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‘l love the magic here’: At HTLS, Naomi Campbell says she feels very peaceful in India

On Day 2 of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, supermodel Naomi Campbell talks about her love for India, the saree, yoga, Aishwarya Rai, magazine covers and colour discrimination on the ramp.

htls Updated: Dec 01, 2017 22:46 IST
Bobby John Varkey
Bobby John Varkey
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Naomi Campbell,Hindustan Times Leadership Summit,HT Leadership Summit 2017
Naomi Campbell, supermodel, actress and social activist, at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on Friday.(Sanchit Khanna / HT)

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was both feisty and emotional when she took the stage at the 15th edition of Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in Delhi on Friday.

In conversation with India’s best-known supermodel and fitness enthusiast Milind Soman, the 47-year-old talked about her love for India, saree, yoga, “more than 500 magazine covers” she graced and racial discrimination on the ramp.

“Do I still get excited when I get a Vogue cover? Yes. Do I still want a Vogue cover? Yes,” Naomi, who first modelled 32 years ago, said to a question about the secret of her success.

Dressed in a yellow saree, Naomi recalled, “I was just 23 when I got a chance to judge the Miss World competition in 1994, and I chose Aishwarya Rai. My god, she was stunning,” Naomi said to a thunderous applause.

She said she felt very peaceful in India. “I love the magic here. I love strong women in India.”

One of the first five original supermodels, Naomi has not lost any of her competitive edge. “It is not just about being confident. It is all about drive.”

Naomi said she derived strength from her mother. “My life with her was minimal. Since she was a dancer, I was raised by a nanny. My mother sacrificed a lot for me.”

Her mother was also her first teacher. “She taught me how to walk... to Lionel Richie.”

She broke down while talking about “father figure” Azzedine Alaia, who took her in when she was 16 and set her on a path to glory. “He did things my father should have done for me. I am so broken-hearted,” she said. A fashion icon, Alaia died on November 18, aged 77.

She was a late bloomer as far yoga was concerned. “I couldn’t understand the mind-body part of it.” Then she came to Kerala for a month and it changed it all.

Naomi wants to visit the country the next year and the year after. “My dream is to hold master classes in your country for girls and share the knowledge of all that I have learnt.”

She counted Nelson Mandela as another influence in her life, who nudged her into philanthropy. “For 20 years, till 2005, I kept my philanthropy private. It was not PR; I liked doing it.”

“I got propelled into it by Nelson Mandela. He was a wonderful grandfather to me. I have sat with him, holding his hands, having dinner with him. I was blessed by such a wonderful human being,” she said.

Asked about her infamous temper, she emphasised she “used” to be temperamental. “Temper is also an emotion,” she said.

“I fight, strive in a good way. But I have never stepped on anyone’s toes to strive. I am never disillusioned.”

She credited her longevity to the fact that “I never take no for an answer as far as work goes”.

Never to be left behind, Naomi had a challenge for the social-media generation.

“The current generation may be the Instagram girls, but my girls and I have enough pictures we could put up every day for the next 35 years.”

First Published: Dec 01, 2017 19:21 IST