Andrea Smith: Was Naomi Campbell really the right choice for Newbridge Silverware?
What comes to mind when you think of Naomi Campbell?
For me, it’s that her housekeeper Ana Scolavino needed four stitches after the model famously threw a Blackberry phone at her head in 2006, and was sentenced to pay Ana’s medical expenses, attend an anger management programme, and perform five days of community service.
We were all FROW as she gave the fashion show of her life each day of her punishment, coming and going from the New York Sanitation Department Depot dressed in natty fedoras, fur coats, and even a silver sequinned Dolce & Gabbana dress and high heels. If she was chastened, it certainly didn’t show.
Previously, in 1998, Campbell also pleaded guilty to hitting her former assistant Georgina Galanis, again with a phone, which seems to be her weapon of choice. The fact that she had enrolled in an anger management programme at that time also worked in her favour as the case was settled before a judge. Among several other incidents and allegations, she was fined and sentenced to community service for being abusive on a flight, and kicking and spitting at two police officers at Heathrow in 2008 in a row over lost luggage.
Don’t know about you, but I think I might be looking for a refund on those anger management courses if I was La Campbell.
Anyway, aside from these, er, dalliances with the wrong side of the law, the 45-year-old is a beautiful, world-famous supermodel, who is the face of Burberry and Italian luxury lingerie brand, La Perla. And Newbridge CEO William Doyle was probably hoping we would forget about those other pesky little matters as he unveiled her in her black leather dress as the new face of Newbridge Silverware this week.
Describing her as one of the most instantly recognisable faces and personalities of our time, Campbell, he said, was the woman who “put the word super into supermodel.” The ambassadorship would cost the company “in excess of €200,000,” and was intended to enhance the brand’s profile internationally.
It was widely reported that Ms Campbell arrived to the launch by private jet from London with an entourage of ten people including make up artist, stylist, hairdresser, publicist, manager, and security in tow. I sincerely hope for Doyle’s sake the cost of all of that was included in that 200 grand figure. Did the short trip across the water really merit a private jet, for example, when Naomi's five-year ban from British Airways was lifted in 2013, after the aforementioned Heathrow incident? And were our own talented stylists and groomers not up to the job, or are the entire Naomi retinue going to be flown in every time she carries out an engagement for the company?
Surely I couldn’t be the only one who finds this particular alliance incongruous with what Newbridge has come to represent? I always thought it was a really classy brand, with its stunning jewellery and aspirational alliances and ambassadors. I was impressed by the Newbridge Silver Museum of Style Icons, containing dresses worn by Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, and felt that the brand espoused classic, timeless elegance.
I have never linked Naomi with jewellery in my mind, although there was that awkward moment when she was subpoenaed to court in the Hague in 2010 to give evidence in a war crimes trial against former Liberian president, Charles Taylor. The model was forced to discuss details of a “blood diamond” she had allegedly received from Taylor in 1997, and while she testified that she was given "dirty-looking" stones late at night by two men, she claimed she didn’t know the stones had originated from Taylor until actress Mia Farrow told her. Naomi told the court she wanted the stones to be donated to charity, so she handed them to a colleague and told him to "do something good with them". "He still has them so they didn't benefit," she added. Both Farrow and Campbell's former modelling agent, Carole White, contradicted aspects of her claims in their evidence when they took to the stand.
In some of her assault cases, Campbell came to agreements with the victims that spared her from serving jail time. She could do this, not because she was innocent, but because she's a very wealthy woman who has earned a fortune modelling clothes and could afford to settle financially with her victims. Her penchant for wearing real fur and taking a starring role in a campaign for a luxury New York furrier has also drawn criticism, particularly as she once posed naked in the iconic People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) anti-fur advert.
It’s not like these incidents are relegated to the past either and I'm raking them up - it was only a mere six weeks ago that Naomi was convicted of assault by a Sicilian court and received a six month suspended prison term. This was for scratching the eye of a paparazzo photographer who took pictures of her and her former boyfriend, Russian billionaire Vladimir Doronin.
Previous Newbridge ambassador Amy Huberman’s contract has come to an end, which is a pity as she always seemed a perfect fit for the brand. She's beautiful, smart, funny and popular and an accomplished actress and author, yet we could relate to her and aspire to be her. An ideal role model, I thought.
Also, Amy, like the Newbridge brand, is Irish. The nearest Naomi gets to being Irish is that she once dated Adam Clayton. While William Doyle said the alliance with Naomi was intended to enhance the company's profile internationally, you'd have to wonder why it felt that a controversial, middle-aged English model was the best person to epitomise all that it wants to present on the world stage. Without being paraochial, Newbridge is a true Irish success story that is now emerging as an international player, so surely it might have been a more appropriate fit to ally itself with one of the many fabulous, talented Irish people out there making a name for themselves worldwide, like Saoirse Ronan, Katie Taylor, Michael Fassbender, Colin Farrell, Sarah Greene, Nicky Byrne, Sarah Bolger, Laura Whitmore, Chloe Agnew and Niall Horan.
We're all really proud of Newbridge and would love it to enjoy the international success it deserves, so I hope this latest gamble pays off for the firm that began life as a cutlery company in 1934. Up to now, it hasn't put a foot wrong, which is more than can be said, alas, for its brand new ambassador.