Backstory: The daughter of a single mom of Jamaican descent who has never revealed the identity of Naomi's father, Campbell was strolling through London's Covent Garden when she was discovered by a modeling agent. The 15-year-old landed on the cover of Elle within the year and moved to New York in the late 1980s, quickly becoming part of the holy trinity of celebrity supermodels along with Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista. She quickly set new standards for diva behavior, too: In 1993, she was fired by Elite for her outrageous conduct; an official statement said that "no money or prestige could further justify the abuse that has been imposed" on its staff, and the agency wouldn't hire her again if she were the "last model on earth." They took her back six months later. But as horrific as her behavior might have been (and still is), Campbell quickly became one of the most famous faces the fashion industry has ever spawned. Although her star power has faded in recent years—she's in her 40s and her efforts to branch out haven't been all that successful—she remains a busy lady. She continues to appear in print campaigns and walk in the occasional show. When she's not embedding her Blackberry in somebody's forehead, that is.
Of note: Bad behavior aside, Campbell's influence on the fashion biz is impossible to deny. Although she didn't break the color boundary (Beverly Johnson was the first African-American to appear on the cover of Vogue in 1974; Iman's Vogue cover came in 1982), Campbell was the first black woman to become a true supermodel. And her long legs and high-fashion looks have long endeared her to the biggest names in fashion, earning her coveted contracts with Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Guess, and Prada. Her efforts in more recent years to expand beyond fashion haven't been very successful. There was her strange attempt to become a pop star in the 1990s, and she started a fragrance line several years ago. More recently, she's tried to turn herself into an actress, while also lending her name to the occasional real estate project in the U.S. (with Giuseppe Cipriani) and Africa (with former flame Flavio Briatore). Campbell also says she's planning to launch a modeling agency for black women.
Drama: Campbell's been a royal terror since she stepped foot in the U.S. Early on, her diva-like behavior provided amusing if still pretty innocuous tabloid fodder, such as the time she threw a fit at a fancy French restaurant because the crust on a sandwich was "scratching her gums." Nowadays, though, her antics leave people injured. She's been accused of battering four of her assistants and housekeepers and has pleaded guilty to assault twice; in a 2007 fit of maid-abuse, Campbell hurled her Blackberry at her Romanian-born housekeeper's head. As punishment, the model was sentenced to a week of community service and ordered to mop floors and clean toilets as a sanitation worker. Campbell did it they way she does everything, decked to the nines in a range of fabulous designer ensembles. (Excerpts from her community service diaries-"I recognize one of the other sanitation officers because he does security at night at Nobu. It's really nice to see a familiar face"—were published in the May 2007 issue of W.)
But it appears that scrubbing johns wasn't sufficiently traumatizing to convince her to curb her rage. In April 2008, she was arrested at Heathrow for spitting at and assaulting a cop after she learned that her bag hadn't been loaded onto her plane. (British Airways subsequently banned her from ever flying with the airline again and a London judge sentenced her to 200 hours of community service.) And she was back at it again in March 2010 when a New York chauffeur accused her of beating him, although he quickly dropped the charges amid rumors of a financial settlement.
Most recently, she was caught on tape taking a swipe at an ABC News cameraman after her interviewer asked about the claim that Liberian warlord Charles Taylor had given her a blood diamond as a gift in the late '90s.
Vice: Drugs and Campbell have been close associates. From an overdose of barbiturates in 1997, to her stay in rehab in 1999, to her reputed treatment for cocaine addiction in 2002, she's had a long, hard road staying sober. (She's since said that her struggle with abuse was connected to the murder of pal Gianni Versace in 1997.) When London's Daily Mirror released pictures of Campbell leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in 2002, she went after the paper for invasion of privacy, and the courts ruled in her favor.
Personal: Campbell has a long list of exes including Robert De Niro (whom she's called the love of her life), U2's Adam Clayton, Italian magnate Flavio Briatore, hotelier Eric Goode, Mike Tyson, Usher and Tommy Lee. A few years ago she was in a relationship with Badr Jafar, a Dubai oil heir, but things reportedly went downhill when she caused $60K of damage to his yacht during a temper tantrum (allegedly triggered by the chef's having served her an appetizer of dried ham, tomato and mozzarella accompanied by white wine). For the past year or two, she's dating a Russian real estate entrepreneur named Vladislav "Vlad" Doronin.
Habitat: Campbell recently sold her 3,100-square-foot Park Avenue condo for $4.95 million. She divides her time between London, New York and Moscow these days.
Full Name: Naomi Campbell
Date of Birth: 05/22/1970
Place of Birth: London, England
Residences: New York; Moscow
Filed Under: Celebrity, Fashion
[Photos via Getty Images]