Long legs, short fuse...
Published 19/01/2007 | 00:11
CAITRIONA PALMER reports from Washington on the supermodel who can't stay out of trouble
In the end, it turned out to be a very expensive pair of jeans for Naomi Campbell.
The notoriously bad tempered supermodel pleaded guilty in a Manhattan courtroom this week to an assault charge, claiming she lobbed a crystal-studded mobile phone at her employee's head in a row over a pair of missing designer denims.
"I threw a cell phone in the apartment," conceded a contrite Campbell during her court appearance on Tuesday. "The cell phone hit Ana. This was an accident because I did not intend to hit her. I am advised that Ana was hurt, and I am sorry about that."
Campbell, 36, was sentenced to five days' community service and ordered to enter anger management therapy and pay damages to the victim, Ana Scolavino, 42. She is now expected to take a civil action against her former boss, a move that could cost Campbell significantly more.
The incident, not the first involving Campbell and an airborne communication device, took place last March in the model's $5 million dollar Park Avenue apartment. The assault reportedly left Scolavino with an open head wound that required four staples to close.
Campbell, a five-foot nine-and-a-half inch British beauty, is no stranger to bad publicity. Last year, another housekeeper, Gaby Gibson, filed a verbal abuse and defamation suit against Campbell, calling the supermodel a "violent super bigot".
Last July, Campbell's former assistant Amanda Brack also filed a suit, saying she was subjected to a series of "verbal, physical and emotional attacks" on three continents. In a sensational claim Brack alleged that Campbell beat her about the head with a Blackberry hand-held device in a rage "over problems with flights and luggage". The model has vehemently denied the charges.
And in a previous conviction in 2000 Campbell pleaded guilty in a Canadian court to assaulting another employee with a telephone in a hotel room and threatening to throw her out of a moving car.
Campbell, who has admitted she had a drug problem in the past, blames her violent outbursts on lingering resentment towards her father for his absence from her life. She also admits that she should exercise more caution when it comes to choosing her friends and employees.
"I have to be very careful who I'm around, what I say, who's around me," she told Sky News last year. "I cannot be with someone on my own anymore, because I don't know the agendas that people have. I've had to learn from my mistakes, but I don't harbour grudges".
The supermodel, whose iconic looks and hot temper have made her, in the media's eyes, the very worst of divas, has enjoyed extraordinary longevity as a fashion model. At 36 she continues to command the runways in Paris and New York - an amazing achievement for a brutal industry renowned for its fickleness and obsession with youth.
"[Models] have a very short shelf life," says Robin Givhan, fashion editor of the Washington Post and a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic. "She certainly does stand out as the veteran of the lot. And considering the look of models now, which is very thin and very fragile, she also stands out because she's really from that era of models with curves and with athleticism".
Born in working-class Streatham in South London to an unmarried teenage showgirl and sometime model, Campbell was discovered by a model scout at 15 while window-shopping in Covent Garden. At 16 she made it onto the cover of Elle and just two years later became the first black model to grace the cover of the French edition of Vogue.
Along with Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford, Campbell belonged to the elite group of supermodels that changed the face of fashion in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Renowned for her aggressive runway 'walk' and her endless legs, Campbell has dabbled in other projects - singing, acting and writing. Her solo album Baby Woman was a huge hit in Japan but faded into obscurity elsewhere.
Controversy surrounding the true authorship of her 1996 novel, Swan, caused Campbell to admit that the book had been ghost written. "I just did not have the time to sit down and write a book," she said.
Despite efforts by Campbell to branch out and create a 'brand' for herself outside of fashion, none of her extracurricular projects have succeeded. Her public image remains fixed as a model, and a not-so-gentle personality.
"What I find interesting about her is she hasn't been particularly successful in creating a persona for herself beyond as a model," says Givhan. "She has this PR company and she wrote a book - I use the phrase 'wrote a book' loosely - but none of these things have been overwhelming successes."
Some supermodels have launched business empires on the strength of their names and beauty; others, such as David Bowie's wife Iman, have devoted much of their time to humanitarian causes.
One of Campbell's colleagues, Cindy Crawford, has found contentment in having a family, keeping a much lower public profile.
But Campbell has so far found romantic bliss elusive, at least according to the celebrity tabloids that record her every relationship in detail - including episodes when her infamous temper has flared.
Her beaus have included legendary actor Robert De Niro, P Diddy, U2's Adam Clayton and allegedly the notorious former heavyweight champ, Mike Tyson.
If she chooses to shift into business or entertainment, Campbell may have to work on her public speaking skills.
She recently received a dubious honour from the UK's Plain English Society for "a baffling quote made by a public figure". Campbell reportedly declared: "I love England, especially the food. There's nothing I like more than a lovely bowl of pasta."
In less than four years, Campbell will turn 40, and at some point even a woman with her dazzling looks will finally have to retire from the runway.
In the meantime, she can still electrify an audience when she's headlining a fashion show.
"For a designer who needs a model to add excitement and pizzazz to his or her show, she definitely fits that bill because she's still one of the few remaining models that when you say 'Naomi', people know who you're talking about," Givhan says.
"She obviously seems to still really enjoy doing it."
Will yet another round of anger management therapy, ordered by a Manhattan court this week, help calm the infamous Naomi Campbell temper?
Branded by a 'Vanity Fair' columnist as "the biggest brat in the modelling business", and called a "massive cow" by former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, Campbell's legendary tantrums are the stuff of tabloid nirvana.
Employees, friends, lovers - nobody is safe when Campbell loses her cool. In 2005, a long-time friend of Campbell, actress Yvonne Scio, claimed the model left her "covered in blood" after she allegedly punched her in the face several times.
In anther incident in 2005, Campbell was reported to have spat on a security guard who, failing to recognise the model, blocked her from getting backstage access at a U2 concert.
In July 2006 Campbell reportedly broke plates, ripped cushions, and pulled down curtains on her millionaire boyfriend Badr Jafar's yacht in apparent displeasure at the chef's preparation of a tomato and mozzarella salad, causing over ?40,000 worth of damage in the process.
Campbell was allegedly once fired by her agency on the grounds that "no money or prestige could further justify the abuse that has been imposed on" staff and clients. Told that she would not be rehired even if she was "the last model on earth", Campbell had the last laugh when she was re-employed by the same agency six months later.