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Soon she was earning a fortune, leading a jetset lifestyle, dating a string of the world's most high-profile men and meeting, and campaigning for, Nelson Mandela. So why did I feel such despair at her comment this week that at 38 she could not retire from modelling because if she leaves the catwalk who will young black women look up to? For instead of inspiring and empowering Britain's black women, Naomi has brought shame upon us.After all, today Naomi is every bit as gorgeous, on the outside, as she was 20 years ago. Instead of being an ambassador for us she has become a stumbling block in our quest for equality.As a young black woman myself, then pregnant with my daughter, I felt a rush of excitement.Naomi was lovely, a true ambassador for Britain's growing black female population.
Boys were encouraged to study for longer and to tackle more academic subjects, while girls were often pushed out to secretarial colleges.
In the public imagination, it was a decade of unbroken sunshine and sparkling blue skies, the headlines full of chart-topping pop stars and world-conquering footballers, a world of Minis and miniskirts, endless possibilities and thrilling pleasures.
Even now, half a century later, we still live in the Sixties’ shadow.
I'm a novelist and know from my own experience of raising two children in the inner city how difficult it is to overcome the barriers of race and poverty.
So when Naomi made that breakthrough, a mood of excitement ran through my community in Manchester and countless others across Britain.