Naomi Campbell (born 22 May 1970) is a British model. Discovered at the age of 15, she established herself among the top three most recognizable and in-demand models of the late 1980s and the 1990s, and she was one of six models of her generation declared "supermodels" by the fashion world. Her personal life is widely reported, particularly her relationships with prominent men--including boxer Mike Tyson and actor Robert De Niro--and several highly publicised convictions for assault.
Campbell was born in Streatham, South London, the daughter of Jamaican-born dancer Valerie Morris. In accordance with her mother's wishes, Campbell has never met her father, who abandoned her mother when she was four months pregnant and was unnamed on her birth certificate. She took on the surname Campbell from her mother's second marriage. Her half-brother, Pierre, was born in 1985. Campbell is of African-Jamaican descent, as well as of Chinese Jamaican ancestry through her paternal grandmother, who carried the family name Ming.
During her early years, Campbell lived in Rome, where her mother worked as a modern dancer. Following their return to London, she was left in the care of relatives while her mother travelled across Europe with the dance troupe Fantastica. From the age of three, Campbell attended the Barbara Speake Stage School, and at ten years old, she was accepted into the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, where she studied ballet.
1978-86: Career beginnings:
Campbell's first public appearance came at the age of seven, in 1978, when she was featured in the music video for Bob Marley's "Is This Love". At the age of twelve, she tap-danced in the music video for Culture Club's "I'll Tumble 4 Ya". In 1986, while still a student of the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Campbell was scouted by Beth Boldt, head of the Synchro model agency, while window-shopping in Covent Garden. Her career quickly took off--in April, just before her sixteenth birthday, she appeared on the cover of British Elle.
1987-97: International success:
Over the next few years, Campbell's success grew steadily: she walked the runway for such designers as Gianni Versace, Azzedine Alaïa, and Isaac Mizrahi, and posed for such photographers as Peter Lindbergh, Herb Ritts, and Bruce Weber. By the late 1980s, Campbell, with Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, formed a trio known as the "Trinity", who became the most recognisable and in-demand models of their generation.
When faced with discrimination, Campbell received support from her friends; she later quoted Turlington and Evangelista as telling Dolce & Gabbana, "If you don't use Naomi, you don't get us." In December 1987, she appeared on the cover of British Vogue, as that publication's first black cover girl since 1966. In August 1988, she became the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue, after her friend and mentor, designer Yves St. Laurent, threatened to withdraw his advertising from the magazine if it continued to refuse to place black models on its cover. The following year, she appeared on the cover of American Vogue, which marked the first time a black model graced the front of the September issue, traditionally the year's biggest and most important issue.
In January 1990, Campbell, who was declared "the reigning megamodel of them all" by Interview, appeared with Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, and Tatjana Patitz on an iconic cover of British Vogue, shot by Peter Lindbergh. The group was subsequently cast to star in the music video for George Michael's "Freedom! '90". By then, Campbell, Turlington, Evangelista, Crawford, and Claudia Schiffer formed an elite group of models declared "supermodels" by the fashion industry. With the addition of newcomer Kate Moss, they were collectively known as the "Big Six".
In March 1991, in a defining moment of the so-called supermodel era, Campbell walked the runway for Versace with Turlington, Evangelista, and Crawford, arm-in-arm and lip-synching the words to "Freedom! '90". Later that year, she starred as Michael Jackson's love interest in the music video for "In the Closet". In April 1992, she posed with several other top models for the hundredth-anniversary cover of American Vogue, shot by Patrick Demarchelier. That same year, she appeared in Madonna's controversial book Sex, in a set of nude photos with Madonna and rapper Big Daddy Kane.
In 1993, Campbell twice appeared on the cover of American Vogue; in April, alongside Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Stephanie Seymour, and Helena Christensen, and again, solo, in June. She famously fell on the runway in Vivienne Westwood's foot-high platform shoes, which were later displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Despite her success, however, Elite Model Management, which had represented Campbell since 1987, fired her in September, on the grounds that "no amount of money or prestige could further justify the abuse" to staff and clients. Elite founder John Casablancas described her as "manipulative, scheming, rude, and impossible."
In the mid-1990s, Campbell branched out into other areas of the entertainment industry. Her novel Swan, about a supermodel dealing with blackmail, was released in 1994. Writing for The New York Times, Alex Kuczynski noted its poor critical reception, calling the book "truly awful". It was ghostwritten by Caroline Upcher, with Campbell explaining that she "just did not have the time to sit down and write a book." That same year, she released her album babywoman, which was named after designer Rifat Ozbek's nickname for Campbell. Produced by Youth and Tim Simenon, the album was commercially successful in Japan, although it did not receive much attention elsewhere. It failed to reach the top 75 on the UK charts, and its only single, "Love and Tears", reached No. 40. In 1995, along with fellow models Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, and Elle Macpherson, Campbell invested in a chain of restaurants called the Fashion Cafe; the venture was on the edge of bankruptcy by 1998. During this time, Campbell also had small roles in Miami Rhapsody and Spike Lee's Girl 6, as well as a recurring role on the second season of New York Undercover.
In 1998, Time declared the end of the supermodel era. By then, Campbell had mostly retired from the runway, but she continued print modelling. In 1999, she signed her first cosmetics contract with Cosmopolitan Cosmetics, a division of Wella, through which she launched several signature fragrances. In November of that year, she posed with twelve other top models for the "Modern Muses" cover of the Millennium Issue of American Vogue, shot by Annie Leibovitz. The following month, she appeared in a white string bikini and furs on the cover of Playboy. In October 2001, she appeared with rapper Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs on the cover of British Vogue, with the headline "Naomi and Puff: The Ultimate Power Duo".
After more than two decades as a model, Campbell was still in demand. In 2007, she walked the runway for Dior's sixtieth-anniversary fashion show at Versailles. In July 2008, she appeared with fellow black models Liya Kebede, Sessilee Lopez, and Jourdan Dunn on the gatefold cover of a landmark all-black issue of Italian Vogue, shot by Steven Meisel. In September of that year, Campbell reunited with Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and Stephanie Seymour for "A League of Their Own", a Vanity Fair feature on the supermodel legacy.
In 2011, Campbell appeared with Liya Kebede and Iman on the cover of the fortieth-anniversary issue of Essence. She also starred as Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon in the band's music video for "Girl Panic!", with Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen, Eva Herzigova, and Yasmin Le Bon portraying the other band members; they appeared in the November edition of British Harper's Bazaar in an editorial titled "The Supers vs. Duran Duran".
Campbell performed with Kate Moss and other supermodels in the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, where they modelled haute couture to represent British fashion. Campbell wore a design by Alexander McQueen--a staggered hem gown with a train speckled with flecks of gold. In 2013, she served as a coach and judge--along with Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha--on Oxygen's modelling competition reality show The Face, hosted by photographer Nigel Barker. Campbell is set to star in a British version of The Face, which will air on Sky Living in late 2013.
Activism and charity work:
Despite her status as the most famous black model of her time, Campbell never earned the same volume of advertising assignments as her white colleagues, and she was not signed by a cosmetics company until as late as 1999. In 1991, she revealed, "I may be considered one of the top models in the world, but in no way do I make the same money as any of them." Throughout her career, Campbell has been outspoken against the racial bias that exists in the fashion industry. In 1997, she stated, "There is prejudice. It is a problem and I can't go along any more with brushing it under the carpet. This business is about selling, and blonde and blue-eyed girls are what sells." A decade later, she again spoke out against discrimination, stating, "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 2013, Campbell joined fellow black models Iman and Bethann Hardison in an advocacy group called "Diversity Coalition". In an open letter to the governing bodies of global fashion weeks, they named high-profile designers who used just one or no models of color in their fall 2013 shows, calling it a "racist act".
Campbell is involved with several charitable causes. She supports the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, for which she organised a benefit Versace fashion show in 1998. Held at Nelson Mandela's South African presidential residence, the show was the subject of a documentary titled FashionKingdom, or alternatively, Naomi Conquers Africa. Campbell, whose mother has battled breast cancer, also supports Breakthrough Breast Cancer. In 2004, she was featured on FHM's charity single Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?, as well as in the accompanying music video, of which all profits were donated to Breakthrough. She appeared in a print and media campaign for the charity's fundraising initiative Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, and she opened a Breakthrough breast cancer research unit in 2009.
In 2005, Campbell founded the charity We Love Brazil, which aims to raise awareness and funds to fight poverty in Brazil through the sale of fabrics made by local women. That same year, Campbell founded the charity Fashion for Relief, which has organised fund-raising fashion shows to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the India terrorist attacks in 2009, the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and the Japan earthquake in 2011. By 2011, Fashion for Relief had reportedly raised £4.5 million. In 2012, the charity teamed up with YOOX China and leading global and Chinese fashion designers, including Phillip Lim and Masha Ma, to design Chinese-themed T-shirts to help fund its efforts and the various international charities it works with. Since 2007, Campbell has been the honorary president of Athla Onlus, an Italian organisation that works to further the social integration of young people with learning disabilities. In 2009, Campbell became a goodwill ambassador for the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood. She has since joined the charity's patron, Sarah Brown, the wife of former British prime minister Gordon Brown, on several missions to promote maternal health.
Campbell has received recognition for her charitable work. In 2007, she was named an ambassador of Rio de Janeiro by mayor Cesar Maia in recognition of her efforts to fight poverty in Brazil. In 2009, she was awarded Honorary Patronage of Trinity College's University Philosophical Society for her charitable and professional work. In 2010, Sarah Brown presented her with an "Outstanding Contribution" award from British Elle for her work as an ambassador for the White Ribbon Alliance, as well as her work in the fashion industry.
Campbell, who has never met her biological father, regards record producers Quincy Jones and Chris Blackwell as adopted father figures. Former South African president Nelson Mandela referred to Campbell as his "honorary granddaughter". She first met Mandela in November 1994, after his party, the African National Congress, invited her to travel to South Africa to meet with their leader. She had previously donated the proceeds from a photo shoot in Tanzania to the ANC. Over the years, Campbell has lent support to many of Mandela's political campaigns and humanitarian causes.
Campbell has never married. She dated boxer Mike Tyson in the late 1980s, followed by an on-again-off-again relationship with actor Robert De Niro in the early 1990s. In 1993, she became engaged to U2 bassist Adam Clayton. They met in February of that year, after Clayton, when asked in an interview if there was anything in the world he desired but did not have, responded: "A date with Naomi Campbell". Campbell and Clayton separated the following year. She then dated dancer Joaquín Cortés in the mid to late 1990s. In 1998, she became engaged to Formula One racing head Flavio Briatore; they were involved in an on-again-off-again relationship until their separation in 2003. Campbell now considers Briatore her "mentor". She dated businessman Badr Jafar in the mid-2000s. In 2008, Campbell began a relationship with Russian businessman Vladislav Doronin; they separated in 2013 after five years together.
In 1999, Campbell entered rehab after a five-year addiction to cocaine. Of her choice, in 1994, to first use the drug, Campbell said in 2005, "I was having fun. I was living this life of travelling the world and having people just give you anything. But the little glow in your face goes....It's a very nasty drug." In 2002, Campbell successfully claimed a breach of confidence against the Daily Mirror, after the newspaper published a report of her drug addiction, including a photograph of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. The High Court ordered £3,500 in damages from the Daily Mirror. Later that year the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal, which ordered Campbell to pay the newspaper's £350,000 legal costs, but in 2004 the House of Lords reinstated the High Court ruling and damages.
In August 2010, Campbell made a highly publicised appearance at a war crimes trial against former Liberian president Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam. She was called to give evidence on a "blood diamond" she allegedly received from Taylor during a Nelson Mandela Children's Fund function in 1997. Campbell initially refused to testify, and--after being subpoenaed--told the court that being there was "a big inconvenience" for her. She testified that she was given "dirty-looking" stones late at night by two unidentified men, and claimed she did not know the diamonds had originated from Taylor until being told so the next morning by a fellow attendee, actress Mia Farrow. However, her account was contradicted by testimonies from Farrow, her former agent Carole White, and former Children's Fund director Jeremy Ratcliffe.
Between 1998 and 2008, Campbell was accused ten times of committing acts of violence against employees, associates, and, in one instance, police officers. During the first such case, heard in 2000, Campbell pleaded guilty in Toronto to assaulting her personal assistant Georgina Galanis with a mobile phone. Campbell paid Galanis an undisclosed sum and agreed to attend anger management classes; her record was cleared in exchange for her expressing remorse. By 2006, eight other employees and associate had come forward with claims of abuse. During this time, Campbell was photographed wearing a Chip and Pepper T-shirt that read "Naomi Hit Me...and I Loved It".
In 2007, Campbell pleaded guilty in New York to assaulting her former housekeeper Ana Scolavino, who had accused Campbell of throwing a BlackBerry personal organiser at her. Campbell was sentenced to pay Scolavino's medical expenses, attend an anger management program, and perform five days of community service with New York's sanitation department. She attended her community service wearing designer outfits, including fedoras, furs, and--upon completion of her sentence--a silver sequined Dolce & Gabbana gown. Campbell detailed her community service experience in a W feature titled "The Naomi Diaries", in which she wrote, "I keep on sweeping. I'm getting very protective of my pile of rubbish--kind of the way I feel about my Hermès handbag." That same year, Campbell settled lawsuits brought by actress and former friend Yvonne Sciò and her former assistant Amanda Brack. Sciò claimed Campbell had assaulted her physically and verbally during an altercation at a Rome hotel, while Brack accused Campbell of slapping and beating her with a BlackBerry. Campbell subsequently spoofed herself in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial, directed by Zach Braff, which showed her breaking her heel while gardening and throwing it through a window.
In 2008, Campbell pleaded guilty to assaulting two police officers at London Heathrow Airport. She had spat at the officers following an argument about her lost luggage. Campbell was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and fined $4,600. She was banned for life from British Airways. The following year, Campbell settled the lawsuit brought by her former maid Gaby Gibson, who claimed Campbell had hit her and called her names.