IN a year of celebrity tedium, it took just one midweek Instagram photo to once again rock the showbiz world.
Naomi Campbell, one of the planet’s most famous women, left the internet aghast — and even her friends astounded — by revealing she had become a mum at the age of 50.
While keyboard warriors were quick to criticise a “geriatric-geriatric mum” having a baby in her sixth decade, feverish speculation focused elsewhere on just how the supermodel had done it. And, crucially, who with.
So who is the arguably brave soul to turn the erstwhile phone-throwing diva — a woman who once dated ear-chomping boxer Mike Tyson — into a homely, adoring mum of one?
According to pals he is a multi-millionaire businessman living in New York, and the pair, introduced through mutual chums, are thought to be living in her rented £12million duplex apartment.
Last year the globe-trotting star, who has appeared on Vogue covers 66 times, quietly moved to Manhattan.
For her 50th birthday last May, the unnamed boyfriend is believed to have splashed out thousands, filling the apartment with flowers.
Naomi posted a snap of some of them, writing “blessed” beside two red hearts.
A friend said: “Naomi has entered a new stage of her life, and is a much calmer, more mellow Naomi than the one of ten, 15 years ago.
“She told only her immediate circle about her baby, so it was a shock to dozens of her friends when she broke the news on Instagram.
“WhatsApp groups were flying around, everyone asking everyone else who the mystery man could be.
“But Naomi wants to keep her love life private for now, but was always determined to have a child — man or no man.
"She even hinted to a friend recently that she was now single again, but won’t even tell her publicity team, so no one knows for certain
“Regardless, Naomi is an independent lady and would happily raise her little girl solo. She feels like this little girl is her destiny now.”
On Tuesday Naomi had fans gushing after posting a picture of her cradling her baby’s foot.
Beneath it she wrote: “A beautiful little blessing has chosen me to be her mother. So honoured to have this gentle soul in my life.
“There are no words to describe the lifelong bond I now share with you my angel. There is no greater love.”
Her spiritual choice of language, friends say, reflects the Naomi Campbell of 2021.
The one-time party- loving wild child, part of Kate Moss and co’s infamous 1990s nightlife circuit, is now teetotal and clean-living, with Diet Coke her only vice.
A friend adds: “Naomi used to chain-smoke her Marlboro Lights, but recently kicked the habit. We now think it’s because of the baby.
“She loves her Diet Coke though and has eight to ten cans a day. She won’t be giving those up for anyone.”
Another pal, who spoke to her on Tuesday night, says: “Naomi is in great spirits and seems so happy. It’s wonderful to hear.
“She is really buoyant, and delighted that the reaction to her news has been so overwhelmingly positive. She was full of baby talk, as you can imagine.”
While the supermodel has yet to reveal the baby’s name, one friend believes she may pay tribute in some way to her beloved late grandmother, Ruby, who died last September.
Although it is biologically possible for Naomi to have conceived her child naturally, she is thought to have used a surrogate.
She is said to have first investigated the practice — which is commonplace in the States — three years ago, after growing close to another celebrity who was going through the process.
Last night a source added: “Naomi chatted to this star, who doesn’t want to be named, and told her she was desperate for a child, and was looking into the process of surrogacy.
“But she said she also feared a baby ‘wasn’t in God’s plan’ for her. She was very circumspect about it all though. Naomi’s been broody for a while, and this is wonderful news.”
Naomi’s latest reinvention is a remarkable turnaround for a woman who has been accused 11 times of violence against her staff and others, with four convictions for assault.
She first pleaded guilty to assaulting her personal assistant in 2000 with a telephone — which, two decades ago, must have been a brick. Which, surely, must have smarted.
Three years later a former assistant sued her for throwing another handset at her during a “tantrum”.
And in 2004 her maid claimed to have been slapped round the face, though Naomi insisted the maid had started it.
In 2005 her personal assistant alleged Naomi had smacked her around the head with a BlackBerry personal organiser, while another associate accused her of coming over “like Mike Tyson” — who she dated in 1990 — after they wore the same dress to an event.
In 2006 Naomi was arrested on suspicion of assaulting her drugs counsellor, and in the same year an ex-housekeeper sought damages and claimed her famous boss was “a violent super-bigot”.
In 2007 she pleaded guilty to whacking her former housekeeper around the head with a crystal- encrusted phone because she couldn’t find a particular pair of jeans.
Naomi was sentenced to five days’ community service, mopping floors for New York’s Sanitation Department — a far cry from the fashion houses of Paris and Milan.
Naomi famously keeps journalists waiting for interviews, but can turn on the charm in a heartbeat.
A former colleague of mine, having been granted an audience with the superstar, was made to perch on a stool, barely three inches off the floor, while she peered down at him from a metre-high throne.
When I met her at an event at London’s Serpentine Gallery a few years ago, the timing was unfortunate.
Naomi, exhausted after spending the day beavering away in a soup kitchen, glared menacingly from across the red carpet.
It transpired I’d written a story she hated, about an apparent bust-up with a fashion designer. The headline was “Naomi sharpens her cat[walk] claws”. Naomi didn’t find it endearing.
As the photographer taking our picture tactfully remarked that I was too short to make it into the same frame, I gingerly asked if she wouldn’t mind “stooping” for the photo.
“I will start f***ing stooping when you start getting your f***ing facts right,” she barked.
In the resulting photograph, Naomi looks smiley and beautiful. I look traumatised and startled.
On a previous occasion, my then boss decided it would be “hilarious” if I wore military-grade body armour and a bullet-proof helmet to interview her (post-Phonegates). Remarkably, she didn’t bat an eyelid.
Naturally, in the intervening years there has been much rebranding. Gone is the booze, and with it her quick temper, and the heartfelt apologies have come thick and fast.
She has since donated millions to charity as well as organising benefit galas and fashion shows. Save The Children is one of her favourite charities.
She has been a dedicated and regular visitor to orphanages across Africa. In fact it was on one such trip that she said: “I think about having children all the time. With science I can do it when I want.”
And for the past few years she has used her considerable platform — 10.3million Instagram followers and counting — to campaign against racism in the fashion industry.
No one can knock her talent, work ethic or drive. Virtually physically unchanged in more than 30 years, she remains one of the most beautiful people on the globe.
Love her or loathe her, she deserves this slice of family happiness.
The last word goes to her friend who went on numerous trips abroad with the model.
She says: “Naomi gets a bad rep, but she’s actually brilliantly witty, and can be supremely kind and thoughtful.
“She will make a brilliant mum, and will throw herself into the challenge of motherhood with gusto — just as she tackles everything in life.”
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