Just because my name is Naomi Campbell, it doesn't mean I know her

When I moved to Streatham in London from Leeds, aged 23, I was excited for what this new chapter of my life would bring.

I didn’t realise that I had inadvertently relocated to the birth place of my famous namesake, and that the jokes and comments that had followed me around my whole life were only going to get worse.  

I remember thinking, ‘what are the chances? As if sharing a name wasn’t enough’.  

Whenever I meet people in the area, or tell someone where I live, they ask questions like whether I know her mum, who apparently lives nearby. For the record, I don’t.  

On the occasions when I get talking to locals, they’ll point out various buildings and tell me where the ‘real’ Naomi Campbell went to school or did this or that.

I know so much about her childhood now that I could almost lead a ‘the life of Naomi Campbell’ guided walking tour.  

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But, as you can imagine, all these comments are pretty tiring. Barely a week goes by without someone having something to say about my name.  

I’ve known who Naomi Campbell is for as long as I can remember – although my mum assures me I wasn’t named after the supermodel.  

At first, I loved and revelled in all the attention that came with it.

It gave me a lot of confidence and I would introduce myself to everyone, who in turn fawned over the little girl with the same name as one of the world’s most famous faces.  

But then I got to secondary school.  

Teenage anxieties meant I no longer wanted to stand out from the crowd, and having a name like mine often meant the opposite. I especially remember teachers drawing attention to it, even when my friends wouldn’t. 

They would say things like, ‘I can’t wait to go home and tell everybody I teach Naomi Campbell’.

Once other students found out I was flooded with questions, the main one being: ‘Are you related to her?’.

Others would remark, ‘I bet you wish you were the real Naomi Campbell’.  

Of course this translated to me drawing a comparison between the two of us, and I ended up quite conscious about my looks. I was terrified of other people imagining both of us side by side.  

I was a teenager, and I felt awkward anyway, so these sort of comments definitely did not help.  

The response to my name that made me most uncomfortable though was often directed to my mum. Adults would joke, ‘Does she have a temper like the real Naomi Campbell?’ 

My mum found it quite funny and she’d usually respond with something sarcastic like, ‘Yes, she lives up to her name’. Meanwhile, I stood next to her, deeply embarrassed.

The truth was, I was a bit moody – but what teenager isn’t?  

While I grew out of my juvenile worries, the questions never stopped. Neither did people asking how I felt about the ‘real’ Naomi.  

That’s the thing that frustrates me most; it’s almost as people are suggesting that I’m an imitation, or less of a person. I realise that this comment doesn’t come from a malicious place, but it still takes some getting used to to hear repeatedly.

Especially because I’ve often been accused about lying about my name. I’ve had to show my ID on more than one occasion to prove I’m telling the truth (I always think this is more awkward for the person asking than it is for me – it feels good to be right).  

I distinctly remember booking a table at an upscale restaurant to celebrate my birthday a few years ago. When my partner and I showed up and said my name, the host looked very confused.

She asked me to confirm my phone number, and it was only when I got that correct that she accepted she wouldn’t be serving a group of models.  

But I really don’t get mistaken for her often. My namesake and I lead very different lives; I’m a teacher, which I very much enjoy, but it’s not very glamorous. 

Luckily, my students are young children who are completely unaware – so at least there’s one place where I get respite from the comments!

There’s no catwalks or modelling shoots for me, I’m afraid. Although, whenever my name is called at the GP’s or dentist’s I strut my way into their office, watching other patients’ faces taking me in – looking nothing like a top model. It keeps me entertained!  

It’s only in the past few years that I’ve started following Naomi Campbell’s career. Even though she’ll probably never know who I am, I feel obliged to support her and follow her journey – as she’s always had an impact on my life.  

I really do admire her and everything she’s achieved. As a young, black female, I feel like I’m actually very privileged to share my name with such a successful black woman.  

I’ve thought about changing my name (especially when the jokes start to wear thin), and I may if I ever get married, but for now I like being Naomi Campbell.

And I can’t think of anybody else I’d rather share a name with! 

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