Naomi Campbell: catwalk queen with a temper

3rd August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Naomi Campbell is one of the world's most successful models but she is as famous for her fiery temper as for her looks.

Her well-documented outbursts have earned her the nickname "black panther" and, having been sued on more than one occasion for her violent rages, the 40-year-old is no stranger to the courtroom.

But her next court appearance is expected be unlike any other.

The model has been invited to appear before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague on Thursday to give testimony about a so-called "blood diamond" she allegedly received from Liberia's Charles Taylor after a celebrity dinner hosted by then South African president Nelson Mandela in 1997.

The supermodel, who counts Mandela and Madonna among her friends and has a been a muse to legendary designers like Yves Saint-Laurent and Vivienne Westwood, has earned an estimated 30 million dollars (19 million pounds, 14.5 million euros) in her career, making her one of the highest-earning black models in the world.

Born in Streatham, south London, on May 22, 1970, Campbell owes her exotic looks to her parents of Jamaican and Chinese heritage.

When she was just seven years old, she got her first taste of the limelight among children in a music video for the Bob Marley song "Is This Love?"

At the age of 15, an agent spotted the tall and slender teenager walking down a London street and she soon signed with the prestigious Elite model agency.

Within months, Campbell was on the cover of Elle magazine.

She made history in 1988 when she became the first black woman to grace the cover of the French edition of Vogue magazine -- thanks in no small part to her mentor, the late French fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent, who threatened to break all ties with the magazine if they did not put Campbell on the cover.

Cementing her reputation as one of the most famous names in fashion, Campbell became part of the "Big Six" group of supermodels in the nineties, alongside Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Kate Moss.

In 1991, People magazine listed her as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world.

In the years that followed, Campbell worked with high-profile photographers such as Richard Avedon, Patrick Demarchelier and Helmut Newton and she strutted down the runway for top designers like Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Gianni Versace.

She made several more appearances in music videos, most notably starring in Michael Jackson's "In The Closet" and in George Michael's "Freedom 90".

Trying her hand at acting, Campbell played herself in an episode of the British comedy series "Absolutely Fabulous" and appeared in films by directors Michelangelo Antonioni and Spike Lee.

Her near-perfect body -- she is 5 foot 9 (1.76 metres) tall and her measurements are 34-24-34 (86-61-87) -- was rumoured to have been the inspiration behind Disney's Pocahontas cartoon character.

In 1995, Campbell tried to break into the music business with her debut album "Baby Woman", which was badly received in Britain but sold more than one million copies worldwide, mostly in Japan.

And in 1999, she posed nude for Playboy magazine.

But the years that followed were less glamorous for the supermodel.

Living up to her "black panther" nickname, Campbell proved prone to diva-like behaviour and her angry outbursts were often directed at hotel employees, airport staff and assistants.

A court in New York sentenced her to five days of community service in January 2007 for hitting her housekeeper with a mobile phone.

She was again sentenced to community service in April 2008 for assaulting two police officers at London's Heathrow airport in a row over lost luggage.

But Campbell won a privacy case against a British tabloid that had printed pictures of the model leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in London in 2001 when she was receiving treatment for her drug addiction.

Speaking to US talkshow host Oprah Winfrey earlier this year, Campbell blamed her notorious tantrums on abandonment issues she suffered as a child.

© 2010 AFP

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