Naomi Campbell says she is not a saint and is a "work of progress".
But in a YouTube video posted on Tuesday (Aug 20), she said "I will not be held hostage by my past".
She was referring to a report in British tabloid Daily Mail which highlighted her links to alleged sex offenders like movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and financier Jeffrey Epstein.
"Yes, I knew him," she said of Epstein, who committed suicide on Aug 10 while he was held in detention over sex-trafficking charges.
"I was introduced to him on my 31st birthday by my ex-boyfriend Flavio (Briatore).
"He was always front and centre at Victoria's Secret fashion shows."
Campbell, 49, added that she was unaware of his activities, noting that he was just one of "hundreds of thousands of people whom I've stood next to, to take a picture".
"What he's done is indefensible," she said. "When I heard what he had done, it sickened me to my stomach, just like everybody else, because I've had my fair share of sexual predators, and thank God, I had good people around who protected me from this."
Slamming the Daily Mail for character assassination, she said: "The frightening conclusion here is that if the negative action of your neighbour, colleague or even an associate can somehow make you guilty, too, simply by association, then we indeed live in very worrying times.
"This affects us all. It's wrong, it's unfair and it must be stopped."