Her reputation precedes her, in the way that a black funnel on the horizon signals that a colossal storm is imminent. It’s part her sense of entitlement, part pout, part hurt and angry Black girl. Then there are the assault charges following the infamous cell-phone temper tantrum. The tempestuous love affairs. The still-pending lawsuit with the British rag that ran a picture of her coming out of a 12-step meeting. Scandal. Trouble. Pain. You think about this as Naomi Campbell keeps you waiting and waiting and waiting some more, until you start to wonder, Why bother? And then you meet her.

Behind the layers of lashes and gloss, the glam do and the dangling cell-phone earpiece, she looks a little nervous. Eager to please. Sweet, even. Her apparent desire to accommodate doesn’t extend to conducting an interview with any semblance of timeliness. There’s a photo shoot to attend to, transcontinental phone calls to make in a smattering of languages, a new marketing and special-events agency, NC.Connect, to run, another plane to catch. And finally she stops long enough to have a conversation.

She’s astonishingly beautiful. Not in the way you might think. Not even in the way that made her famous: hair weave down to there, prowling the catwalk damn-near bare-ass naked, all attitude and sultry gaze. No. It’s that in person she is, quite simply, exquisite. Delicate. You wonder if Campbell sees those characteristics in herself. Living the turbo-charged life of a professional beauty can sometimes blur the vision. Says the British-born 33-year-old: “I’m always trying to do the impossible to please people. It comes from not being secure in myself and not looking at the things within I have to fix. Sometimes you keep going because you don’t want to face the truth.”

Photo Credit: Norman Jean Roy

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