Lady Colin Campbell, Jamaican Royal Commentator and Bestselling Author
Interview by Joy Sigaud
From fashion student to royal confidante, from aristocracy to Black history, the wonderfully straight talking Lady Colin Campbell gives Joy Sigaud some insight into her reasoning and life from her perspective.
J.Sigaud The public know you as the illustrious straight talking aristocrat with no fear of “breaking the mould.” When did you decide to start writing and was it something you had always wanted to do?
Lady Colin Campbell I first thought of becoming a writer when I was 18. I had gone to the Fashion Institute in New York to major in Apparel Design, thinking I wanted to become a dress designer. By the end of the first term, I realised that I would be bored out of my mind if I spent my life working in fashion, so left school, intending to become a writer, but got diverted with an offer to model, at which point my father stepped in and demanded that I return to school. He believed that everyone needed professional qualifications in the event they had to earn a living, so I duly returned to FIT, graduated, and dabbled with designing and modelling until I was 23, at which time I wrote my first book.
J.Sigaud Your speciality is the aristocracy in particular the Royals, non-fiction. Why did you choose that topic and genre?
Lady Colin Campbell I really fell into that field almost by accident. I’ve always loved history and have been an avid reader all my life, but my real interest as a writer was philosophy, which was the subject matter of my first book . Howard Kaminsky, the head of Warner Paperbacks in the US, was prepared to publish the book, which was called The Substance and the Shadow, but only if I included personal material to explain how someone who was known for her looks and style, and had no educational qualifications as a philosopher, had the ability to write a book on such a serious subject. I declined to violate my privacy, shelved the book, and worked in a series of jobs deemed suitable for someone from a ‘nice’ background, namely in insurance and the legal profession, before realising that I’d sooner lower my sights and write about subjects for which I was more apparently qualified, than not write at all. So I incorporated philosophy and superficiality and wrote a book on etiquette, which was well received. I then came up with the idea of writing an authorised biography of the Princess of Wales focusing on her charity work to raise funds for three of her charities which were also three of mine, and after Diana agreed to cooperate, went into the palace to formalise things. In those days, women of my social background were expected to do charity work. My mother had, and I had also done so from before my marriage and continued to do so after my divorce. However, we disagreed on the contents of the book, came to a parting of the ways and I wrote Diana in Private. Believe me, if I had known what I was letting myself in for when I proposed that authorised biography to Diana, I’d never have done so. Being caught up in what became known as the War of the Waleses was very discomfiting.
J.Sigaud You are well remembered and further still popularised on another level by the general public for your role in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Did you feel any of the friction encountered was on account of your status, seen by some as privileged?
Lady Colin Campbell There is little doubt in my mind that the perception of privilege played a part in heightening interest in how I would cope with life in the jungle, but I don’t think it’s what caused the friction between me and some of my camp mates, though it was obvious that neither Duncan Bannantyne and Tony Hadley was educated or sophisticated enough to cope with strong, self-confident women of the world. Chris Eubank, who is a fellow Jamaican and informed me that I needed protection and he had nominated himself as my protector – and he turned out to be a very good protector too – indicated to me that Duncan Bannantyne and Tony Hadley had decided two days after we were all in the camp together that they thought I’d win. But each of them wanted to win, so they formed a cabal to give me a hard time, presumably with the objective of depopularising me or in the alternative running me out of the camp. Their constant sniping and perpetual harassment created a toxic environment, but if they thought it would lead me to throw in the towel, they underestimated the power of the Jamaican woman to hold her ground. I’ve never met a weak Jamaican woman and I certainly didn’t intend to break that mould, and though they thought they were casting me in the worst light possible, it later emerged that the majority of the public saw right through their antics and respected me for refusing to put up with their nonsense.
J.Sigaud ”Meghan and Harry The Real Story” was rather timely in the light of the ongoing court case with the Daily Mail in relation to the publication of private letters and the Sussexes departure from Royal duties and subsequent move to the US. It went straight to number one on the Amazon top 10 new books list before it was even available for purchase in print – not to mention it we were in the heart of The Lockdown period. Was this simply a marvellous coincidence?
Lady Colin Campbell To an extent, the whole thing has been a marvellous coincidence, but I knew from last summer that Meghan and Harry were embarked upon a course of action that was a biographer’s dream. I had been reliably informed that Meghan was cutting all sorts of commercial deals behind the scenes which were strictly forbidden to royals, that she was intent on involving herself in politics, both here and in the US, which was also against royal protocol, and that she was aiming to live between Hollywood and Britain, leading a half in, half out life as a royal while in the UK but as an efficient entrepreneur exploiting their commercial profile while in Hollywood. It was obvious that her ambitions would bring her into conflict with constraints imposed upon all royals, and that in itself would make for a fascinating tale. So I submitted a book proposal to both my British and American publishers; they leapt at it, and I started writing the book, which was due to be handed in in February. Then in January Harry and Meghan decamped, which added yet another layer to an already incredible tale. For me, there has been a sense of deja vu. Just as how no one could’ve made up the incredible happenings of the 1990s, as the Wales marriage unravelled and Diana spread her wings, so too what is happening with Meghan and Harry is beyond parody. I also think it’s very sad. Being Jamaican, I’m very mindful of the unique position Meghan has vacated. I truly believe she had the most wonderful opportunity to represent all that is most noble as she embodied what a woman of colour can achieve while occupying the best and most effective platform, for there is no more effective humanitarian position on earth than being a member of a royal family unsullied by commercial or political affiliations.
J. Sigaud In 2019 your book “People of Colour and The Royals” was published to coincide with Black History Month 2019. You are Jamaican by birth and your family have lived in .Jamaica for generations and contrary to popular belief, Jamaica is made up of several races and variety of mixed races. Do you, as a Jamaican, feel a particular affiliation to Black History Month and the Black Lives Matter movement?
Lady Colin Campbell The mere fact that I wrote People of Colour and The Royals articulates my interest in and solidarity with black history. In researching it, I was surprised to discover that racial prejudice against sub-Saharan Africans is basically an eighteenth century construct created by socio-economic factors that had little or nothing to do with race itself and much to do with the abuse of human beings whose labour was necessary to power the engines of prosperity. I am convinced that only when society understands why certain atrocities came about will it be free of the shackles of the past. To me, the truth is what sets people free, not blame, which is why I find history so fascinating as well as liberating. If everyone could be made aware of the fact that there was no prejudice in Britain or Europe against Sub-Saharan Africans until the sugar industry became the engine of Western prosperity, it would go some way towards taking the wind out of racist sails all over the world. At the very least, it would make the point that inclusivity was a feature of civilisation for much of its existence, which would give the message that that, and not racial prejudice, is the natural state. As for the Black Lives Matter movement, I endorse its aim of dignity for all black people but, being Jamaican and having seen how civil disturbances have had an adverse effect upon a nation’s well-being, and also being aware of the adverse effects Marxism has had upon every society which has had the misfortune to be affiliated with it, I would like to see the movement disentangle itself from the Marxist and disorderly elements which have undermined it recently.