ABOVE NAOMI CAMPBELL IN LONDON, JUNE 2013. STYLING: KARL TEMPLER.
INTERVIEW: You opened the Versace couture show this past June—26 years after you first started working with the house. Did it feel the same backstage as it did all those years ago?
NAOMI CAMPBELL: For me, absolutely. I didn't do it for 14 years, and I had to keep my appearance a secret for many months. When I walked in to do my fitting, it just felt like being around the family again, like no love had been lost. Donatella and Allegra—it was her birthday—and all the people that I've known for many years. It was very emotional. I had been wishing I could do Versace one more time.
INTERVIEW: You recently posted a photo from 1994 of you and Gianni Versace on Instagram.
CAMPBELL: I did. Every 15th of July, no matter where I am in the world, I always go to church and light a candle.
INTERVIEW: Does the fashion world still feel like a family to you?
CAMPBELL: Yes. I love the relationship that I have with Azzedine, with Donatella, with Stefano [Gabbana] and Domenico [Dolce], with Marc Jacobs, with Anna Sui. When I started out modeling, there weren't casting directors and there weren't stylists, so you just dealt directly with the designer. We were all much closer back then—we had direct communication with each other, and we all hung out when we weren't working. Obviously, now that's changed, but I believe I've kept it that way.
INTERVIEW: Do you think young models today are missing that connection with designers?
CAMPBELL: Yes, I've noticed that. They have to deal more with the casting directors and the stylists.
INTERVIEW: You advise young models on your reality show The Face. Does it feel like you are talking to young women in an entirely different business than the one you started out in?
CAMPBELL: Yes, I do feel that I'm talking to someone who's in a totally different place from where I was when I started modeling. I was fortunate enough to have the wonderful designers and amazing photographers around me, and editors that I knew, and if I wanted to ask a question, I asked them. So that gap has broadened a bit.
INTERVIEW: But one quality of modeling you brought to the fore was doing a zillion different projects far beyond the magazine page and the runway. You've done acting, music videos, charity work, you wrote a book. Were those projects offered to you during your career or did you intentionally go out and try to find as many new avenues as you could?
CAMPBELL: It wasn't planned, to be honest. In terms of my charity work, I did it for, like,15 years without anybody ever knowing. I did it because it was something I wanted to do, not for public adulation. When I wanted to change the concept of what I was doing, I needed to be more public because it involved more people to collaborate. And I'm doing television now. I have to be honest, I was very afraid to do TV. I said no for 10 years.
INTERVIEW: Oh, really? Why?
CAMPBELL: The word reality scared me. I just looked at reality as everybody follows me around with a camera, and I'm not that kind of person. I fought for my privacy in England. And I didn't see another way it could be done. So when this opportunity came up through Elisabeth Murdoch and her company Shine, to be an executive producer and actually be part of the show, I liked the idea because I like the word mentor. I don't want to judge someone. I like sharing my knowledge with my girls, and anything they ask me I'll try to do to help them. Any of my real friends who know me, know that's how I really am.
INTERVIEW: You always seemed so confident, even early on. Is that an innate quality or something you had to assume to do the job?
CAMPBELL: They always say, "Fake it till you make it." [laughs] No, I'm determined, and I'm passionate and driven about whatever I commit myself to do. If I don't know something, I'm going to ask, and I've got no problems in asking questions. I never have. People ask me, "Are you nervous when you go on the runway? You don't look it." Yes, I am.
INTERVIEW: Linda Evangelista and François Nars were recently talking in the magazine, and Linda said you have an amazing memory, that you never forget a thing. Is that true?
CAMPBELL: Supposedly. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing ... You know what? It's a good thing. It's a blessing. People always say, "Do you want to write a book?" I'm like, "Not yet." "How will you remember it all?" I say, "It's in my head. It's there. I remember." I've been asked about a book a lot recently. It's a possibility. Put it that way.
INTERVIEW: Do you ever have days when you wake up and have nothing to do?
CAMPBELL: When I take a vacation. That's what a vacation is—chilling, swimming, running. When vacation's over, I'm working. I mean, sometimes if I've flown a long-haul flight and I know I've got work two days later, I try to just chill and do nothing, but it's very difficult for me. I'm not a sit-still type of person. I never have been.
INTERVIEW: Do you still consider the other models you came up with members of your family? Like Kate Moss, for instance.
CAMPBELL: Of course. Kate is like my sister. No matter how old she is—she's going to be 40 next year—I look at her as my little sister. I was first introduced to Kate by a makeup artist who was on tour with Madonna called Sharon Gault. This was 1992. I was introduced to Kate and Mario Sorrenti at the same time. Then I met Kate again in Madrid. I kidnapped her and that was it. I kidnapped her, stopped in Paris to pick up Christy, and we all flew to Dublin together.
INTERVIEW: Do you have any new hobbies?
CAMPBELL: I just learned to dive. I just got my PADI [scuba] certificate. But it depends, honestly, on where I am and what I'm doing. If I'm in a big city, I want to go to a museum, I want to go see art. If I'm in an ancient place like Egypt or Greece, I want to see historic rural sites. I'm blessed to be able to travel and work at the same time.
INTERVIEW: Are there any places on earth where Naomi Campbell can just walk around on the street and no one stops to take a picture?
CAMPBELL: I was just asking myself that, because where I am right now, it was perfectly fine and quiet, and then I went outside, and there they were. I'd like to go around anonymously and just see things in a normal way like everybody does. But I'm different. It's an occupation, but I'm just a human being. Fame and all that, what can you do? It comes with the job. So I try not to let it stress me out. And if they get a picture, they get a picture.
INTERVIEW: Earlier you said you liked being a mentor. Who were your mentors when you started modeling?
CAMPBELL: I would say that person is my mother. It wasn't easy to convince my mom, because she had put me into a private school and paid all this money for me to learn another type of job. But she was a trustful mother and I promised not to let her down. Two other ladies who have been big mentors to me in the business are Bethann Hardison and Iman. They were very protective of me—very, very protective. And they're still very protective to this day. I have a huge admiration and respect and love for Iman as a fellow model and as someone who I hold close to my heart. She's so much fun. She's got such a great sense of humor. We always have a giggle. I also have had amazing men in my life. Again, that's been Gianni Versace and Azzedine Alaïa. I call Azzedine "Papa." He basically took me into his home at 16 and told my mother he'd take care of me. I was very fortunate that I had these people who would guide me, that I could go to and say, "What do you think about this? Should I do this, should I not?" That meant everything to me.
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aomi has the most incredible presence—she's an immediate force—whether it is on the runway or in photographs. She has poise and grace, but also attitude and sexuality.— Donatella Versace