- Before being a model
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Before being a model
Naomi Campbell was born on May 22, 1970 in Streatham, London, England. Her mother, Valerie Campbell (née Morris), is of Afro-Jamaican descent, a former ballet dancer. There is no information about Naomi’s father though, except that he was of Chinese Jamaican descent, and left Valerie with two-months-old daughter. Campbell has never met her father, his name was not written on a birth certificate and his identity has never been revealed by either Valerie or Naomi.
As a child, Campbell was brought up by a nanny because her mother travelled across Europe with the dance troupe Fantastica. When the girl turned 10, she was accepted into the Italia Conti Academy stage school, where she studied ballet dancing. Then Naomi attended Dunraven School, which was a comprehensive school run by Inner London Education Authority in Streatham.
Naomi Campbell’s modeling career started early and developed pretty fast taking into account the fact she was the black girl who wanted to be successful in the industry that used to be almost fully white-skin oriented. However, thanks to her ambitions and designers’ desire to make the fashion world wider and more diverse Naomi soon became one of the most recognizable and in-demand models of her generation. During the so-called supermodel era of the early 1990s, she was part of the “Big Six”, alongside Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford, and “The Trinity”, alongside Turlington and Evangelista. Tyra Banks, who was often considered as a rival model, once said that Campbell’s body was one of the “best in the business”.
Naomi has not immediately started her career as a model. Long before that, when she was just 7 (February 1978) she was cast as a pupil to star in a music video for Bob Marley’s song Is This Love?. Four years later, in 1982, she appeared in another music video, this time as a tap dancer for Culture Club’s I’ll Tumble 4 Y.
The real job began at the age of 15 while Campbell was still a student at the Italia Conti Academy. The girl was spotted by Beth Boldt, a former Ford model and head of the Synchro model agency, while window-shopping in Covent Garden. Campbell made her decision quickly and signed with Elite Model Management. She started as a catwalk model but soon she was frequently invited to grace various high-profile advertising campaigns, including those of Lee Jeans and Olympus Corporation, which helped her to get to the American market. Shortly after that Naomi also did campaigns for Ralph Lauren and François Nars.
The first magazine cover with Campbell appeared in April 1986. It was Elle, and Naomi replaced model Veronica Webb who had canceled out of the appearance. In August 1988, she covered her first ever Vogue edition – Vogue Paris. It was the publication’s first cover featuring a dark-skinned girl. Vogue editors refused to make such a daring step until Campbell’s friend and mentor, Yves St. Laurent, threatened to withdraw all his advertising from the publication. Shortly after that Naomi covered Vogue UK. This time she was the second black model gracing the first page of the magazine. Donyale Luna had done that before her. These works made Naomi very popular and her face was soon everywhere – Vogue Nippon, Time magazine, Vogue China, Vogue Italia, Japanese Vogue, Elle, i-D, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, W, Vanity Fair and GQ. She also posed nude for Playboy and was featured in Madonna’s 1992 book Sex, in a set of pictures with Madonna and rapper Big Daddy Kane.
Naomi Campbell starred in George Michael’s music video Freedom! ’90, where she lip-synched to his song together with fellow models Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz. In 1992, Campbell worked with Madonna again. She appeared in music video for Erotica, which featured photoshoots for the book Sex. Naomi has also appeared in music videos for Michael Jackson, Usher, Nelly, Jay-Z, Jagged Edge, P.Diddy, The Notorious B.I.G., Macy Gray, and Prince.
Naomi Campbell is famous for her statements about supermodels and racism. In 2008 she named Gisele Bundchen the youngest modern supermodel.
She said: “Models need to earn their stripes – I just think the term is used a little too loosely. Kate Moss is obviously a supermodel but, after Gisele [Bündchen], I don’t think there’s been one.”
Talking about racism in 2009, Campbell stated she had to work harder than other models to get the job.
In an interview with Glamour magazine, Campbell said: “You know, the American president may be black, but as a black woman, I am still an exception in this business. I always have to work harder to be treated equally.”
In 2010 the supermodel signed up to host season six of Britain’s Next Top Model but had to refuse the offer only six weeks before filming referring time commitment issues.
Naomi Campbell is currently signed to IMG Models (New York City), TESS management (London), Marilyn Agency (Paris), and D’management Group (Milan).
Naomi Campbell has tried herself in various fields but modeling is definitely what she does best. In 1991, Campbell was featured on Vanilla Ice’s single Cool as Ice. In 1994 she sang on the track Heaven’s Girl on Quincy Jones’s album Q’s Jook Joint. Besides, she appeared in Michael Jackson’s music video for In the Closet as his love interest. In between these years, in 1992, Campbell appeared in Madonna’s Erotica music video.
In 1995, Naomi released her own debut album named Baby Woman which was not highly praised by critics but sold over 1 million copies worldwide.
Campbell’s career as a writer was even less successful. In 1994 she published novel Swan which told the story of a supermodel being blackmailed over dark secrets in her past. The novel was in fact ghostwritten by author Caroline Upcher. Naomi Campbell later explained she had no spare time to do the writing herself.
She said: “I just did not have time to sit down and write a book.”
In 1996, the supermodel released a photo collection entitled Naomi, with pictures of Campbell taken by photographer Richard Avedon and other acclaimed fashion specialists.
Naomi has also given a crack in designing. In 1999 she founded a company, the Design House of Naomi Campbell, under which she released seven fragrances for women: Naomi Campbell (2000), Naomagic (2000), Cat Deluxe (2001), Mystery (2002), Sunset (2003), Paradise Passion (2005). Campbell’s latest fragrance came as a new version of her Cat Deluxe perfume called Cat Deluxe at Night.
Through the years of her modeling career Naomi Campbell has been photographed by David Bailey, Patrick DeMarchelier, Steven Meisel, Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, Ellen von Unwerth, Mario Testino, Mario Sorrenti, Helmut Newton, Seb Janiak, Steven Klein, Peter Lindbergh, Mert and Marcus and Nick Knight.
She has graced ad campaigns for Versace, Ralph Lauren, and Dolce & Gabbana. Her mentors have been Azzedine Alaia, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace and Alexander McQueen.
Besides, she used to work as a contributing editor for a number of magazines, including GQ, and interviewed Lewis Hamilton, Hugo Chavez, and Christina Kirchner. She also guest edited the April 2010 issue of Russian Vogue.
Naomi Campbell has starred in films since early childhood. She made her debut appearance in a Children’s Film Foundation serial The Chiffy Kids in 1976, playing the role of a Snow White. She also appeared in Girl 6 (1996), Prisoner of Love (1999), and Fat Slags (2004). Naomi has played herself a couple of times in films Pret a Porter (1994) and Ali G Indahouse (2001).
Full list of films and music videos Naomi Campbell has starred in:
• The Cosby Show (3 episodes, 1988)
• The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990)
• Cool as Ice (1991)
• In the Closet (video)
• Erotica (video)
• The Night We Never Met (1993)
• Ready to Wear (1994) (cameo)
• Unzipped (1995) (documentary)
• Miami Rhapsody (1995)
• Absolutely Fabulous (1995) (cameo)
• New York Undercover (1995, five episodes)
• To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) (cameo)
• Catwalk (1996) (documentary)
• Girl 6 (1996)
• Invasion of Privacy (1996)
• Beautopia (1998) (documentary)
• An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1998)
• Trippin’ (1999)
• Prisoner of Love (1999)
• Ali G Indahouse (2002)
• Fat Slags (2004)
• The Call (2006) (short subject)
• Karma, Confessions and Holi (2006)
• Ugly Betty (2008, one episode)
Charity and awards
Naomi Campbell has done a lot for charity. Since 1997 she has been involved in charity work to help people of Sub-Saharan Africa. She has collaborated with Nelson Mandela, and enjoyed it so much that she said ‘one of her greatest joys in life was knowing Mandela’. She also noted that ‘his kindness, passion and intelligence made him a modern world leader’.
In 2005, she made a lot of effort to help create Fashion for Relief, which raised over a million dollars for Hurricane Katrina victims. On 7 July 2007 she was a host at the South African leg of Live Earth in Johannesburg. Later on, in 2009 Naomi was awarded the Honorary Patronage of the University Philosophical Society, Trinity College, Dublin for extensive charitable and professional activity.
On 12 February 2010 Campbell organized a fashion show Fashion for Relief Haiti in New York that attracted over 140 fashion designer stars. On 30 October 2010 Naomi received the Pyramide Con Mani Award for social commitments at International UNESCO Charity Gala for Children in Need in Düsseldorf.
Among other awards that Naomi Campbell was honored with were: the Black Girls Rock “Fashionista” award in October 2009 for 25 year career in fashion; a UK “Elle Style Award” for “Outstanding Contribution” in February 2010 as well as the “Elle Style Award” for ‘Best Model” in 2007, “Woman Of The Year Award” by Russian Glamour Magazine’s in October 2009, the “Fashion Icon” award at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Front Row charity event, “Special Recognition Award” to celebrate Campbell’s promotion of the acceptance and participation of men and women of color at all levels of the fashion industry, “Marie Claire Prix De La Moda Award” for “Best Model”, the award for “Outstanding Contribution” at the Glamour Magazine Women of the Year Awards in 2006.
Naomi Campbell has worked over numerous charity projects, including Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Quincy Jones’ Listen Up Foundation, The UNESCO orphanage in Jamaica, Fidel Castro’s Cuban Children’s Fund. She is a godmother of the Italian association named Atlha Onlus that is aimed at support of young people with special needs and disabilities. Naomi was also called the international ambassador of Rio de Janeiro by the city’s Mayor Cesar Maia. In 2006 they agreed to collaborate on different projects for her charity organization We Love Brazil. In 2008 for charity purposes Campbell launched a clothing range for Brazilian company Daslu to support education programmes for children in South America.
In June 2011, Naomi Campbell launched her jeans line with an Italian label Fiorucci.
Naomi Campbell is not the woman of a very dignified bearing. She has been involved into legal issues many times and a few times she pleaded guilty. The supermodel blames her temper “on lingering resentment toward her father for abandoning her as a child”.
In 2000, Campbell pleaded guilty in a Toronto court to an assault on Georgina Galanis, her assistant. The action took place in 1998. Naomi had allegedly assaulted Georgina Galanis with a telephone in a hotel room. Besides, she threatened to throw her out of a moving Peugeot. The case was settled after Campbell expressed remorse and paid Galanis an undisclosed sum. To add to this, the supermodel had to attend anger management classes.
In March 2004, Naomi was paid £3,500 by Daily Mirror for infringement of her privacy following publication of the model leaving a Narcotics Anonymous clinic. The House of Lords actually overturned a Court of Appeal judgement.
In March 2005, Campbell allegedly slapped her assistant Amanda Brack and beat her around the head with a BlackBerry personal organizer. But Naomi’s spokesman Rob Shuter denied the fact and claimed the incident had never taken place. Nevertheless, in July 2006, Amanda Brack began legal proceedings against Campbell again, saying Campbell repeatedly abused her both verbally and physically. Campbell was accused of assault, battery, and infliction of emotional distress. Campbell had to pay an unknown amount to stop the case. The same year Italian actress Yvonne Sciò claimed Campbell left her “covered in blood” after a row the two had at a Rome hotel due to the fact that Sciò had worn the same dress as Campbell.
Sciò’s said: “She punched me in the face. She was like Mike Tyson.”
On 30 March 2006, Campbell was arrested for allegedly assaulting her housekeeper with a jewel-encrusted mobile phone. The assault resulted in a bloody head. The model was charged with second degree assault that carries a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum of seven years imprisonment. On 28 September 2006, Campbell had to face the court but did not appear at the trial, that made the judge order her arrest in case she failed to turn up in court the following week.
On 25 October 2006, Campbell was arrested in London but then she was released on police bail. On 14 November 2006, another Campbell’s housekeeper, Gaby Gibson, began a court case against Campbell accusing her of being a “violent super-bigot”.
On 16 January 2007, Campbell finally pleaded guilty to a charge of assaulting her housekeeper Ana Scolavino. She was sentenced to five days of community service (mopping floors) and ordered to attend two days of an anger management course. To add to these, she was ordered to pay medical bills of $363 (£185) to Scolavino.
On 20 August 2007, New York Supreme Court issued a decision and order that deny Campbell’s legal attempt to exclude Gaby Gibson’s references from her history of allegedly “chronic abusive and repeatedly violent conduct toward her employees.” Judge Stallman also reasoned that “if proven, the reports of Campbell’s conduct” could result in proving that it was so “wanton or outrageous” to justify the damages Campbell’s ex-housekeeper had been seeking.
On 3 April 2008, Campbell was arrested at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 for allegedly assaulting a police officer due to the fact one of her bags had been lost. In the result Campbell was banned from flying with British Airways by the airline. Besides, she was charged with three counts of assaulting a constable, that carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000, one count of improper conduct likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, that comes with a penalty of up to £2,500, and one count of using abusive words and behavior to cabin staff, that is punishable with a maximum fine of £1,000. On 20 June 2008, Campbell pleaded guilty to four of the five charges. The counts of assaulting a constable were dropped. In the issue Campbell was sentenced to 200 hours of community service.
On 2 March 2010, Campbell was reported to have slapped and punched her limousine driver. However, her spokesman said “there shouldn’t be a rush to judgement” and noted she would co-operate voluntarily. The matter was dropped though, because the driver chose not to pursue criminal charges.
In 2010, the case of blood stones started. Campbell was reported to have been given a large, uncut blood diamond by ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor during Nelson Mandela charity function in South Africa, in 1997. Campbell refused to testify on the issue. But on 1 July 2010, Campbell was summoned by the war crimes trial against Charles Taylor at the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam near The Hague to give evidence on the fact she had received the “blood diamond”. The model did not appear at the trial, but was finally forced to do so on 5 August 2010. In her testimony Campbell said she had been given “dirty-looking” stones by Charles Taylor. She added that as far as she was concerned “blood diamonds” did not exist in 1997 (when she received the stones), referring to the fact that the term was actually coined some years after 1997. The current location of the stones given to Campbell is not determined. According to Campbell she gave the stones to Jeremy Ratcliffe of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund for charity purposes. She also mentioned that Ratcliffe had told her in a 2009 phone conversation that he still kept the stones. However, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund stated in a letter to the court that it had “never received a diamond or diamonds from Campbell or from anyone else. It would have been improper and illegal to have done so.” Nevertheless, the next day, the BBC reported that Ratcliffe confirmed the fact he had received the stones from Campbell and had them in his possession, saying he wanted to insulate Mandela’s charity from suspicion by changing his story.
In May 2011, Naomi Campbell planned to sue Cadbury, a world-known company producing chocolate, for being compared to a chocolate bar in their ad campaign. The image read ‘Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town’. Naomi was infuriated but after numerous apologies decided not to start the legal issue.
Naomi Campbell has never been married. However, she has been dating Russian real estate entrepreneur Vladislav Doronin for a few years. In summer 2008 a number of news agencies reported that the supermodel was to marry him and accept the Russian Orthodox faith. Until now this has not happened. Naomi was once engaged with Adam Clayton, bass player for U2.
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