(NEW YORK) She’s covered every A-list glossy on the planet, fronted all the top brands, and logged more runway miles than a 747. Now Naomi Campbell is ready to give back to fashion as a mentor on The Face. Watch and learn, ladies! BY EDDIE ROCHE
Loved the show. What made you want to be on TV?
It was always something I was quite fearful of and shied away from. The attractive part was that I’d get to share what I’ve learned over the 26 years of my career. I drew a few boundary lines for what I would and wouldn’t do: I didn’t want to judge the girls in any way, and they said that was fine. They let someone else do that. They gave me my own team, and we went from there.
This can’t be the first time you were approached. Which other reality shows did you pass on?
I can’t even remember, but people have been offering me reality shows for the past 12 years! Not just in the United States, but all over the world. I said no because it wasn’t right for me and I didn’t feel comfortable.
You’re also the executive producer of The Face, correct?
Yes, and it’s a lot of hard work, because when the cameras stop rolling, it doesn’t mean I stop working. Before we even started shooting, I wanted the show to be a certain caliber, which meant getting on the phone and dealing with a lot of people’s schedules. I pulled in a lot of favors, and went back to people in the industry whom I’ve known since I was 16-years old. I asked them for their time and effort to support me in the show. Everyone said yes. We wanted it to be authentic and pass on what I learned to help these young girls who want to be aspiring models.
Can you name some of the people we’re going to see?
I’m someone who doesn’t like to spoil a surprise. Let’s just say, it’s a high-level quality of people whom I’ve worked with in my career, if that gives you any sense.
Are you a sore loser?
Losing? I can’t bear it! But the show isn’t about me losing. I don’t want my girls to lose. I don’t want Team Naomi to lose. I’ve got to prove to my girls they’ve got what it takes to get out there in the real world. But I’m not the kind of coach that sugarcoats things. I tell them and try to teach them what it’s really like out there. I want one of my girls to win, and they deserve to win. They are great girls.
Have you watched yourself on the show yet?
I haven’t. I don’t know if I can, actually. I probably can’t. When I shoot pictures as a model I never look at the monitor. I like surprises.
Are you afraid of how you might come off?
If I do watch, I’m going to watch it more for the look. Not how I look, but the overall look. My name is on it and I want whatever I put my name on to look good. We’ve had all these special guests who’ve given their time. I want everyone to be happy.
Do you lose your temper in any of the episodes?
Of course I do! You wouldn’t like it if I didn’t.
True. By the way, we’re following you on Twitter.
It’s fun! I’m just sharing things that I like to read and say.
Do you come up with the #Omiquotes yourself?
Most of them.
What’s an #Omiquote?
Basically, it’s just a positive affirmation, like, “One day you will be just a memory for some people, but do your best to be a good one.” Things like that.
Do you read a lot of self-help books?
I do! What I like is that you can pick them up at any point. You don’t have to start from page one. You can have that book for 10 years and pick it up and say, “Oh! I never saw this part.” It’s like a constant companion.
Any authors you’d recommend?
I like Marianne Williamson. I used to go to this seminar a few years back in Phoenix. And I love Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and every other book he does. Tony Robbins too.
Is this a new thing for you?
No! I’ve been going to these seminars in Phoenix for a few years. Marianne Williamson actually spoke at one. You can go, too. Your life changes and you find you’re not running around like a chicken with your head cut off. It’s basically just making time for yourself. You just sit there and let it all sink in. That’s what it is.
Would you ever write a memoir?
I don’t think so. It’s a hard question for me to answer because I’m a very private person. And with all of the wonderful people in my life that have been there from the beginning until now, I have to respect their privacy. I wouldn’t want to be disloyal. I don’t have anything bad to say, but I should probably just keep my memories to myself.
Where do you live these days?
I’m a gypsy, as always.
Are you going to be at the Tents?
I’ll be there. I don’t know if I’ll be walking, but I’ll be there.
See you then!
All right, love!
What’s your role on the show?
I’m the host and the go-between for the audience and contestants. So much happens in the fashion business that it can almost feel like a foreign language. I’m the referee and the only guy. All that estrogen gets a bit much.
Interesting that none of the principals on the show are from the United States.
The business is made up of people from around the world. That’s one of the reasons why I love it. It’s where all the misfits are.
Should we expect a lot of drama?
Of course! It’s fashion, honey.
More drama than America’s Next Top Model?
It’s completely different. Obviously there is drama in all reality shows on some level. But it’s not just about people screaming at each other.
You were a judge on Top Model and now you’re a host. Did you have to take classes?
I didn’t. A lot of it comes with confidence. I never claimed to anyone that I knew exactly what I was doing at any one moment. I told the producers that if I miss anything or if they want me to be more dramatic, I can work that out for them. I have always tried to be the Nigel Barker you see on TV, on and off the screen.
Could you tell who the winner was going to be from the get-go?
You can’t help but make judgments, but I realized a long time ago that I had to reserve them, because the most important thing you want to see is somebody’s potential to change.
Be honest: Was anybody scared of Naomi?
She doesn’t go out there to be scary. She’s actually very personable and warm in a way that takes you off guard. Even though she was the producer, I never really thought of her as my boss. She never said to me that I needed to do this or that. It was always a group discussion.
You knew Karolina and Coco before, right?
I did. Coco and I worked together many times. When Karolina was starting her career, I was beginning my photography career. She was always one of those girls you wanted to photograph.
Will we be seeing you around this week?
On buses, billboards, in the subway, and in the front row!
What’s your role on the show?
I’m a coach. I do whatever I need to make sure the girls that I’m working with perform well and are happy. I hold their hand, and they cry on my shoulder.
Who was your mentor?
I didn’t really have one. At the beginning when I was starting out, I had to figure out a lot of things for myself and learn the hard way. But I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues by watching them and the decisions they’ve made. When you’re starting out you have to think about which direction you want to go. I always say that you are your own brand. I am a person, but I am also a brand.
How would you describe Naomi’s brand? Is she a good coach?
I haven’t really seen her coach. When we’re coaching, we’re not together. I don’t see her approach, because I’m always with my own girls. I haven’t even seen the show yet!
A British newspaper said there was tension on the set. True?
It was all very professional. We worked hard. Everyone took it very seriously, because it was important for the girls on the show. A lot of them left their homes and put their lives on hold to do it. But whatever happened on the show, happened on the show. When we went home, we continued on with our lives.
Naomi yells at you in the promos. What was that like?
I was just kind of surprised. It came out of nowhere. I didn’t know if it was real and why it was happening. We’re all very passionate about our girls and none of us wanted to lose. But if the show was flat, it would be boring, so things happen. But when we were off the set, we were cool. Sometimes we get passionate and excited.
Would you have done a reality show 10 years ago?
Probably not. I was very shy and insecure.
What’s your favorite thing to eat on set?
Green juices. I have to drink one every day.
No Tate’s cookies for you then?
Sometimes I’ll have a bagel if I’m really hungry. But the more crap I put into my body, the more tired I feel.
When did you meet Naomi?
My first show was Anna Sui, and I passed her on the runway. Afterward, she told me backstage that I had a great walk. I didn’t really know who she was at the time, though. She’s been very nice to me ever since and was a big part in picking me for the show.
Is she a fun boss?
Karolina and I were late for our first meeting, and Naomi and the entire team were sitting there waiting for us. That didn’t happen again. TV people don’t really know what the fashion world is about or anything about editorial, and she knows that stuff better than most.
Was she intimidating?
No, but when she walks into a room, she demands presence. The first few times we were filming, I didn’t know what to say to her.
Did you miss out on any jobs during filming?
I had one that came up in the middle of it all, but I was able to do it in the end. We shot during Fashion Week, so I walked in Zac Posen—but I wasn’t able to do any others. But I’ve been doing this for 14 seasons so it was time to take some time off.
Are you doing the circuit this month?
I hope! I won’t be doing everything, but I’d like to do my favorites. I’d like to go to Paris and hang out with some designers there, too.
Models are supposed to have 10-year plans or something. What’s yours?
I couldn’t even tell you what I’m going to do after this interview!
Do you want to be a mom?
I’d love to be a mom. My own mom is always asking me when I’m gonna get pregnant.
How’s living in the ‘burbs?
We love it out there. You go to work in Manhattan, but then escape back to Normalville.
You’re leading a double life.
I am. I wonder if my next-door neighbors even know anything about me.
How do you kill time on your commute?
I love everything, from R&B to show tunes. I can go from Liza Minnelli to Kanye West in a single shuffle.
What’s your favorite Liza song?
Have you ever heard her sing “Hello, Dolly” with her mom?
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