Escapes to Eden
Interviewed by Maissa Azab
Written by Danielle Campanella
One day Naomi Campbell woke up and decided that she simply had to visit to Egypt and mark the new Year there. And so, on December 31st 2006, Naomi made her way to the land of the Pyramids, headed to the Red Sea resort of El Gouna, saw the great the monuments of Luxor, visited a Cairene orphanage and very late one night made her way into the Great Pyramid with Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Enigma’s Fashion Director Maissa Azab caught up with the supermodel to talk fashion, motherhood and spirituality while staff writer Danielle Campanella delved into Naomi’s meteoric rise from London teenager to international supermodel.
The iconic British supermodel’s life reads like the most fabulous of fairytale stories. Her first taste of the spotlight came in 1978, when, as a cute eight year old, she appeared in a Bob Marley video, Is This Love? and then in 1982 tapped her way into the Culture Club video, I’ll Tumble For Ya. Yet these escapades were only the beginning.
Campbell was discovered at 15 while window-shopping, in London’s Covent Garden and got her big break in 1986 when another black model cancelled out of a shoot for Elle magazine. Two years later she would become the first black model to grace the covers of French Vogue, paving the way for the likes of Tyra Banks and other ethnic models. Campbell, who owes her Amazonian beauty to her Afro-Jamaican heritage and Jamaican-Chinese lineage, forever changed global perceptions of beauty when she first appeared on the covers of Time magazine, British Vogue, and Vogue Nippon.
Prowling the catwalk in her late teens, Campbell was quickly inundated with high-profile marketing campaigns, including Lee Jeans and Olympus Corporation, making her a household name in the American market. By the early 90’s she had achieved supermodel status. Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell came together to create the ‘Famous Five’ models; the likes of which would never be seen again. The rest is supermodel history….
Walking her famous walk on the runway, Campbell has stricken a pose for the crème de la crème of the fashion industry including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Anna Sui, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs. She trumpeted in the 2005 Victoria’s Secret Runway Show in full angel’s wings, and has starred in ad campaigns for diverse brands such as Rocawear (2006), Iceberg (2006), H&M (2006) lingerie, Dolce & Gabbana (2005), and Louis Vuitton (2004).
Beyond the trademark cheekbones, superior stature, and almond eyes lies a creative dabbler. She was a singing sensation in the mid-nineties in Japan where her single Love and Tears was a hit and her solo album Baby Woman sold over 1 million copies. In 1996 she co-wrote a best-selling novel entitled, Swan followed by a book of stunning photographs entitled simply Naomi. Bitten by the acting bug, Campbell has also starred alongside the likes of Spike Lee, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Steve DiMarco and has some twenty-something films under her acting belt. But her claim to fame continues to be her sultry gaze and defiant attitude.
Naturally, Campbell has been linked to many handsome men over the course of the past few years. She had a high profile relationships with actor Robert de Niro, Italian millionaire Flavio Briatore, Prince Albert, and U2 bassist Adam Clayton. Her love quest in 2005 saw Campbell with hip-hop sensation Usher and later embarking on a tumultuous love affair with Dubai based Badr Jafar (which ended in 2006 with a fiery exposition outside his London residence at three a.m. when Campbell tired to reclaim personal possessions).
Of course, Campbell seems to be more brawn than beauty these days. Having recently pleaded guilty to charges of assault with a mobile (over a pair of missing jeans) she’s quickly earned the nickname the ‘Black Panther’. She insists these assault allegations are an attempt by ex- housekeepers, ex-boyfriends, and assistants to get their hands on her money. This recent assault stunt had her sentenced to five days community service, paying for damages, and attending two days of anger management courses. She pleaded remorse, “Anger is a manifestation of a deeper issue…and that, for me, is based on insecurity, low self-esteem, and loneliness.” And yet this less than graceful vixen is attempting to shed her bad girl skin and morph into do-gooder butterfly. “2007 is a new start for me,” she says.
Despite it all, Campbell tries her very hardest to use her fame “to do good.” She was recently was asked to be an ambassador to the city Rio de Janeiro, in order to help raise money for the poor in the city. According to the mayor, “She has an image that is the face of Rio de Janeiro; she could represent it abroad like nobody else.”
Campbell also rose to the occasion to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by donating all her earnings from New York Fashion Week. She helped initiate ‘Fashion Relief’, helping to raise over a million dollars for the cause as well. Campbell’s charity aspirations don’t end there…she hits the fundraising circuit on the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Fidel Castro’s Children’s Fund, and has partnered with the Dalai Lama in efforts to build kindergartens in impoverished communities worldwide through UNESCO. She was also the face of the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign in 1996 and bared her skin for the 2006 Skin Cancer Campaign…Nothing like a little bit of redemption after being naughty!
Once you move beyond the apparent arrogance and aggression, what you have is a dynamic – often misunderstood- woman, making her way through the fickle world of fashion and a do some good along the way. Having stood the test of time, Campbell has proved she’s a force to be reckoned with on the runway of life. As with all runways, there are always a “few bumps” along the way.
What was the reason behind your visit to Egypt?
I had a revelation. I woke up one morning and felt that I to visit Egypt and do some sightseeing and see the pyramids and all the Pharonic monuments that I read so much about. I didn’t imagine that Egypt was such a big and beautiful country!
So how was it spending your first New Year’s in Egypt?
I had a wonderful holiday. Egypt is such an amazing country, with so much mystery and history and so much to learn. You can’t see it all in just one trip. Mr. Zahi Hawass was telling me that he is always discovering new monuments. It’s just incredible. Egypt reminds me of Brazil, which is my second home. But I’d love to come back soon…in March insha’allah as you say in Arabic.
Do you know any other words in Arabic?
Yes! Habibi, habibti, rohi, Salam ‘aleykum and shukran!
Tell us about your visit to the Pyramids…
I was so impressed by the genius and greatness of the Ancient Egyptians. After I visited the pyramids I felt as if my energy levels had dropped suddenly and I felt extremely tired. It drained me but not in a very positive way
The moment you landed in Cairo, you asked to visit an orphanage. Why?
I love kids so much, and I support any project that supports them, especially underprivileged children.
You seemed quite attached to the children at the Awladi orphanage. Are you eager to be a mother?
Not yet, but I’ll let you know when it happens!
You’ve also dabbled in singing, acting and even writing with your bestselling book Swan…will they ever take precedence over modelling?
Modelling is what I love most. That’s what I know. And I think my love for and dedication to my work are the main factors behind my success. I love travelling and seeing different cultures and meeting new people. Modelling is a real passion for me.
Well, if it weren’t for the modelling, what do you think you’d have been doing?
I wanted to be a dancer and I trained at the Italia Conti Academy Stage School. My mother made lots of sacrifices so I could study there and I really enjoyed it. But modelling was so alluring, and of course you make so much more money than being a dancer!
In you biography you talk about the pressures of the modelling world, describing it as a “bumpy ride”…
There are ups and downs in anyone’s life. There was no modelling handbook to tell me how to walk or what to watch out for. I had to learn these things the hard way. But I am someone, who by nature loves a challenge. Life is for learning. And when it comes down to it, I haven’t experienced real pressures. Travelling from one country to the next, sometimes up to four countries in one week, can be very hectic. But I enjoy flying, so I don’t really mind, and I also sleep very well on planes. I’d rather be busy that not busy. I love the excitement of my life.
I heard that on New Year’s Eve you wanted to be by the Red Sea in order to practice certain spiritual rituals. From what I understand you wore a white gown; jumped 7 times by the waves, ate 12 grapes, threw flowers into the ocean, lit up candles and then at sunrise you thanked God and asked him to fulfil your wishes. Tell us about that…
I am very spiritual. I believe in God and the existence of a super being higher than myself. I believe everyone has their part in life and I am not jealous of anyone. When I am in tune with Him I feel happy and secure. I feel good and optimistic when I practice those rituals and for each grape I ate I wished something for each month of the year .Flowers and candles just add certain magic to my wishes and I think that thanking God is our duty.
Of all the amazing places you’ve visited, what is your favourite?
I love going to Africa, and Kenya is very special to me.
You’ve worked with the world’s biggest designers, who is your favourite?
They are all my friends and I love them all. I am very close to Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabbana, Donatella Versace, John Galliano and Alexander Mc Queen. They are all very unique in their own way! But I have to admit that I am the muse of Azzedine Alaia, he is my favourite!
The fashion industry has changed dramatically in the last decade, with many of the brands operating under large corporate umbrellas. How have those changes affected you?
It’s not the same business as before .When I was working with Christy Turlington and the other supermodels, and when Gianni Versace was alive we used to have lots of fun. I hope one day we can do a fashion week in Egypt…that would be superb!
How would you describe your own personal style?
I like simplicity and to feel comfortable in my clothes.
Now, we have to ask, what’s the secret behind your fabulous figure?
I workout a lot but I never use machines and I recently started practicing yoga.
I take my daily intake of multivitamins but nothing really special . I never diet. Believe me I eat! But I never had a problem with food. Maybe that’s just my nature!
However I would advise any person to check out the master cleanser diet on the internet!
Would you even consider plastic surgery?
I haven’t had any done, but I think it’s a personal choice.
What about the tiny scar you have on your face?
I’ve had it since I was a child, and when I started modelling they told me I wouldn’t be able to get any Vogue covers because of it and that I’d have to do something about it. But I didn’t do anything and here I am on all the magazines!
Who is your role model?
My mother who is always beautiful .We are very close, we’re like sisters. I like She helps keep my feet on the ground and the first thing I did when I started modelling was take good care of her .
What upsets you most ?
People who lie to me.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I listen carefully to any advice I’m given and I always remember what Nelson Mandela once told me… “I shouldn’t be afraid of who I am till I see who I am in the right way.”