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Interview with Naomi Campbell

Aired February 12, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The days of the great big super models may be waning, but Naomi Campbell is still making headlines. The London-born beauty is one of the fashion world's most influential faces. And in the past two years, she's become as famous for her antics as her modeling. In 2006, she admitted to having a fit in which she threw her mobile phone at the housekeeper. And two years later, she pleaded guilty to assaulting to two police officers during an outburst on a British Airways flight, again, involving her now notorious phone.

But lately, the catwalk queen has been turning her attention to more positive work. Her charity show, Fashion for Relief, has raised money for numerous international causes, most recently, the crisis in Haiti.

The diva who truly never leaves the spotlight -- Naomi Campbell is our Connector of the Day.

(on camera): And a little earlier, I had the pleasure of talking to Naomi, who is your Connector of the Day.

Her charity fashion show for Haiti starts in just a couple of hours from now in New York.

And I begin by asking her how it was pretty much all coming together.

This is what she said.


NAOMI CAMPBELL, MODEL: It only works because everyone's collaboration comes together and makes it work, everyone collaborating together -- all the designers in the world who have donated, all the models, all the talent, everyone that -- everyone, everything, because it's -- we're asking people to donate their time for free to be able to make this work. And that's (INAUDIBLE) with the sales of all the items that you see on the runway. And basically, it's our contribution.

ANDERSON: You -- you did a similar event, of course, Naomi, in '05 and raised a million dollars for Hurricane Katrina aid. Tonight, your co- host is Sarah Ferguson, I believe. And the fashion world and celebs and VIPs are coming together.

Just how big a challenge is it to organize an event like this?

CAMPBELL: Well, the Duchess of York, first of all, is the patron of CARE Org and she's also an ambassador of White Ribbon Alliance. So, but getting everyone -- pulling all the designers and asking everyone in this busy time, when they're doing their own collections for their 2010 for winter, it's -- it's -- it's hectic. And I like to pick up the phone and call each and every person, A-List of celebrities, even models, because it's everyone's time. And it's, you know, you have to ask personally.

So that's what I do. So I've been a phone operator for the last few weeks, but with -- with -- with pleasure. With pleasure.

ANDERSON: You are, of course, in tonight's show.

Do you still get a thrill out of walking the runway?


I get a -- I -- I -- I still get nervous, but I'm still -- I'm very enthusiastic and I love my day job. And I don't walk the runway as much as I used to. But I will do anything. If you ask me to walk the runway for charity, I'll do it, because for this, if you can train someone, we lose a mother and a child a minute a day as it is.

ANDERSON: You make a very good point.

Viewer questions for you tonight.

Taken first, Abdul says: "Firstly, congratulations on what you -- you've been doing for Haiti." He wants to know how you feel about where you are in life right now.

CAMPBELL: I think, you know, I've matured, I've grown up a lot, made my mistakes, which the whole world knows. But I feel good about myself. And I don't -- what I do is not for public adulation, it's what I like to do. And that's why I've been doing it for many, many years, since '93, but it's -- everyone's like, really?

But it's not something that, you know, I'm -- it's -- it's just what you do, what you want to do and you do it quietly.

ANDERSON: Devon says: "You've worked hard in the past years to get where you are today." He says: "What is the most memorable work that you've done, Naomi?

What would you call your best achievement?

CAMPBELL: I have many, many amazing, memorable achievements. I've been extremely blessed in my life and I've met amazing people. And what I can say is people say, oh, the fashion world is fickle. Well, I'm friends with almost all the people I met when I was 16 years old. They're still into my life -- they're still in my life today. I speak to them on a regular basis.

And I think I -- there's so many wonderful things. I've met amazing people like Nelson Mandela, working with him on the Children's Fund, The Nelson Mandela Foundation. And it's -- you know, and then getting to share with my friends. We all went out in 1998 to Capetown and did a show in the presidential gardens benefiting Johnny Versace.

So it's been amazing. I also did one in Barcelona, which Alexander McQueen was part of. It was one of the first charity events he ever did.

And it's just been amazing. It's been an amazing trip. I have no complaints.

ANDERSON: Good for you.

Good for you.

Kaye says: "What advice can you give to young black girls aspiring to be you?"


CAMPBELL: I always say get your education under your belt. But, also, there isn't a handbook on how to model and what the -- you go through with the motions and the sensitivity and the experience is. So for me, you need a solid foundation, which is your family. And you have to learn what no one tells you. It's very hard not to take things personally. So when you get rejected because, obviously, you're saying they don't want you because of your look, you don't know how to take that.

So I always find it's very -- critiquing -- like I -- I'm very nervous when I see the reality shows and how they critique people because it's like it's not that you're not good enough. And I -- that should always come across.

So, for me, it's finding a -- a middle world -- a middle current that people can, you know, not be tough as nails but not be too sensitive but know how to deal because it's a face value type of thing.

ANDERSON: A good point. A very good point.

Leslie asks for your opinion on the -- on the super model world today. She says: "Why don't we have the same greats anymore?" She says, like you and Cindy and Claudia Schiffer, for example?

She doesn't believe they exist today.

What -- what are your thoughts?

CAMPBELL: Well, I actually saw something the other day where they said, oh, she's part -- over her expiration date, talking about...

, talking about...


CAMPBELL: -- it made me laugh because, you know, I said to myself, if you're happy in what you do and you can still get opportunity to work, why not?

I love what I do. And I'm like most other of my comrades, Cindy, Claudia, Christy, Linda, Kay, they all love -- Stephanie Seymour, Tatiana Petit (ph). You've got Lauren Hutton, Iman. I mean they're all -- we're all still working and we're grateful to be working. And we are all very close friends. We do keep in contact with each other.

And the difference maybe today is that we were a very supportive group to one another. I mean my girls really, with me, I could never -- Christy Turlington did so much for my career and Linda Evangelista. They would say to people, if you don't put her in the show, we're not doing it, because there would be certain times when designers didn't put a black model in their show. So they really put their necks out for me and I will never forget that.

ANDERSON: Very good.

Given your many years of experience, Anvish says: "Do you think that being a model is a -- more a profession or is it a lifestyle?"

CAMPBELL: It's a profession. And it's become -- since -- from Isolde (ph) in '85, it's more of a corporate business now. But it's definitely a profession. And it's an extremely -- it's a great profession because you get to travel the world at the same time and view it, you know, many different days or how many hours that we have there.

But no, it's a -- it's a great profession. And it's something you should take as seriously as you take as a banker, you know. I think -- I mean I didn't plan to be a model, but I'm glad this is what happened to me and I'm grateful for it.

ANDERSON: I think some people would say nobody takes bankers seriously. I'm sure many people take super models seriously.


CAMPBELL: Maybe that was a faux pas, especially right in this time.

But we're getting better, aren't we, Becky?

Isn't everything getting -- the crisis nearly over?

ANDERSON: Apparently so. I think you -- you know, the tickets have certainly sold out for your charity gig tonight, so apparently some people have got money.

CAMPBELL: Yes, they are. They are. Thank you to American Express.

ANDERSON: Listen, you talked...


ANDERSON: You've talked very openly and very candidly about what caused your anger in the past.

M.J. has written to us. And he says: "How have you changed as a result of your time in anger management classes and community services?"

CAMPBELL: I think -- I think, for me, it's like, you know, I took a lot of time out. And nobody wants to look in the mirror and face their demons and say, I want to fix this. Nobody does. It's a scary thing to do. And everybody has demons.

And I had to look in the mirror and face mine. And until I did that, there was not going to be a change in my life. And I didn't want to be the way I was. And I'm a -- I'm a -- I'm a work in progress. Every day is a new day. I take it a day at a time. And every day I learn something new. But I know that I'm taking a step forward rather than backward.

ANDERSON: Naomi Campbell...

CAMPBELL: And that's what's important.

ANDERSON: Naomi Campbell speaking to you tonight as your Connector of the Day.

Abart (ph) says: "Having lived the life of fashion and fame and all the good things that come with that, would you have changed it for a normal life if you had a second chance?"

Would you go back to South London?

You know, you and I grew up about four miles away from each other.

CAMPBELL: I love South London and I go back to South London all the time.


CAMPBELL: But in terms of if I could have not had that lady, Beth Boldt, come and see me on the street at 14 and say, do you want to model, no. I love what I do and it's been a great ride. And if it ended tomorrow, I couldn't be hap -- I mean I've had a great ride, Becky. I'm very blessed.


ANDERSON: Naomi Campbell speaking to you tonight.

And we did speak just before that interview. I asked her for her reaction to the death of designer, Alexander McQueen, of course, who was a great mate of hers. She was obviously very moved by the news. She did say, though, out of respect for the family that she didn't want to say too much at this point, other than to say that she would miss him dearly.