Naomi Campbell is defending herself against accusations that she associates with criminals and other unsavory types while passing herself off as a humanitarian.
The supermodel spoke out Tuesday in response to a Daily Mail story questioning why she is being honored by the British Fashion Council for her philanthropic work when she has had ties to Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and disgraced former Liberian president Charles Taylor, among others. The take-down piece showed photos of her rubbing elbows with the “hair-raising cast of characters” who have “dubious and in some cases bloodthirsty reputations.”
In a video shared on her social media platforms, Campbell called the story “unfair,” a “distorted piece of journalism” and a “direct character assassination.” She said, “I’ve always said I’m not a saint. I’m a work in progress. But I will not be held hostage by my past.”
The supermodel went on to list the work she’s done through her charity Fashion for Relief, which she founded in 2005, and said, “I’m not going to stop — and I won’t be undermined or have my team be undermined for all the wonderful and great work” they’ve done.
During the interview by an unidentified person off-camera, some of Campbell’s various associations were brought up, including the one to Epstein.
“Yes, I knew him,” she said of the convicted pedophile who recently died by suicide in jail. “I was introduced to him on my 31st birthday by my ex-boyfriend Flavio [Briatore]. He was always front and center at Victoria’s Secret fashion shows.”
Did she suspect he was having sex with underage girls? “No,” Campbell answered, “and what he’s done is indefensible. When I heard what he had done it sickened me to my stomach just like everybody else.” She went on to add that it especially bothered her, “Because I’ve had my fair share of sexual predators and thank God I had good people around who protected me from this.”
She added, “I stand with the victims. They’re scarred for life.”
Campbell didn’t list every person from the article — Weinstein, Spacey — but said she also found it “unfair” to be tied to former President of Liberia Charles Taylor, who’s serving a 50-year prison sentence for some of the worst war crimes in history. While she testified at Taylor’s trial about their interaction and whether he gave her blood diamonds, she said she was merely a witness along with a group of others.
The tabloid article about Campbell had photos of her schmoozing with most of the people named — and she made the point that she’s “rubbed shoulders with” countless people during her decades in the limelight.
“I find it extraordinary that of all the hundreds of thousands of people I’ve stood next to take a picture at a public event, they’ve chosen these few,” she said.
And going forward, Campbell said “it will be very difficult” for her at events because she’ll be worried about everyone she has a photo op with.
“If you do take a picture, it’s going to be taken out of a context and used in a negative way,” she said. “So it’s going to be sad for everybody.”
Campbell — who has been a target of many negative headlines through the years, even poking fun of her own reputation wearing a “Naomi hit me shirt” amid physical spats — ended by saying she categorizes the story as “a character assassination” and that “we can all read behind the lines and know why they keep coming at me,” presumably alluding to racial discrimination. “But I will not lay back and let that happen.”
A second video added the following statement:
“The frightening conclusion here is that if the negative action of your neighbor, colleague or even an associate can somehow make you guilty too, simply by association, then we indeed live in very worrying in times. This affects us all, It’s wrong. It’s unfair and it must be stopped.”
Her following has been showing a lot of support. Most of the comments applauded her for speaking out, slammed the Daily Mail and suggested that racism was a motivation for the story. A sample:
Iconic Naomi Campbell
Iconic Naomi Campbell
We are at a CFDA Awards and we thought it would be fun to do "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." – in photo: Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell & Christy Turlington
This idea came from ID's fashion director Edward Enninful, the hat was by Philip Treacy.
This was a shoot for Louis Vuitton, shot by John Paul Goude. Marc Jacobs is on the other side. You can see his hand holding my knee up.
Peter had come up with the whole story line. My character was named “Leroy.” This shot was taken under the Brooklyn Bridge.
This shoot was taken in Kenya. I am wearing an archived dress by Assedine Alaia. This was the first ever “bandage dress.”
This is at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. I put this event together to help raise money for the victims of the tsunami in Japan. I was very proud to be a part of such an important event.
This picture was from the finale of the Fashion for Relief event. Jane Fonda, Novak Djokovic and all the models helped us raise money for the victims. It was amazing!
I call him my “papa.” We met in 1986 and I adore him.
This was at the rehearsals for the 2012 Zac Posen fashion week show. I am wearing my own clothes.
This was shot by Thomas Whiteside in London and styled by Christopher Niquet (Zac Posen’s boyfriend). This was the fastest shoot I have ever done.
A poster for my show ‘The Face.”
In 2008, Italian Vogue did a “Black Issue” and had four different women on the cover. I felt so honored to be chosen as one of them. I have always been vocal about black models not being used as often and this issue was groundbreaking. Steven Meisel photographed me for the cover.
It was always a dream of mine to be on the cover of American ‘Interview’ magazine. This shoot started at 10pm and ended at 6am.
I did this shoot with Kate Moss. It was a great day and we had lots of fun together.
I was beyond honored to be a part of the London 2012 Olympics and to my country. I think I made my family really proud.
Before I walked out on stage I couldn’t see anything and was hidden behind the curtains. The dress had a long train and it got caught on the stairwell right before I walked out. It was nerve-racking.
This is the shot of when I entered the stage, the train was finally unhinged from the stairwell and I was able to walk the runway.
I loved doing this photo shoot; we had such a great time. It was such a privilege to be on their 38th anniversary issue.
Steven first shot me when I was 16-years-old. He is not just a great friend, but he is a brilliant photographer. The story line for this shoot was an actress coming in for her lighting tests. I was on crutches at the time, recovering from surgery, so it was great to be propped up.
Italian Vogue - February 2013
I had a contract with Yves Saint Laurent when I was very young and it was so wonderful to be asked back. We shot over three days and the clothes were incredible.
This shoot was fun because they wanted us to make faces and be silly. Normally, we’re asked to be serious.
Even though I look like I am on a beach somewhere, this picture was shot in a studio in London.
We shot it in the middle of the desert in Dubai between the sand storms. It was an incredible experience.
Andre Leon Talley asked me to do Numero’s first cover and I was happy to. I love Russia.
Steve Klein and I had a great time with this cover. There is also a video that goes along with it. I wrote in my diary when I was doing community service.
Mario Testino shot this, and Puff was so excited to do the cover. He is such a great producer and entrepreneur. It’s amazing how he mixes music and fashion.
This is my first British Vogue cover. I can’t even begin to explain what this cover meant to me. It showed my family that being a model was a good choice. It made my family proud. THANK YOU BRITISH VOGUE!!!
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: Naomi Campbell walks the runway during Naomi Campbell's Fashion For Relief 2015 fall fashion show at The Theater at Lincoln Center on February 14, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: Naomi Campbell arrives at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 24: Model Naomi Campbell lights the Empire State Building on May 24, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 08: Honoree Donatella Versace and Naomi Campbell attend the 19th Annual amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on February 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20: Naomi Campbell wearing Burberry attends the Burberry February 2017 Show during London Fashion Week February 2017 at Makers House on February 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Burberry)
BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - APRIL 16: Supermodel Naomi Campbell on the grid before the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 16, 2017 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Model Naomi Campbell, hair detail, attends The Sean Penn & Friends Haiti Takes Root Benefit Dinner & Auction Supporting J/P Haitian Relief Organization at Sotheby's on May 5, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/WireImage)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 20: Naomi Campbell attends the Fashion for Relief photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Five Seas Hotel on May 20, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Supermodel Naomi Campbell attends the 2017 NBA Awards live on TNT on June 26, 2017 in New York, New York. 27111_003 (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for TNT)