Today, as she approaches 50, Naomi Campbell remains one of the most sought-after women in the world, as famous for her beauty, still, as for her sheer commercial pulling power.
She has swept all before her on catwalks and red carpets, and even now shows no sign of slowing down.
Yet even Campbell’s most enthusiastic supporters might be surprised to learn that she will soon be honoured as a humanitarian.
This unexpected turn of events comes courtesy of the prestigious British Fashion Council, which has decided to honour the Streatham-born model for her ‘philanthropic work with charities’ at a glitzy ceremony at London’s Albert Hall in December. It’s apparently a reward for Campbell’s role in creating Fashion For Relief, a personal charity dedicated to fighting poverty, sickness and distress.
After a lifetime of private planes and yacht parties, Campbell’s new role as a philanthropist might take a little getting used to, although a £45 million fortune means she can certainly afford to be charitable.
Until now, the model has been better known as something of a drama queen, notorious for hurling jewel-encrusted phones and raging at her staff. She has no fewer than four convictions of assault to her name.
It’s not just the drug-taking and the tantrums that Ms Campbell might want to put behind her.
For all the glamour of her jet-setting social circle, she has also rubbed shoulders with another, altogether less wholesome crowd – a hair-raising cast of characters, in fact, with dubious and in some cases bloodthirsty reputations.
No doubt Campbell plans to celebrate her half century in style, but she’d be wise to strike some old acquaintances from the guest list…
Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein. Mired in allegations of sex abuse
It is only in the past few days that Campbell has found herself dragged into the Epstein affair. Documents released by the American courts show she was among those who had flown in Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet, nicknamed the ‘Lolita Express’ because of his predilection for young girls.
And a new picture has now emerged showing one of Epstein’s teenage ‘sex slaves’, Virginia Roberts, attending Campbell’s lavish 31st birthday party aboard a yacht in Cannes in 2001.
There is no absolutely no suggestion that Campbell was aware of Epstein’s illegal activities, but she certainly spent time in the company both of the disgraced financier and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell, who was also at the party.
Paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s friend Chislaine Maxwell pictured with Naomi Campbell at the Rosa Cha Post Show celebration party in New York in 2002. The current whereabouts of Ms Maxwell are unknown
Ms Maxwell has been accused by Epstein’s victims of facilitating the abuse (which she denies.)
Last weekend, Epstein was found dead in his New York prison cell where he was awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking underage girls for sex.
The whereabouts of Ms Maxwell are unknown.
Gaston and Kathrin Glock. Gun-pushing billionaires
Gaston Glock manufactures one of the most famous brands of handgun in the world but, despite her humanitarian credentials, Campbell saw nothing wrong in accepting an invitation to his recent 90th birthday party in the foothills of the Austrian Alps.
And her reason for attending the lavish event, where she was photographed smiling winsomely with Kathrin, Mr Glock’s much younger wife? The model explained she was there to ‘support the Glocks’ horse charity’.
Mr Glock’s life reads as if it’s scripted by thriller writer John Grisham: it takes in a sex scandal, a failed assassination attempt, a bitter family feud and an attractive nurse – Kathrin – who won his heart despite a 51-year age gap.
Glock hit the big time when he decided to design his own handgun for the Austrian army. His invention would revolutionise the handgun market and earn him more than £1 billion.
Campbell pictured with handgun billionaire Gaston Glock’s much younger wife Kathrin at The Vienna Opera House in Austria, 2016
Charles Taylor. Warlord with ‘dirty’ diamonds
Few supermodels are called to testify at the International Criminal Court. But when jailed war lord Charles Taylor was put on trial for war crimes at The Hague in 2010, Campbell was summoned as a witness.
Taylor was the blood-soaked former president of Liberia, and prosecutors wanted to know about a gift of diamonds that he gave Campbell at a charity gala held in aid of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation. So called ‘blood diamonds’ mattered because Taylor had used the trade in precious stones – often mined in conflict zones – to arm and equip a rebel army in Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war. At first Campbell refused to give evidence and only appeared when threatened with contempt of court proceedings.
Asked in the witness box about her reluctance, she said: ‘I was made to be here. So, obviously I’m just like wanting to get this over with and get on with my life. This is a big inconvenience for me.’
Campbell was summoned to the International Criminal Court in 2010 to testify during the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. He was on trial for war crimes. The supermodel reportedly received a blood-soaked diamond from Taylor. (Pictured: Campbell with Taylor at a dinner with South African president Nelson Mandela, South Africa, in 1997)
She had previously denied having the diamonds and told the court this was because she feared for her family. Taylor was ‘someone I read on the internet has killed thousands of people, supposedly’, she said. But she did confirm that two unidentified men handed her some ‘dirty looking stones’ after the Mandela dinner.
Campbell claimed that she discovered only later that they might be blood diamonds supplied by Taylor but this account was contradicted in court by fellow guest Mia Farrow, who said Naomi was expecting a ‘huge diamond’ from the warlord. It was never made clear why he would make such a gift.
Campbell’s former agent Carole White, who had also been present, told the court that Taylor and Naomi were flirting during the dinner and that her client excitedly leaned back in her chair and confided to her: ‘He’s going to give me some diamonds.’
Taylor was jailed for 50 years for war crimes.
Flavio Briatore. Fugitive from justice
Flavio Briatore, once described as Naomi’s ‘mentor’, is an Italian businessman who spent three years engaged to the supermodel before they went their separate ways. Said to have started out as an insurance salesman, Briatore founded a string of successful Benetton fashion franchises before taking control of the Benetton F1 motor racing team.
But, like a number of Campbell’s friends, the 69-year-old has a chequered past.
In the early days of his involvement in the fashion empire, he became a fugitive from Italian justice. Briatore had been convicted and twice sentenced to prison terms for several counts of fraud and one of taking part in an elaborate gambling sting operation in the 1980s. But the businessman fled the country before serving his sentence, which was finally quashed in 2010, when he was granted an amnesty.
The Italian was banned from Formula 1 after being accused of race fixing at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, although the ban was later overturned on appeal.
Her three-year fiance Flavio Briatore has been convicted of fraud several times and twice sentence to prison for them. Campbell and Briatore pictured at the Porchester Hall in 2001
Mike Tyson. Boxing thug jailed for rape
Campbell has always denied having a relationship with ‘Iron Mike’ Tyson, claiming the two were just friends. They were quite a match. Campbell once wore a T-shirt with ‘Naomi hit me – and I loved it’ blazoned on it, a joke about her propensity for violence, while the former world champion had a reputation for quite astonishing savagery in and out of the ring.
In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping beauty queen Desiree Washington and sentenced to six years in prison for the attack.
His return to the ring was controversial, too. The once undisputed world heavyweight champion bit rival Evander Holyfield on both ears in an infamous 1997 bout and was duly disqualified. Not that Campbell is a pussycat; according to Tyson, ‘nothing scares her’.
Despite earning several fortunes, Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and four years later pleaded guilty to drugs possession and driving under the influence of drugs.
Campbell has also been pictured with Mike Tyson, who was jailed for six years after being convicted of raping beauty queen Desireee Washington in 1992. (Tyson and Campbell pictured together in Paris in 1994)
Harvey Weinstein. Accused mogul nearly died at Naomi’s birthday party
Shamed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose career collapsed amid multiple allegations of sexual assault, has often been pictured with the model, and he was a guest at Campbell’s 40th birthday party Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc .
It almost proved fatal. Weinstein’s former chauffeur told a British newspaper that the movie tycoon nearly died at the event when his gastric band was dislodged and a surgeon had to be called.
Weinstein is currently preparing for his trial on charges of rape and sexual assault. It is scheduled for next month in New York.
Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was a guest at her 40th birthday party in Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc. He almost died at the event after his gastric band slipped. They are pictured here together at Campbell and Giuseppe Cipriani’s holiday party in New York in 2005
Lalit Modi. Trustee accused of threats and kickbacks
On the face of it, millionaire cricket tycoon Lalit Modi was well suited to be a trustee on the board of Campbell’s most prominent charity, Fashion for Relief, which has donated millions to sub-Saharan Africa.
Modi had set up and run the hugely successful Indian Premier League that has transformed the world of professional cricket. But like a number of Campbell’s friends, he also has a taste for controversy.
Indeed Modi, had been on the run from the Indian police since 2010, when he fled to London after being accused of an eye-opening catalogue of corruption including taking millions of rupees in kickbacks, bid rigging and selling franchises to associates, threatening the owners of a franchise to give up their business and failing to disclose interests.
Campbell with millionaire cricket tycoon Lalit Modi in Havana, who is wanted in India for corruption. He reportedly took millions of rupees in kickbacks
They are charges he denies and he claims he was forced out of India by threats from criminals.
There is no suspicion of any wrongdoing in connection with Fashion For Relief, but the then UK Chancellor George Osborne and Theresa May, when she became Prime Minister, were lobbied by the Indian government to clear the way to extraditing Modi back to Delhi to stand trial.
Modi has failed to explain why he suddenly quit as a trustee of Campbell’s charity in April last year.
Last night he failed to respond to requests for comment.
Kevin Spacey. Disgraced superstar
Campbell has often been seen partying late into the night arm in arm with Kevin Spacey, the American actor and theatre director. Spacey’s career was left in tatters in 2017 when it was revealed that he’d been accused of inappropriate sexual advances towards a number of men, allegations he has strenuously denied.
Spacey, 60, was famously erased from Ridley Scott’s film about the John Paul Getty III’s kidnap, All The Money In The World, and dropped from the hit series House Of Cards after the allegations emerged. But he has not been convicted of any crimes.
Disgraced superstar Kevin Spacey with Naomi Campbell at the Versace fashion show in Paris, 2001. He has been accused of making inappropriate advances towards men