Profile: Naomi Campbell: A Model of Privacy?

Article excerpt

With any high-profile court case, people will find themselves rooting for one side or the other. But to the impartial observer, the case of Naomi Campbell v The Mirror for publishing details of her drugs rehabilitation presents a tougher decision than most. Who to side with - the fashion model or the tabloid newspaper?

Neither is viewed in the collective consciousness with much sympathy, after all. The tabloid newspaper is regularly lambasted for its shameless intrusion into people's lives. The model is blamed for everything from a young girl's smoking habits to the betrayal of her fellow women by encouraging impossible images of femininity. But, of course, Naomi Campbell is not just a model. So when she decided to take on the tabloid press she only confirmed her status, once again, as the woman that tabloid readers and, indeed, the world famously love to hate.

To say that Campbell's reputation precedes her would be something of an understatement. Her outrageous demands, her legendary lateness, her relationships with Mike Tyson, Robert De Niro, Joaquim Cortes and Flavio Briatore and, most of all, her magnificent tantrums are known the world over, making her the most famous model by far.

Cool and kooky Kate Moss is a fashion plate par excellence - everyone wants to know what's she's wearing, who she's dating. She pouts prettily for the camera just as much as she needs to for the sake of politeness but generally gives the press a wide birth. Campbell, on the other hand, is rather less controlled. Only too delighted to display her diva credentials, she is willing to perform just the larger-than-life, inflammatory role that is expected of her at the drop of a (Philip Treacy) hat - and all straight to camera. The girl just can't help it, it seems. And so, for the past week, any dirt surrounding her name has been raked up once more, as she sits there, immaculately dressed and exuding expensive fragrance, batting her eyelids at the doddery old judge and generally behaving, well, beautifully badly.

The court was duly shown a video recording of a teeth-baring Naomi Campbell going for a fellow aircraft passenger who'd made the mistake of attempting to film her while sleeping, with a ferocity not normally associated with her profession. She was travelling to South Africa on a fund-raising trip at the time. Those in attendance were also reminded of the fact that she had assaulted her one-time personal assistant Georgina Galanis, bashing her unceremoniously over the head with - you couldn't make it up - her mobile phone. She famously carries, and often speaks into, two and even three at a time. Naomi Campbell was a hypocrite, the court was told - she had posed naked in a memorable anti-fur campaign before duly appearing on the catwalk in full-length fox not long after. Naomi Campbell wanted to have her cake and eat it; she was photographed naked in Madonna's book Sex and talked openly about her life on film but now had the bare-faced cheek to claim her right to privacy. "Maybe I am just a target again because of the stories about other models taking drugs. I am not like that," she said after reports that she had taken a barbiturate overdose in the Canary Islands in 1997.

But if Campbell has, once again, invested the news pages with more glamour than they could ever wish for - and infamy with a capital I, a winning combination if ever there was one - she has also exposed very little of her true self. As with any superstar, Campbell's media image looms so large that it threatens to render the woman behind it all but invisible.

Campbell was born on 26 May 1970 in Streatham, south London. Her part- Chinese father was unnamed on her birth certificate - he left when Valerie, her Jamaican-born mother, was four months pregnant. At the age of only 19, Valerie left her small daughter with a nanny and travelled round Europe with the dance troupe Fantastica, sending money back home to support Naomi. …