The Model, the Murderer, and Blood Diamonds

British-born model and courtroom regular Naomi Campbell has again managed to piss off a bench full of judges and prosecutors.

Campbell was recently ordered to give evidence at the war crimes trial of Liberia’s ex-president, Charles Taylor. The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in The Hague, issued a subpoena forcing Campbell to appear after allegations surfaced that she was given a so-called “blood diamond” by Taylor at a dinner party held by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1997.

The former dictator Taylor is accused of selling diamonds to fund a war that cost thousands of lives, and it was one of these uncut diamonds that he is alleged to have given Campbell. Actress Mia Farrow, who was a guest at the same dinner party, has claimed that Campbell told her she was interrupted in the middle of the night by men saying they were representatives of Taylor before handing over a “huge diamond.”

Prosecutors say Campbell’s testimony would provide “direct evidence of the accused’s possession of rough diamonds from a witness unrelated to the Liberian or Sierra Leone conflicts”. Taylor, once one of West Africa’s most powerful men, is charged with 11 counts of murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers and terrorism in his role backing rebels in Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.

Campbell initially refused to give evidence despite the fact that she appears to have accepted the tainted gift. Carole White, Campbell’s agent at the time, says that she witnessed the event. “I was there,” she says, speaking from the London headquarters of Premier Model Management, the company she founded and that represented Campbell for 17 years. “He did give it to her. It was a small, uncut diamond. I am totally surprised that Naomi hasn’t admitted it.”

Campbell has consistently refused to volunteer her own testimony to the tribunal, furiously walking out of a recent television interview with ABC News when the reporter had the nerve to ask about the allegations, even punching the camera in the producer’s hands.

In Campbell’s world physical attributes count more than intelligence and she’s not afraid of getting physical; assaulting assistants, cops, housekeepers, limo drivers, and women prettier than she is. Campbell has been charged with assault, assault and battery, assaulting a police officer, reckless assault, second-degree assault, disorderly conduct, using threatening and/or abusive words or behaviour, and verbal abuse. If it weren’t for lawyers with cheque books Campbell would’ve had many opportunities to become a model prisoner.

Carole White states bluntly that working with the Campbell was “a bloody nightmare… She was very hard work, unpredictable and you never quite knew if she was going to turn up. I worked out that you should never get close to her. I watched so many people think they were her best friends. In her case, familiarity did breed contempt.” Fortunately for the violent, self-indulgent model there were always designers and magazine editors willing to overlook her obvious flaws.

The 40-year-old Campbell knows she’s a dinosaur compared to today’s top models and she’s been moving from the catwalk into charity work, and to do so effectively she’s got to clean up her act. Like many celebrity assholes she’s blamed her toxic personality on the typical triumvirate of celeb excuses: drug abuse, alcoholism, and, you guessed it, a bad childhood. In May she told Vogue UK that her battle with addiction left her “struggling to survive.”

“The time between 1998 and 2005 was especially bad,” she admitted. “I drank too much so I joined Alcoholics Anonymous to get and stay sober. I’m done with partying.”

Americans love celebrity confessionals so in May Campbell also spilled her guts to Oprah, telling the talk show host that her years of drug and alcohol abuse fueled her sense of entitlement and anger issues. She claims she got wired in 1997, after Gianni Versace was murdered. “That year, so many other friends passed away in different circumstances,” she recalls. “I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the grief, so I just started replacing it with drugs.” After collapsing during a photo shoot in 1999 she checked herself into rehab and now claims she’s been drug free for six years and sober for a year and a half.

Campbell also tried to explain her violent outbursts as stemming from “an abandonment issue and also from trying to just build up a family around me that’s not my immediate family. If I feel a mistrust, then… all my cards go down.” Her father was unnamed on her birth certificate and walked out when Campbell’s mother, Valerie, was four months pregnant.

“Her lifestyle is quite lonely,” says Carole White. “It’s very privileged in the way that she travels first class or on private jets or hangs out with princes and presidents, but that cuts you off from normal life. I think she finds it difficult to behave in a normal way.”

I’m not buying what Campbell is selling. She’s lived a privileged life for the past twenty years and has had every means at her disposal to help her get over her problems, yet she still behaves like a diva or a hooligan. Most people live lives of quiet dignity while Campbell habitually commits crimes that would land lesser mortals in jail. There’s no excuse for leniency.

She’s not pretty or talented and although she’s held up as a groundbreaking black model she hasn’t really opened many doors for other women of colour and black models still only trickle into the biz. Campbell should’ve been hung out to dry long ago, “a million girls would kill for her job,” but the fashion industry is conservative to its core and employers hire the devils they know.

Mia Farrow and Carole White have agreed to testify at the trial. Someone must’ve clued Campbell into the fact that the Special Court judges won’t give a shit about her celebrity status and might toss her in jail for refusing to appear, because by 10th July she reversed her position and she’s now scheduled to testify on the 29th.

Naomi Campbell has spent years showing us that she has little regard for laws or courts, and I doubt she has changed over the last couple of weeks. I expect when she takes the stand at the end of the month her lies will fly as fast as her fists. I just hope more people than the staff at AHM will be paying attention.


Research: Angelina Pieros

Sources (including photos): Associated Press, the CBC, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, Reuters, the Observer, Us Weekly, Vogue UK

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