Naomi Campbell’s reputation as a high-fashion, hot-tempered, phone-throwing, trailblazer who epitomizes the moniker supermodel is not new. But on Tuesday evening, she showed a different side — the funny, shy and somewhat vulnerable version, during an interview at Hearst Tower in Midtown Manhattan with Town & Country editor in chief Stellene Volandes.
The editor started the interview by addressing Campbell’s signature runway walk. The model, who studied dance as a child, said she got a few pointers from her mother and adapted it based on the designer’s show.
“I feel like I’m floating,” said Campbell, referring to the out-of-body experience she has when she walks a show. Volandes turned to Campbell’s early days, modeling alongside Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington.
“I met Christy when I was 16 in London and she said, ‘You’ve got to come to New York,’” she said. “We didn’t have anything in our fridge except for Rolling Rock.”
Of course, the mention of the trio brought to mind the late George Michael and his music video for “Freedom,” which featured Campbell and fellow models Evangelista, Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz.
“We knew each other before,” Campbell said. “I knew George Michael before I did the video. I used to throw eggs at his fans because I was a Culture Club fan…I was in two Culture Club videos. I’ve been working since I was seven…I loved Wham, but when he went on his own, it was a whole different thing.”
Campbell, the professed “leader” of the pack of supermodels, said she negotiated with Michael for the group to be in the video. He asked what she wanted. Among her requests were two round-trip Concorde tickets, she said without divulging more of her demands. “That’s how it happened,” she said.
Campbell also talked about another coup — getting a French Vogue cover. She explained that Yves Saint Laurent went to bat for her after she told him she had been denied the cover. At the time — the late-Eighties — putting a black model on the cover was taboo.
The designer threatened to pull advertising. “And then I was getting my cover,” Campbell said to laughter. But lack of diversity in fashion is a problem, the model noted.
“When it was put in my face like that, I wouldn’t accept it,” she said. “There were a lot of women of color [in fashion] before [me].”
Campbell later admitted that diversity in the industry is “getting better.”
“I do feel that Iman and I will not shut up until it gets to the point where it’s equal, balanced,” she said. “I mean, I just saw a little bit of couture. I did look online at the couture shows and it was a little bit disappointing. This week we’re starting off in New York. We do a count [of diverse models]. We really hope it’s not going to go backwards — I always try to be optimistic — but if it does, then they will hear us again.”
Campbell said that magazines, filmmakers and designers should feature diverse women because they “should” not because they “have to” cast a “girl of color.”
Later, the conversation took a lighter turn when someone asked the model what is the biggest misconception of her. “That I’m not funny,” she said. “But I am!”
The audience, which had sporadically been roaring with laughter during the talk, seemed to agree.
Another, perhaps more surprising admission, was that she also gets stage fright.
“I was stressing out last night. I couldn’t sleep,” she said, looking at Volandes, who was winding down the interview. “I woke up at 6:30 a.m. I went to bed at 2:30 a.m. I couldn’t sleep. I think it was this!”