The Face Q&A: Naomi Campbell Talks Being Competitive, ‘Supermodels’ & Her Love Of Downton Abbey

Naomi Campbell heads to reality TV on Tuesday with the premiere of Oxygen’s “The Face.”

The modeling competition features a dozen models, coached by Naomi (who is also an executive producer on the show), Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha, battling it out for a contract to become the face of Ulta Beauty – the big prize at the end.

But the coaches are competing too. Each of the women have four girls they’re attempting to mentor all the way to the big prize.

As viewers will see in the coming weeks as the show rolls out, Naomi is sweet, mentoring her team like a big, caring sister, but she is very competitive and hates (really hates) to lose.

In an interview with, the British supermodel opened up about what drew her to reality TV, how protective she is of her team, and her love of good television, including PBS’ “Downton Abbey.” How did they get Naomi Campbell on television?

Naomi Campbell: I always said I don’t want to do television because I was afraid of it, to be honest, and what the fear was, [was] that I had tried to live as privately as I [could] so I didn’t feel it would be in my comfort zone to have a camera following me around. But this was a whole different thing. It’s not that way at all. It’s me getting to share 26 years of what I have been blessed to learn and know and find out about and achieve, with girls who want to be in our business and that’s far more fun.

Access: Nigel Barker, the host of ‘The Face,’ told me you’re responsible for some of the A-list names, like Philip Lim and people like that being involved in this show [with the weekly competitions].

Naomi: The first one was Zac [Posen]… During the summer we would speak over the phone with the producers we’d have our conference call – Oxygen, Shine — and [it was] then I thought, we need to reach out to Zac and it’d be great to get the girls to go and see a [fashion] show. Zac’s a great friend. I’ve known Zac for a long, long time and he’s happy to be part of it.

Access: Were there many moments where – you’re a living legend – the models on the show were like, ‘Oh my gosh… you’re Naomi’?

Naomi: Maybe in the beginning, but I can only speak for Team Naomi. What I told Team Naomi once we were together in our group in the room, was, ‘Forget about who I am, forget about staring at me, looking at me, being in awe of me. Drop it now because you’re wasting time. The time you take to do that, we should be learning something. We’ve got a challenge to win.’ And they got it and we did and we move forward. And it was fine.

Access: You have some of the biggest personalities I’ve seen so far, of the girls…

Naomi: Absolutely! Thank you! Yay! Finally!

Access: There’s Zi Ling, who is quiet…

Naomi: Get ready! Zi Ling doesn’t miss a beat. Learns fast.

Access: Sounds so sweet, but…

Naomi: You got it… You got her (laughs). Great girl. I mean, I loved my girls. I spoke to them for New Year’s. I’m in touch with my girls. I told them they can always reach me.

Access: Do you think out of this whole cast of girls there are going to be some supermodels that come out of this bunch?

Naomi: I think there’s gonna be, yeah. I don’t like to use the word ‘supermodel’ because it’s not a word that I would affiliate myself with, but working models, yeah.

Access: How hard do you think it is, and I know you said you don’t like the word ‘supermodel’ – but to be that kind of a model in 2013?

Naomi: That’s the thing, I can’t answer that… Let me put it this way, everyone’s called a ‘supermodel,’ everyone. Every time I read something they’re called a ‘supermodel.’ For me, I’m a working model, still, that I love what I do… I don’t know about today in 2012… The truth is, we were a group of our time, that were friends at work and out of work, went out together… liked each other’s company, cooked dinners for each other, went to theaters, went to concerts, travelled the world together, went on vacation together, so it’s a little different because I don’t know if that happens now with the group of girls that are there today. Do they hang out with each other that way? I have not seen those pictures, but maybe you have because you’re in media, I’m not looking.

Access: What do you think people are going to find out about you from watching this show, other than you are competitive.

Naomi: Of course I’m competitive. Listen… love Karolina, love Coco, but this is a competition. One of these girls is going to get that contract… A contract for a cosmetics brand, has always been — to us — the sign of ‘we made it!’ so for me, this is not a joke, so of course there’s going to be competitiveness between us coaches. I want someone on Team Naomi to win.

Access: What are some of your favorite shows? ‘Downton Abbey’ which is airing Season 3 now finally in the U.S.?

Naomi: I’ve seen it! But, I cheated because I have iTunes UK… so ‘Downton Abbey,’ I’ve already watched it.

Access: Who is your favorite character?

Naomi: I love a Maggie Smith. I like a Maggie Smith because Maggie smith – she doesn’t take, no for an answer. She will persevere until she gets what she wants (laughs) no matter which way she’s finding her way and she does always get what she wants.

Access: What else do you watch?

Naomi: I’m a big Andy Cohen Bravo fan. I watch all the ‘Housewives.’… I know Andy and… actually I was very close to [doing something with him]. I actually love him, I’m a huge fan and we were actually trying to find a way where I could do something in my way.

“The Face” premieres February 12 9/8c on Oxygen.

-- Jolie Lash

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