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On her new TV series <i>The Face</i>, Naomi Campbell coaches models.
On her new TV series The Face, Naomi Campbell coaches models. / Laspata DeCaro / Oxygen Media

This supermodel and tabloid favorite took time to chat about her role as coach and executive producer on the new model competition TV series The Face, premiering Feb. 12 on Oxygen. As for her mentoring style with a group of four aspiring models, “I’m the one with tough love, but I have compassion,” says Campbell, 42. Here’s more:

Why ‘The Face’? “I’m a big fan of Real Housewives, American Idol and X Factor, but I won’t do the type of reality show where it would infringe on my life, being followed. When this one came along, the word that attracted me was ‘mentor.’ I felt there are many girls in modeling I helped when they first started. ... Kate [Moss] is like my little sister. She is someone I took under my wing. I’m not judging the girls. I was a mother hen.”

Your modeling career began at age 15 when you were scouted on the street. Did someone help you? “I had two designers who took me under their wing: Azzedine Alaia and Gianni Versace. I was also very fortunate enough to be signed by Yves Saint Laurent when I was brand-new. Azzedine is someone I look at as a father figure, and I call him ‘Papa.’ In terms of advice: Lauren Hutton. If I ever felt overworked, I would trust [her] to talk to."

What’s your biggest flaw? “Most of the time, it’s punctuality [this interview began 20 minutes late]. I was lucky a lot of people forgave me.”

You said you had “difficult girls” to mentor. Were you a “difficult girl”? “No. But I’m a fighter. I’m a fighter in the sense that my life was not handed to me on a gold plate, and thank God it wasn’t, because I wouldn’t be grateful for anything.”

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