For 25 years, supermodel Naomi Campbell has ruled the runway with her signature swagger.
After being discovered on the streets of London when she was 14 years old, this aspiring ballerina took the fashion world by storm. Naomi was the first black model to grace the covers of French Vogue and Time Magazine, and she quickly became a runway "it" girl for top designers like Yves St. Laurent and Dolce & Gabanna.
Naomi's striking features and flawless figure also caught the attention of people outside the fashion industry. Music icons Michael Jackson and George Michael cast her in their music videos, and other famous men took notice. Over the years, Naomi has had relationships with celebrities like Robert De Niro, Mike Tyson and Usher.
Off the runway, this captivating cover girl lived a glitzy, glamorous existence, but eventually the fast life took its toll. For years, Naomi says, she secretly battled a cocaine addiction.
Then, her infamous bad behavior began to make headlines. Naomi's reputation took a hit when reports of phone-throwing, temper tantrums and violent assaults surfaced.
Today, Naomi says she's a work in progress, and she's ready to reveal what's really behind all the anger.
For the past 10 years, Naomi's highly publicized temper tantrums have caused her a lot of serious problems. In 2000, Naomi pled guilty to attacking her former assistant after allegedly hitting her on the head with a cell phone and threatening to throw her out of a moving car.
Six years later, Naomi erupted again. As an Oprah Show camera crew waited downstairs to film her for a 2006 episode, Naomi reportedly threw her BlackBerry at her housekeeper in anger. Naomi pled guilty to this assault. She was ordered to attend anger management classes and perform community service.
Then, in 2007, Naomi admitted to swearing, kicking and spitting at police officers aboard a British Airways flight. She was sentenced to 200 more hours of community service.
In March 2010, Naomi was accused of assaulting a chauffeur in New York City, but two days later, he retracted the allegations. Less than two months after that incident, Naomi's temper resurfaced during an ABC News interview. When questioned about a blood diamond reportedly given to her by former Liberian President Charles Taylor, Naomi walked out and allegedly punched the camera.
Naomi doesn't deny her past mistakes, but she says recent events have been exaggerated or fabricated.
When Naomi walked out of an ABC News interview in April 2010, she says she never punched the camera. "There definitely is sound effect [added]," she says. "There were three cameras, and I went to walk out the door, and the other one came in the way. So I moved the first one out to get to the door, and there were two more."
Naomi says she left because the interviewer began asking questions about her interactions with former Liberian President Charles Taylor, a man who is facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
While staying at Nelson Mandela's home in South Africa, Naomi says she met Taylor briefly. "[Taylor] wasn't invited, and none of us knew who he was. He wasn't part of our group," she says. "But he did show up and we understood who he was after it was explained." Naomi says she didn't want to answer questions about Taylor because she doesn't want to be involved in his case.
Naomi also says she did not assault a New York City chauffeur in March 2010...and she did not offer him money to drop the charges.
"I wouldn't have given the statement if I had done something wrong," she says. "[The statement] said, 'I wouldn't be held hostage to my past.'... Because of my behavior in my past, I will be sometimes pointed at and said, 'She hit me.' And I've got no proof of saying any different."
Naomi doesn't deny other violent outbursts. She's pled guilty to assaulting an assistant and a housekeeper.
When the housekeeper couldn't find something Naomi was looking for in her New York apartment, Naomi says she saw red. "I don't remember what it was she said to me, and I just threw the phone," she says. "I am ashamed of everything I've ever done. I take responsibility for the things that I have done, and I do feel a great sense of shame."
Oprah: Whether it's a cab driver or somebody on a plane or your own housekeeper and you don't get immediately what you want, you said you see red.
Oprah: And then what?
Naomi: Then I don't see.
Oprah: You just act.
Naomi: I act out.
After having an outburst, Naomi says she immediately regrets her actions. "I feel remorseful. I feel ashamed. I feel for them," she says. "[I think,] 'What have I done to them?' If I've hurt them."
Naomi says her issues go beyond anger management, and she's not some petulant diva. "I think it comes from a deeper place than that with me. It comes from another type of emotional disorder, because it's not just, 'I don't get what I want. I throw,'" she says. "It comes from, I think, an abandonment issue, and it comes from also just trying to build up a family around me that's not my immediate family. And if I feel a mistrust, then I really just...all my cards go down."
Naomi's abandonment issue stems from her childhood. Her mother, Valeria Morris, was a 19-year-old single mother when she had Naomi. In an attempt to give her a better life, Valerie says she left Naomi in someone else's care while she traveled the world and pursed her dream of being a ballerina.
"I do feel that I abandoned her," Valerie says. "Looking back on that, you know, you sort of realize that material possessions are not the only thing that a child needs. But, sometimes, that child needs its biological mother."
Valerie's words bring her daughter to tears. "What are the tears for?" Oprah asks.
"I don't know. Just my mom being here and her speaking about, you know, of course I understand the sacrifice she had to make," she says. "So for me, I guess, I want to do better. I want to be a better person. I'm not proud of the things I've done in my life, and I'm striving to be a better person and to find peace."
Naomi says she's trying to learn to surrender. "You have to trust. I like to control everything, and you cannot control everything. You have to at some point say, "I let go and I'm going to let the cards fall where they fall. ... For a control freak, it's hard."
Anger management, arrests and abandonment aren't the only issues Naomi has faced. When she was 24 years old, Naomi says she began using cocaine.
"I'd always been against it, and I found myself doing three jobs a day. I never, ever had to have a dealer, as you call them. It was always very easy to get, handed to you whenever you wanted it," she says. "It made you feel like insatiable, but at the end, it was a destroyer. It's really a devil's drug."
Naomi's recreational drug habit soon turned into a dangerous addiction. After her friend Gianni Versace was murdered in 1997, Naomi says she realized she had a problem. "That year, so many other friends passed away in different circumstances," she says. "I felt like I couldn't keep up with the grief, so I just started replacing it with drugs."
After collapsing at a photo shoot in 1999, Naomi checked into rehab. For two years, she quietly lived as a recovering addict, but then her secret was exposed. A tabloid printed a photo of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Naomi sued the tabloid for invasion of privacy and won.
Today, Naomi says she's been sober from drugs for six years and sober from alcohol a year and a half.
In addition to sobriety, Naomi has something else to celebrate—she's in love! At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, she met Russian real estate mogul Vladislav "Vlad" Doronin. Now they live together in Moscow.
"I traveled around many cities in the world, but this is one of my favorite cities and has now become my home," she says. "I am very happy to be here."
Vlad is still legally married, but he says he and his wife have been separated for more than 10 years. "We don't live together," he says.
Naomi says she gets along very well with Vlad's ex and their teenage daughter.
Since meeting Vlad, Naomi says she's found the strength to face a few fears. She learned to ski and to swim. "It's great," she says. "It's really peaceful to go snorkeling. I love it now."
Naomi may be in a committed relationship, but that doesn't stop men from admiring her beauty. Oprah says Bono, the lead singer of U2 and Naomi's friend, once said Naomi has the body that men crave. "[He said] it's the perfectly proportioned body, and that there's something about you that makes men feel like they can protect you," Oprah says.
What does this supermodel look for in a man? Naomi says she needs a strong man. "I like the men to wear the pants. I don't want to wear the pants," she says. "I like men who know what they want, know what they're doing, make their own decisions. ... As much as I like to be the controller, it's not in my best interest."
To this day, Naomi says she's on good terms with all the men she's dated...even the famous ones. "I can walk into a restaurant and see an ex-boyfriend and be able to say, 'Hello, how are you doing? And you're well?'" she says. "I don't have an issue of bumping into an ex-boyfriend."
To keep her perfectly proportioned body in shape, Naomi says she works out and eats well. Currently, she's following a diet designed for her blood type, O positive.
"I'm eating no gluten," she says. "I stopped eating meat a year and a half ago."
At the gym, Naomi says she does gyrotonics, which helps tone the body and lengthen the muscles. "I don't like workouts that make you bulky. This really stretches you," she says. "What I like about gyrotonics is you feel like you really elongated yourself for the day. ... As we all get older, everything changes and moves, and there's natural ways to exercise. I think it's important, and I think it's something that can help keep things in place."
What's the secret to supermodel skin? Naomi says she jumps rope to keep her face firm, but good genetics are to thank for her wrinkle-free forehead.
Since she moved to America in 1986, Naomi has defined what a supermodel is alongside fashionistas like Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Stephanie Seymour and Tatiana Patitz.
Now, after 25 years in the business and days before her 40th birthday, Naomi says she still doesn't recognize how beautiful she is.
"The aging process to me, I don't care about the skin, what it looks like. For me, now, what's important is the inside," she says. "And to come to that peace where it's okay, I may look good. But I need to look the same way on the inside. That's what I'm trying to achieve."
Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, December 6, 2013