Getting to know the real Naomi Campbell
It’s not every day you get a text from a supermodel to say she loves you.
Igot this text just a week ago. It read, “Ken my love, it was such a pleasure, I loved our connection. You understand me without words. Can’t wait till our paths cross again. Big love and hugs – xoxo Naomi.” If could frame this, I would. It’s not every day you get a text from a supermodel to say she loves you. And even more from a legend like Naomi Campbell. Her infamous reputation precedes her – so to receive something so warm and fuzzy was certainly a surprise. Ironically, the feeling wasn’t mutual earlier on in the day. We waited for hours for Naomi to turn up at our shoot. At the sixhour point, I was about to call the whole shoot off when I was called into her changing room. Naomi needed the dexterous fingers of a stylist to wiggle the zipper of her Alaïa dress up her Amazonian body.
I did it in one fell swoop, and promptly earned her respect. “I will be back to do your shoot right after this quick interview?” she sweetly promised.
And turn up, she did, right after her interviews – nine hours later than the call time. “How many pictures do you need?” she asked. “Six plus covers which is eight,” I ventured. “I can do four now and then I have to do the show and then I can come back and do the rest of the shoot. Ok?” she asked and I promptly nodded. Before I could snap my fingers, she was down to her birthday suit waiting to be dressed. I was elated. The nine-hour wait just melted away into oblivion. Naomi was so charming, so effusive and so engaging, you just forgave her for everything. I had 30 minutes to get the cover shot and do four outfit changes before she had to walk for Zenchi at Digital Fashion Week.
“Please come with me to the show?” she pleaded. “Of course!” I said. And the next thing I knew, I was sitting next to her in a blacked-out Mercedes. All this while, in the madness of changing outfits and posing, Naomi talked fashion. Real fashion. She asked what my favourite show in Paris was. She wanted my opinion on Nicolas Ghesquière’s appointment at Louis Vuitton; and what David Koma was doing in London, adding how his amazing cut and fit suited her to a T. She talked about the exit of Jil Sander from her eponymous brand and how she always cut such beautiful clothes but at such hefty price tags. She lamented about the sale of Loro Piana to LVMH and if the brand would still have that intimate understanding of luxury (she outfitted all her ex-boyfriend’s yachts in Loro Piana and gave entire retrofitting instructions in 30 minutes flat). She spoke about how she loved Jonathan Saunders’ first collection so much, and wondered how JW Anderson would do at Loewe.
Naomi knows her fashion – inside out. She knows what brands, designers and labels are doing. She knows the business of fashion. She understands how fashion exhibitions should be done – how her “papa’s” exhibition (Azzedine Alaïa) in Paris should have been more interactive. “Cos that’s what kids want nowadays. They want to be involved. They want to be entertained.” She flew in from New York to open the exhibition for “papa” and stayed for less than 12 hours before flying back. Such is her devotion and loyalty.
When we rolled up to the venue, she practically threw off her clothes, got into Zenchi’s little black dress and opened the show in under 10 minutes – from the moment she walked in. She was two hours late. But nonetheless, she knew every angle, every move, and every light. She knew where to stop, which camera to look at, when to make that three-point turn as she did the final look down the runway in a bright yellow dress that shone like a beacon against her tanned skin. And, before you knew it, she had changed back and we were back at Raffles Hotel for the final three shots.
All the while, Naomi chatted nonstop, she filled the room with laughter, with demands, with curious questions. She even stopped to make a 20-second call to her loved one to ask for “three little words,” to which she responded with a “me too” and promptly switched off her phone. And within 10 minutes, she did the promised three looks and was off to the airport with minutes to spare. Naomi can out-pose anyone in 10 seconds flat – and can even make planes wait for her. Before leaving, she turned to me, gave me the biggest hug and kiss and promised to send me a text.
Did this whole shoot even happen? I turn to my phone and see her SMS. It did, and it left a mark forever. Send me your comments on Twitter: goh_kenneth or Instagram: @kennieboy
Naomi Campbell in Zenchi at Digital Fashion Week
In Saint Laurent at the BAZAAR fashion shoot
Doing a threepoint turn at the finale walk for Zenchi at Digital Fashion Week