatever obstacles were in front of me and find the people who could help me overcome them. Patrick Demarchelier was the one who got me my first Vogue cover. It was French Vogue—I think in ’87 or ’88. I think I was the first black model to be on the cover of French Vogue, which was shocking to me because when I asked them about it, they were like, “Oh, no. We’ve never had that before.” And I was like, “Oh, really?” I remember one time I went to Australia. I don’t know if this is true or not, but the editor in chief of a magazine there told me that she got fired for putting me on the cover.
Artists in New York City pictured April 23, 1985 at Mr. Chow restaurant from top left: Michael Heizer, David Hockney, Leroy Nieman, Dennis Oppenheim, Stefano, Bill Wegman, John Chamberlain, Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, Armand Arman, Alex Katz, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Tony Shafrazi, Red Grooms, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Robert MappleThorpe, Ronnie Cutrone, Sandro Chia. Plus: Nam June Paik, Jennifer Barlett, Jack Goldstein, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Les Levine, Sol Lewitt, Marisol, Peter Max, Meredith Monk, Larry Rivers, Survival Research Labs (Mark Pauline, Mat Heckert, Eric Berner), Mark van den Broek, Tom Wesselman and Greer Langton.
Honestly, for me it was a blessing to have a friend like Christy. I was so indebted to her for so many things. You know, when I was younger there were certain designers who hadn’t used models of color in their shows, and Christy and Linda said to them, “If you don’t take Naomi, then you don’t get us.” My friends and comrades stuck up for me—and that doesn’t happen in fashion. I will never forget that. I don’t forget what people do. No matter how many years go by, I always remember.
Went to an artist talk yesterday with Dan Colen and Peter Brant at SVA and look who I ran into on the way in. The legendary art dealer Tony Shafrazi!! The man who represented Basquiat and Keith Haring in their heyday. He also put together the infamous Basquiat and Warhol exhibition. He’s done so much more…was a great honor to meet him.
‘Shafrazi’s 1974 attack on Picasso’s “Guernica” in which he spray painted “KILL LIES ALL” across the painting. Shafrazi was a member of the Art Workers’ Coalition, which in 1970 had staged a protest at MoMA by unfurling a copy of the famous My Lai protest poster And babies in front of “Guernica”.’
“I wanted to bring the art absolutely up to date, to retrieve it from art history and give it life. Maybe that’s why the Guernica action remains so difficult to deal with. I tried to trespass beyond that invisible barrier that no one is allowed to cross; I wanted to dwell within the act of the painting’s creation, get involved with the making of the work, put my hand within it and by that act encourage the individual viewer to challenge it, deal with it and thus see it in its dynamic raw state as it was being made, not as a piece of history.”
Tony Shafrazi on why he defaced Guernica, Art in America in December 1980