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05.19.10

Happy Birthday, Naomi!

Supermodel Naomi Campbell turns 40 on Saturday. Donatella Versace recalls meeting her friend at the age of 16 and how, for four decades, she’s stolen the show.

When I met Naomi for the first time I was in New York with Gianni. He was there to receive an award and to shoot an advertising campaign with Richard Avedon. Christy Turlington was the model for the campaign, and she asked me if she could bring a friend of hers on set, to introduce her to Gianni and me. She told me that girl was only 16 but that she was really beautiful and that she had just done her first show for YSL.

Click the Image to View Our Gallery of Naomi Campbell Through the Years

The next day, we were all on set with Richard and Christy, but Naomi didn’t show up. Finally she arrived very late. She was so young but she was already showing her strong and rebel personality! And this is one of the reasons why I loved her right away. She was already a trouble maker!

Naomi became a real muse for my brother Gianni. I still remember Gianni and I working on the fashion shows. All the girls at that time use to have around four looks each to wear on the runway. Naomi had seven! She could change nearly twice as much as the other girls in the show yet still looked perfect. In fact, after the rehearsal her stand would become bigger and bigger during the night. On the eve of the show she would turn to me showing an outfit on a hanger and ask: “Who is wearing this?…I want that one!” And actually any dress on her looked brilliant and perfect, so I would tell her, “Yes, keep it for the show, it’s yours!” The morning after I remember Gianni would come to me asking if all those looks were originally for Naomi. I would always say, “Sure, why?” And Gianni used to reply, “Well, I was right to give it to Naomi! She looks gorgeous!” The only problem after that was that I had to face the anger of the other girls who were left with fewer looks.

While editing the looks, we weren’t always sure of a dress and whether we should put it on the show or not. But once Naomi tried them on, they took another dimension. She definitely could confirm a dress by the way she was wearing it.

Saturday is her birthday, and she still doesn’t have a single wrinkle. I actually think it’s totally unfair!

Naomi has a deep heart and she is a very loyal person, I think that her unruly attitude is coming from the fact she had a real lack of affection. She is unique in everything she does, in the positive and less positive. She has lived a lot of happy moments but also moments of pain and grief in her personal life, and she has paid for her mistakes. But Naomi is an exceptional and unique person.

Saturday is her birthday, and she still doesn’t have a single wrinkle. I actually think it’s totally unfair! Because she is even more beautiful than before. She is perfect and time still doesn’t have any effect on her. I think I hate you for this Naomi! But I love you so much too!

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Donatella Versace is Creative Director of the Versace Group.