When Naomi Campbell first ventured in front of a camera to earn her keep there really was no such thing as a supermodel.
That was nearly 30 years ago and Campbell was just 15. She went on to be the first black woman on the cover of French Vogue at 18 — and the first black model to hit the cover of Time. Now, at 43 and going strong, she thinks the word supermodel has lost its oomph.
“To be quite honest, today I don’t know if I want to be called that name because everyone and their mother is called a supermodel and I’m like, ‘OK, I’m just a working model,'” said the most-definitely-a-supermodel as she sat in an NBC conference room with hair and makeup people madly preparing her for a round of interviews.
“I never believed in that hype,” Campbell added. “It’s a name and yes I say it for promotion but it’s not what I deeply think inside of myself. I feel that I’m just a model who loves what I do.”
On this day, what she does is show up late, which is OK when you’re a supermodel. Her adorable pocket dog Milo offers a friendly hello jump on a reporter who sits awkwardly by as Campbell silently taps on her phone, finally heralding the start of an interview — after a very long minute — with a perfect smile.
The occasion? The second season of “The Face,” a drama-dripping modeling competition she executive produces and appears in as one of three mentor-coaches to a dozen aspiring young ones in search of their big break.
During the show’s inaugural season on Oxygen, Campbell was joined by two other supermodels, but Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova are gone this time around. They’ve been replaced by working — but not quite Campbell-level super — models Lydia Hearst, the publishing heiress, and Anne V, a Russian beauty who owes her start 12 years ago to a contest she won at 15.
Campbell said the two replacements were not unplanned. She thinks “it’s good to change each season and work with different people.”
Asked at a New York Fashion Week show about her stint on “The Face,” Rocha offered: “It was pretty tough when you have three women that are very competitive in what they do on their own, and then having it broadcast is just something I didn’t want to have to do anymore. And then again I still love mentoring so I keep doing that.”
In fact, one of Team Coco’s girls worked during Fashion Week. Campbell considers it a priority that all the tasks and challenges the “modeltestants” are put through on the show actually lead the winner, at least, to regular modeling work.
“I didn’t want that she wins and we just don’t see her anymore,” Campbell said, explaining that she, too, loves being a mentor to young talent.