Naomi On The Face And Being ‘Disappointed’ By Lack Of Runway Diversity

Even over the phone, Naomi Campbell is quite the imposing presence. So we discovered earlier this week when the supermodel hosted a conference call to promote her new reality television show, The Face, which premieres next Tuesday on Oxygen. We hopped on the line with Campbell, a handful of other rapt journalists, and executive producer Eden Gaha to learn about Naomi’s small screen debut, her relationship with fellow model coaches Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha, her advice for aspiring models, and what she thinks about diversity on the runway today.

As we’ve all also heard on Jimmy Fallon and behind-the-scenes videos this week, Campbell has the kind of voice that could turn a discussion about filing a tax return into the most glamorous sounding thing in the world, but, luckily for us, she had some slightly juicier (and more relevant) tidbits to share about her small screen debut. Read on for some serious supermodel wisdom.

On how she will differentiate herself from Tyra Banks and America’s Next Top Model:

“Well, first of all I am different. I’m before Tyra and I have a lot of respect for Tyra and what she’s done with America’s Next Top Model and taking it all over the world and what she’s done for young women out there who want to be in the fashion industry. I don’t like to compare anything that I do. This show is a completely different type of format. I’ve not really watched it so I think I have to pass that on to Eden about the difference of the shows.”

On competitiveness between the coaches:

“Yeah. I mean, it’s a competition and I want my team to win obviously. I think I have the best girls. And, for me, it’s a competition even between the coaches. And our mentoring styles. And we each are very different and in different places in our careers. Even though I’ve been doing it longer than both Karolina and Coco together, you know, we all have our different approaches. So you’ll see that we mentor our girls in a very different way. But I did, I get along with both the girls. But at the end of the day this is a competition and I do realize that we do have someone’s career in our hands. That is going to win this competition. Who is looking at us and hoping that they can, you know, get into the world of modeling in the right way. And get the right exposure, be the face of Ulta Beauty.”

On her coaching style on The Face:

“My style of coaching is very honest…I want to make as much with the time that we have with my girls as possible. And maybe in the beginning I may seem – I don’t know if you show it on the air – but I do say to my girls, ‘Forget who I am as a person and just take what I’ve got to give.’ Because we don’t have so much time and I want you to get as much out of me as possible. And so it’s, you know, it’s very straight forward. It’s very elegant. It’s very poised, driven, passionate, hungry, and focused.”

On tapping Patrick Demarchelier as a guest judge:

“It was important for me to ask Patrick too because he’s someone that we’ve all worked with when we started out, you know? And so he knows, very much, who has what, what he’s looking for. He knows how to get the girls to give him what he wants”.

On the advice she would give to aspiring models:

“I think, for me, you have to be very driven. You cannot take – it’s very hard to learn how to take rejection. And it’s something that we’re not taught. I can go back to myself, I was able to understand enough to know how to deal with it to a point of because I had been working since I was a child. But it’s, you know, for me it was always very – I almost want to say to the girls is, ‘Don’t take it. Trust me, it’s not that they don’t like you. You were just not right for what they were looking for. And it’s a business.’…I do believe that a great career is built in stepping stones and you don’t want everything to come to you overnight. I do believe you should always build to what you want, and you grow, and you learn.”

On being “disappointed” by the lack of racial diversity on the runway:

“I like to always stay optimistic and hope. And, you know, I pray each fashion week that I do see loads of young models of color out there. And when they do come and say to me, they didn’t want me because of this, it just hurts. Because you feel — I feel that I worked so long in this business. And I hoped that it would make it easier, so I get very disappointed when I hear someone saying, ‘Oh they really don’t want me because, you know.’ It’s just we’re in 2013, it shouldn’t be happening. We have President Obama and Michelle Obama as the first lady, you know, this just shouldn’t be.”

The Face premiers on Tuesday, February 12 on Oxygen at 9/8c.

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