Not so long ago, Naomi Campbell’s life saw more regular legal action than a series of British police drama The Bill. When she wasn’t throwing phones or having hissy fits at airline staff, she was being sued by former agents and assistants.
It was hard to imagine any other supermodel being forced to give evidence at a war crimes trial in The Hague because they have been given ‘blood diamonds’ in the middle of the night by a warlord. Trouble clung to Streatham-born Naomi even more tightly than one of her favourite Azzedine Alaia ‘bodycon’ dresses.
But recently Campbell seems both calmer, and more ambitious. Although she has made a fortune out of her modelling career — at 42, she still has advertising campaigns on the go, including ones for Italian fashion houses Pinko and Cavalli — Naomi is about to launch herself on television.
From next February, she will front a show in the US called The Face, where three supermodels coach aspiring models, and at the end one of them becomes ‘the face’ of a brand. There will be lots of camp, catty asides: think The X Factor with models.
She has also embraced a rather bushy-tailed lifestyle, in place of her one-time drug problem. Now it’s a diet of egg whites, fruit plates and organic detox drinks.
Personal trainers Matt Roberts (who coaches Mr and Mrs David Cameron) and Tracey Anderson (who hones Gwyneth Paltrow, and formerly Madonna) are both called in to help her work out. Hence her glossy, serene appearance at the Olympic closing ceremony.
There is even, it is said, a burgeoning interest in all things spiritual, including Kabbalah — endorsed by Madonna.
She has taken to signing her emails ‘love and light’ and posts pieces of homespun philosophy on Twitter. Last Thursday’s ‘thought for the day’ was: ‘Minds are like parachutes — they won’t work unless they are open.’
In this spirit of generosity she is finalising the details for a four-day 50th birthday extravaganza for the man most people credit with Campbell’s stab at maturity: Vladislav Doronin.
This intense, steely-eyed oligarch, a health-and-fitness nut, has managed to get notoriously unsporty Naomi swimming and skiing, as well as growing up.
From next weekend, Campbell and Doronin will virtually take over India’s pink city of Jaipur, and dazzle their A-list guests with elephants, dancers, some imported acts and DJs.
She has emailed invitations that feature pictures of Doronin underwater.
Perhaps Doronin deserves his four-day party because he is, you see, the man who has finally tamed Naomi.
No one could have predicted that it would take a Russian billionaire, a property mogul who has been described as Moscow’s answer to Donald Trump, to finally bring peace where there always seemed to be war.
Naomi has several high-profile exes, including Mike Tyson, Robert De Niro and dancer Joaquin Cortes, and two broken engagements — one to bassist Adam Clayton of U2, the other to Formula 1 playboy Flavio Briatore, who are both still her friends.
She was introduced to the square-jawed Doronin at a party on her birthday at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, and since then seems to have started behaving herself.
If not yet quite the longest of her relationships — so many of them were such on-off affairs they were almost impossible to measure — this is certainly the most stable.
Aside from one difficulty — namely that he is still married, although he had been separated from his wife Ekaterina for ten years when they met — Doronin seemed to have been designed for Naomi.
No one seems clear whether he is now in a position to propose, but the relationship is clearly serious: although he speaks perfect English she is learning Russian, which is never easy.
Handsome, well-mannered, clean-cut — he drinks only the most expensive, high-grown green teas — he has an interest in the arts and a taste, like her, for travel.
Just as she began to tire of modelling — she had already given up the catwalk, apart from the odd favour for designer friends, such as at New York Fashion Week last month — and producing the scents which are her bread and butter (there are many, with cheesy names such as Sunset and Seduce), Doronin arrived to provide her with the confidence and the lifestyle she had always required. He’d long had an interest in the fashion world, having done business with Valentino. Having grown up in the greyest years of the Soviet Union, he had a longing for glamour and fame. (“It helps him in business, too,” says one acquaintance. “Russians find fame confidence-inspiring.”)
Naomi has always loved going to Russia, as she is a huge star there, a land where no one is dismayed by a crosspatch celebrity or a diva in fur.
And they both enjoy spending money. As one friend said: “She provides the flash, he provides the cash.” Even the wealthiest self-made women don’t always want to pay for themselves. Thus, the gorgeous couple are rather well-suited.
Doronin has built apartments, offices and retail centres mostly around Moscow. They are vast projects, such as the planned skyscraper OKO, launched at a presentation recently, with Naomi on Vlad’s arm and Billy Idol singing.
The new block is in Doronin’s development called Moscow City, a sort of Russian Canary Wharf. He knows and likes big-name architects and artists, such as Norman Foster and the American Jeff Koons. He buys modern art, most recently an Andy Warhol, at auction. Hence the couple are regulars at events such as the glitzy Miami offshoot of the Art Basel festival.
In a bid to ignite Muscovite interest in the more experimental end of contemporary architecture, he has had London-based architect Zaha Hadid — who designed the sublime 2012 Olympic swimming pool — build him and Naomi a house outside Moscow called Capital Hill.
Ironically enough, given the comparisons admirers have drawn between Doronin and 007, it looks just like a Bond villain’s lair.
Set in deep woodland, it is a futuristic creation that includes a 22-metre tower with the main bedroom suite at the top, and a swimming pool that turns into a dance floor. It reportedly cost more than £100 million (Dh591 million), and Hadid calls it her favourite ever commission.
Naturally, with Doronin’s budget, there are many more houses for him and Naomi to play in: another pad in Moscow, a £12 million waterside home in Miami that needs renovation; a villa in Ibiza, bought this year after a summer trip there; an apartment in Manhattan; an eco-house(Naomi’s 41st birthday present) that’s shaped like a giant eye — the Eyptian ‘Eye of Horus’ hieroglyph, no less — on an island in Turkey; and a place in Jamaica.
That is, of course, not including the yachts and jets. Suffice to say, they do not fly commercial.
Luckily, they seem to love being in a semi-permanent state of travel — two months here, a week there.
For much of this summer it was Ibiza, on Doronin’s boat with Kate Moss and her new husband Jamie Hince in attendance. Last week it was Moscow, launching that skyscraper. This week it was London, on the red carpet at the premiere of Skyfall, the Bond film — naturally — hand-in-hand in co-ordinating Alexander McQueen black trouser suits.
And next week, it will be Rajasthan for the birthday party described by one guest as the ‘party of the century’, which might be overstating it, but only slightly.
At this level, birthdays are becoming a bigger and bigger deal. The last time they had a grandiose party was when Vlad threw a splashy bash for Naomi’s 40th in 2010 at the Hotel du Cap outside St Tropez.
On the top table that night were Jennifer Lopez and her then husband Marc Anthony, and Topshop’s Philip Green and his wife Tina, a bosom pal of Naomi’s. Vlad and Naomi went to Philip’s 60th in Mexico in the summer, and they will return the compliment next week. As will her supermodel friends Kate Moss and Christy Turlington and their husbands.
The Campbell-Doronins also went to Monaco’s Royal Wedding of Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock, so the royal couple will be asked, too. As will fellow oligarch and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and his partner Dasha Zhukova.
Though, bizarrely, the girl from Streatham is on good terms with Russian President Vladimir Putin — Naomi once interviewed him about his fitness regime and publicly supports him — he is not quite a friend.
The problem with these high-octane parties is that you have to set the bar ever higher, so short of Elvis flying out to Jaipur, a letdown is always a possibility. This is a woman, after all, who appeared in videos with Michael Jackson and George Michael.
Still with the help of fashionable young French luxury travel agent Omar Sharif, Naomi will occupy the pink city of Jaipur for a few days from next weekend, most particularly the old Maharajah’s fortress, the Rambagh Palace, now a hotel (Presidential Suite alone: upwards of £9,000 a night) and, rumour has it, the glittering Samode Palace with its hall of mirrors.
The fact that Elizabeth Hurley (to Arun Nayar) and Katy Perry (to Russell Brand) both had ill-fated Rajasthani weddings that went on for days is something we will overlook.
What might Naomi wear? “She doesn’t do dressing down,” said one acquaintance, recalling the model turning up to Community Service (after hitting her maid with that infamous mobile phone) in a silver Dolce & Gabbana dress, and “having the energy to wear a white Galliano evening gown the night after New Year’s Eve in the Maldives when everyone else had given up”.
Like her mother Valerie, Naomi is always immaculate. Valerie, who brought Naomi up as a single mother, is in remission from breast cancer, and mother and daughter are still very close, often photographed together.
She will be there, too. And no doubt rejoicing more than anyone in the apparent metamorphosis of her daughter. Whether Naomi will have her mobile phone to hand throughout remains to be seen.