International

'The Face' Host Naomi Campbell Talks Mentoring and the Reality of the Modern Modeling Business

"It's an extension of my sharing, basically," she tells THR about her work with "The Face" contestants.
A scene from the U.S. version of "The Face"
Walter Sassard/Oxygen

CANNES -- Naomi Campbell is not a supermodel, she says.

"Supermodel is absolutely overused. Everyone now is called a supermodel. If they're supermodels, then what am I? I'm a working model," she tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I don't call myself a supermodel. I've never believed the hype."

One of the original models who ruled the '80s runways of Gianni Versace, Azzedine Alaia and Karl Lagerfeld, Campbell is now the executive producer and host of reality TV show The Face. The show broadcasts in the U.S. and the U.K., with ambitions to extend the format globally.

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The modeling program in which contestants are broken into teams and mentored a la The Voice airs on Oxygen in the U.S and will appear in Australia on Fox8 next year. The U.K. edition premiered Sept. 30 to weaker-than-expected ratings on Sky Living. Still, Campbell, who hosts the three existing versions, made a very glamorous appearance at MIPCOM -- the day after wrapping the second U.S. season with hopes to sell the concept to additional territories -- featuring a poolside photo shoot and a splashy evening soiree for the international executive crowd.

"I hope that more countries buy the show. I think it's great for their local designers, photographers, aspiring models as well as they can bring in international brands. And it's a great platform to be seen," she says of the appeal of the show, which has relied heavily on her personal relationships thus far. "I have a daily involvement where I'm calling to get photographers, products, brands, designers, people I've met over my 27 years, because I want this show to stay at a level, a very high level. So I am calling the people I know, and they have been very supportive. And I've been very happy for that. I couldn't do it without them."

Campbell will still executive produce but only make guest appearances on additional international versions -- ones for France and Canada are already in the works. "I'll be choosing who will play me because I want this show to be authentic," she says. "I want it to be someone who has -- maybe not my 27 years of experience -- but is honest."

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Campbell, who has had an infamous reputation and legal troubles in the past, stemming from her temper, deflects any questions that taking on this role would help her standing in the eyes of the public. "I didn't take this on thinking about what the public are going to think about me or what it can do for my career or perception. I have 27 years that can never be taken away from me being in the fashion industry," she insisted.

She explains that the mentoring aspect was the strongest draw. "I don't want to judge. I don't want to be the someone sitting there saying, 'You can't do this.' I've been asked many times over the years to help young girls: 'We've just signed so-and-so; can you teach her how to walk?' and I've been very happy to do it. This is kind of an extension of that for me."

"Kate Moss always says to me, 'I was your first pupil,' so I've always shared. It's an extension of my sharing, basically."

The fashion world has changed greatly since her start, and she tries to be as honest as possible with the contestants, who are competing for an ad campaign spot for hair care brand Frederic Fekkai in the U.S. and international brand Max Factor abroad.

"When you go for a casting now, it's how many hundreds of girls? When I used to go for a casting, it used to be about 50 in 1986, you know. Now it's hundreds," she explains, pointing out the increased competition in the modeling business as well as a fashion industry that now has to produce several collections a year.

"Sunglasses now is a collection, handbags is a collection. The turnaround is fast and therefore much more competitive, and it's the same for the models. I tell my girls, 'You have to have something very special. You have to catch the eye,' otherwise it's 'next.' "