This Old Naomi Campbell Interview Is One of the Best Things On the Internet Right Now
“If I’m gonna be remembered for something, I want to be remembered for being a bitch.”
‘Iconic’ has become, as of late, a description liberally slapped across any old thing that’s vaguely on trend or entertaining. Your new shoes? Iconic! The meme from last week? Iconic! That video of a panda sneezing? The word’s omnipresence is a bit frustrating, given that it lessens the impact when you bestow the honor on someone who truly deserves it. Naomi Campbell is one of those people. This Barbara Walters interview with her from 2000 is a reminder of that.
It’s 12 minutes and five seconds of glory, filmed right as Naomi’s fame reached new heights. Or rather, infamy. The week earlier, her former assistant had gone to the press with accusations of assault—which Naomi denied. Now, usually a television interview for a major American network show so soon after a scandal just reeks of carefully calculated PR gloss. But it’s not just a gritted million-dollar smile rolling off a rehearsed faux-pology while sipping politely on a glass of water. Naomi Campbell isn’t just trying to level about the allegations against her. She’s basically calling bullshit on the tired old stereotypes boxing her up as a one-dimensional angry black woman. Or as Barbara so kindly reminds her precisely 0.1 seconds into their chat, a bitch. "Naomi—I have never, ever started an interview this way,” she says, in one of those blithely ignorant ‘No offense, but…’ oxymorons. Barbara continues, “But you know people call you a bitch. And you don't mind!" False. “No, I do mind,” Naomi retorts. “I think that for me, a woman that's in control of her work, or makes decisions or is very opinionated is called a bitch. And I think that a man, when he's like that, is called nothing, it's fine.”
Barbara’s assumption is just one of many ways the interview ironically attempts to reinforce the tropes that Naomi so fabulously rejects. Nuance isn’t really in headline writers’ lexicons at the best of times, but the title of this segment really hammers it home: Naomi’s Rage. Then you’ve got bloody Barbs out here constantly interjecting with unnecessary one-word prompts to whip her back onto the party line. When asked why the fash pack flock to her, Naomi says, “Being independent, I do what I feel like doing, and how I wanna do [it].” The response: “Untamed?” Come on, Barbara
As the segment points out, this wasn’t the first time she was fronting the tabloids for retaliating in a Big Way. One time she threw a phone at an assistant. No assistant deserves that. But Naomi candidly and eloquently notes that rage is generally symptomatic of something else. “It's a manifestation of a deeper issue, I think, anger. And that for me I think is based on insecurity, self-esteem and loneliness.”
Finally, Naomi makes sure that if you’re going to try pigeonhole her, she’ll have the last laugh. Or rather, the last coy giggle while she reclaims the label that so many have used to try and damn her. “If I'm gonna be remembered for something, I want to be remembered for being a bitch,” she says. “But a hard working bitch. And a loyal bitch.” Get you a woman who can do both.
Anyway, here are the rest of the best bits from the interview, which is basically just the entire interview transcribed because all of it is the best bit. Also we should mention that she looks fucking incredible.
On how being called a bitch has helped her “But being a bitch for me—if that's what people want to think of me as—has protected me in so many ways… I've never had any of that stuff where you hear of young girls and guys come up to them give them drugs. You know, I've never had the sleazy side of what people think there is in modeling. I've never had that because I guess I'd put on a look like, don't come near me.”
On being known as nice “I don't want to be known as the sweet, nice girl. I find sweet and nice a little boring.”
On her childhood “There's a lot of issues that I have from childhood… not knowing your father, not seeing your mother—that manifests a lot of feelings. (Barbara: Anger?) Absolutely, anger, but I think that's a really normal thing, and I've not always displayed my anger in the appropriate times... but it's a manifestation of a deeper issue, I think, anger. And that for me I think is based on insecurity, self-esteem and loneliness and… (Barbara: Being abandoned?) Being abandoned. That's what my core issues are, abandonment and rejection. And that puts me in a real vulnerable space. And everyone thinks, oh Naomi's a really tough girl and really strong. But that's what I want to appear to people to be like. Because I fear that if I don't, they're just going to walk all over me, if they really knew how I was.”
Read the full article on i-D.vice.com