Naomi Campbell is not only one of the world's most omnipresent and enduring supermodels, she's also a marketing maestro. With one sensational product herself.
Born on May 22, 1970, to fashion designer and sometime model Valerie Campbell, Naomi was discovered at the age of 15 by Elite agent Beth Boldt as she strolled near London's Covent Garden. Her rise to supermodel status was rapid she was the first black supermodel to grace the cover of Vogue and she quickly became the darling of top international designers, forging an especially close relationship with Versace, for whom she modelled for 12 years before an acrimonious parting of the ways in 1999.
The following year Naomi launched a fragrance named after herself, of course backed by a worldwide marketing push and promotional tour. She has also dabbled in films, appearing alongside Antonio Banderas in Miami Rhapsody and with Sophia Loren and Kim Basinger in Prêt-à-Porter.
She released an album Babywoman, a single from which was a hit in Japan, and in 1996 ventured into fiction with the novel Swan, which generated the requisite publicity for its "author" despite being famously ghostwritten. But when it comes down to it, whether Naomi penned the words or not is immaterial. She is a commodity, and everyone wants a piece.
That kind of exposure comes at a price, however, and the pressure has taken its toll. In 1999, following several incidents including one in which a former assistant alleged the ubermodel had grabbed her by the throat and hit her on the head with a telephone she booked herself into the Cottonwood anger-management clinic in Arizona.
During an an interview with Barbara Walters in June 2000, Naomi broke down and confessed: "Anger is a manifestation of a deeper issue... and that, for me, is based on insecurity, self-esteem and loneliness," adding, "I was really unhappy. I realised I was going to lose the people who really loved me if I didn't find out what was making me do the things I did."
The London-born model's challenging personality may go some way to explain her chequered and well-publicised romantic life. Past "true loves" as she is apt to describe them very early on include Robert De Niro, former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson and Joaquin Cortes. Her on-again off-again affair with Italian Formula One Benetton team chief and millionaire Flavio Briatore resulted in a tattoo of Flavio's name on her arm, an optimistic gesture perhaps that this time it would have been for keeps. However, the two called it quits for good in the summer of 2001. She has since been linked to Spanish model Enrique Palacio, fashion tycoon Matteo Marzotto and R&B star Usher.
In 2002 Naomi was again making headlines when she lost to a London newspaper in an appeal case fought over her right to privacy. "I do not think it so terrible or extraordinary to want to keep private the fact that you have problems and are seeking treatment," the model stated after the hearing. In 2004, a higher court apparently agreed, overturning the prior verdict and handing Naomi a win.