Keeping the real Naomi Campbell private

While model-actress Naomi Campbell is active on social media, she also fiercely guards her private life

British supermodel Naomi Campbell talks about how the modelling industry has changed from when she first started. The 47-year-old says she feels blessed to still be asked to work for big brands.
Naomi Campbell will model and act for as long as she can because she sees the need for racial diversity in the fashion industry.
Naomi Campbell will model and act for as long as she can because she sees the need for racial diversity in the fashion industry.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

There was a time when the public knew little about the private lives of the top models.

Social media changed everything, says Naomi Campbell, one of the most prominent of the 1990s "supermodels".

Brands now court spokespersons with large online followings, creating a system that rewards those most willing to give up their privacy, to show it all on Instagram and Facebook.

Campbell, who was in Singapore over the weekend for a business conference, says that this pressure to build audiences has come at a cost.

"When I started modelling with the greats - Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaia, Versace, Valentino - there was mystery," she tells The Straits Times last Friday.

"That's what made the photographers choose you. There was mystery and allure. Now it's all out there."

The 47-year-old, who, with models such as Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Elle Macpherson and Linda Evangelista, created the supermodel phenomenon of the 1990s, adds: "Social media is a great thing. But there is a fine line. I don't think you should show everything. You have to save some of it for yourself."

Her Instagram feed features tributes to friends and colleagues, and her charity work with Fashion For Relief, a group she founded in 2005 that has raised millions to help victims of disasters around the world.

But it is not all work. "I show desserts that I like," she says.

Like the stars of social media, she has done her share of "hanging out on boats".

But she adds: "I don't think I will ever let people know the real me. There is a side of me that is public, but then there is the side of me that likes being alone, chilling and doing my own thing."

Campbell, who is single, spoke at the Milken Institute Asia Summit, a business conference. She was part of a panel on leadership.

Of late, she has been seen more on television, in dramas such as Star and American Horror Story. She has a recurring part in the drama series Empire.

Acting is just one of the various entertainment-related activities she is involved in, which include producing television shows.

"Acting is something that's fun for me. I'm not going to give up my day job," says Campbell, who executive-produced the modelling reality show The Face in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

She is hoping to work more behind the camera. "I'd love to produce an event here in Singapore. I think it's a great platform - just going out and feeling out the people, that would be a lot of fun."

But for as long as she has a chance, she will continue to model and act, she says, because of the need to add to the diversity of races in the fashion industry, an issue she has advocated for years.

She is no stranger to controversy - she has been in the news for attacking police officers and photographers - a history she alluded to when, during a panel discussion, she said that "everyone makes mistakes".

She has no regrets, however.

"Everyone's life has a path and you are here to learn from your mistakes. I am grateful that I am here today and can explore the world. You should always live in the present and look forward to what the future holds."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'Keeping the real Campbell private'. Subscribe