Close observers of Naomi Campbell’s life and career might have thought at first that the British supermodel was herself on trial at The Hague for human rights abuses. As anyone who watched her “emotional hour” on Oprah’s couch knows, she has built up an impressive record of slapping around the help.
According to Wikipedia, she has allegedly threatened to throw a personal assistant out of a “moving Peugeot,” cracked said assistant with a hotel telephone, beat another assistant over the head with her Blackberry personal organizer, hit still another assistant with a “jewel-encrusted mobile phone,” roughed up a few of her housekeepers, and “covered in blood” Italian actress Yvonne Scio (her words), who alleged that Naomi had struck her out of sartorial jealousy (they were both wearing the same dress) and “was like Mike Tyson.”
But it is Charles Taylor, not Naomi Campbell, who is on trial. The tribunal wants to nail down whether or not the warlord gave the model “blood diamonds” after a bewitching evening in her company at a 1997 party held at Nelson Mandela’s home. The American-educated, Jesse Jackson-backed former Liberian president, who once managed to break out of a U.S. jail, stands accused of, among other things, using profits from diamonds to finance a bloody war in Sierra Leone.
According to Wikipedia, he won the Liberian presidency in 1997 after subduing his enemies in a civil war. He apparently ran a very imaginative campaign, with his supporters unfurling the daring campaign slogan, “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I’ll vote for ya.” To the doubtful, Taylor offered, “Jesus Christ was accused of being a murderer in his time.”
Taylor still feels misunderstood. Whether or not he will get his “emotional hour” on Oprah one day remains an open question. He may languish at The Hague for some time, fighting off charges, among many others, from one of his former military commanders that he ordered “human sacrifice” during the civil war, buried a pregnant woman alive “in sand,” and encouraged his soldiers to “play with human blood.”
Campbell found Taylor charming, according to Hague testimony from her former agent Carole White, whom the model once called her “surrogate mum.” But Campbell and her surrogate mum have had a falling out over fees, and the agent claims Campbell bragged about receiving the diamonds from Taylor (Campbell only allowed in her testimony that she suspected that the “dirty-looking pebbles” came from Taylor but that she didn’t know for certain). Meanwhile, the waifishly manipulative Mia Farrow, also at the Mandela dinner with the strongman, chipped in that she had heard Campbell brag about the diamonds too the following morning. Farrow must have felt like she was dining with Frank Sinatra’s friends at an evening no more morally outré than a party at Woody Allen’s house.
Campbell has been known to take artistic license with “life experiences” from time to time, though usually she pays someone to do that for her. Wikipedia says that her 1997 “novel” Swan, a tale of a “supermodel being blackmailed over dark secrets in her past,” was actually written by author Caroline Upcher. “I just did not have time to sit down and write a book,” Campbell explained.
Far more interesting than Campbell’s association with Charles Taylor, however, is Nelson Mandela’s, the host of the now-infamous dinner party. Here is a question no one in the dominant media has asked: Why did the saint of secularism invite a known thug to it in the first place?
One answer is that Mandela has associated with known thugs many times before. Pictures of him grinning alongside Fidel Castro and other murderers are easy enough to find. But a New Republic article culled by Wikipedia suggests another reason: he is a blind supporter of the diamond industry. He opposed the film Blood Diamond, writing to its director Edward Zwick that “it would be deeply regrettable if the making of the film inadvertently obscured the truth, and, as a result, led the world to believe that an appropriate response might be to cease buying mined diamonds from Africa…. We hope that the desire to tell a gripping and important real life historical story will not result in the destabilization of African diamond producing countries, and ultimately their peoples.”
The Mandela dinner was a feast of celebrity mischief that looks like it will need more than just an “emotional hour” on Oprah to sort out.