How Being Called a ‘Bad B*tch’ Protected Naomi Campbell From Fashion Industry Predators

Naomi Campbell is a legend in the modeling world. The celebrity supermodel was discovered when she was only a teenager and rose to fame in the 90s during a time when high fashion models were commanding unprecedented levels of attention.

Over the years, the star has also been at the center of many controversies. Whether she was feuding with another celebrity — like she has with both Rihanna and fellow supermodel Tyra Banks — or getting called out for her anger management issues, Campbell has had to face some public scrutiny. 

One point of controversy that actually places Campbell in the role as a potential victim is that she had connections with Jeffrey Epstein, the late convicted sex offender who allegedly committed suicide while awaiting child sex trafficking charges. Campbell denies that she was ever involved in the circles where the misdeeds were done, and she credits her “armor” for saving her from the fate that impacted so many other young women and girls in her shoes. 

Naomi Campbell was discovered at age 15

Naomi Campbell on the red carpet
Naomi Campbell | Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

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Campbell was a young teen when she was discovered and started her career in modeling. By the age of 18, she was breaking barriers as the first black model on the cover of Vogue.

She was the face of many extremely high-profile brands including Ralph Lauren and Versace. Her career was also punctuated with several romantic ties to famous men — many of them much older than her. These included Sylvester Stallone, Mike Tyson, Robert De Niro, and Eric Clapton. 

These days, Campbell is vocal about working hard to face her past, which includes incidents of violent outbursts and public calls for her to get control over her anger issues. The star has tried to build a new future for herself and has been outspoken about racism in the fashion industry.

Some have wondered if the star, who was certainly vulnerable to racism while working as a teen and young adult, was also in a victimized position when it came to the men around her. 

Naomi Campbell addressed her connection to Jeffrey Epstein

As Jeffrey Epstein’s story drew headlines during his arrest and especially after his death, many started to look at his connections to other famous people, which were numerous. Naomi Campbell was among the people who were mentioned in these webs.

The supermodel admitted that she had met Epstein, according to USA Today, saying that her then-boyfriend introduced her to Epstein on her 31st birthday (nearly two decades ago). 

Campbell insisted that she did not know about the accusations against Epstein. She also made it clear that she had no connection to him and the sex trafficking that he had been associated with for years:

“When I heard what he had done, it sickened me to my stomach, just like everybody else, because I’ve had my fair share of sexual predators and thank God I had good people around who protected me from this.” 

‘Armor’ protected Naomi Campbell from predators

Campbell was briefly with Elite Model Management during the early days of her career. The founder of the agency, John Casablancas, was notorious for sleeping with his teenage models and also moved in the same social circles as Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump. He later admitted to using modeling agencies and his association with beauty pageants to pick up young women. 

Looking back on how close she was to these predatory schemes, Campbell reflects, per The Guardian: “Of course I have empathy and concern for those it did happen to and I feel for their trauma, psychologically how it affects them. But it never happened to me.”

She credits her reputation — as a “bad b*tch” — for helping to protect her from the same incidents. She also credits her “angels” Azzedine Alaïa, Gianni Versace, and Yves Saint Laurent with helping her escape the exploitative side of the industry.