BOOK REVIEW / Murder, intrigue, three Naomis . . . and me: Swan, Naomi Campbell; Heinemann, pounds 12.99

Ruth Picardie
Tuesday 06 September 1994 23:02
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WHO says models are thick? This novel has a plot, characters and postmodernism] The plot involves six girls' adventures in the glamorous world of fashion (celebrities, intrigue, murder]). The characters are, well, the six girls. But - and this is the postmodern bit - it incorporates no less than three versions of Naomi Campbell. There is the real supermodel who crops up from time to time, as she would, this being the glamorous world of fashion. 'Naomi Campbell was the first black model on the cover of Time and French Vogue,' says a girl at a fashion show.

Then there is the narrator, Swan, a supermodel who spends her life on Concorde and having dinner with celebrities, just like Naomi. 'A supermodel can make anything look sexy,' she explains, 'and they say I'm the sexiest of them all.' But Swan can't 'be' Naomi - she's an upper-class white girl called Lavinia Crichton- Lake. So then there's Amy, a working-class black girl, 5'10' tall, raised in London by her single mum, who becomes a supermodel, just like the real Naomi. Clever, or what?

But Naomi Campbell isn't any old model, she's a super model: icon of the age, won't get out of bed for less then pounds 10,000, blah, blah, blah. The big question is: why did she write a novel - or, as the posters are calling it, a supernovel? Here we run into that darn postmodernism again. As Naomi told The Face: 'It's a cute story. I'm writing it with someone - I have to do it on tape and send it off.' The person she sent it to was the clever British editor Caroline Upcher, who discovered The Bridges of Madison County and has produced a slick, Conranesque beach read for which she gets 'very special thanks' in the credits. Naomi has not, it seems, decided to become a real writer, a la Robert Newman.

Naomi herself - according to a recent interview in the Sunday Times Magazine - says she wrote the book to get back at journalists who had misrepresented her life, and there is certainly quite a bit of payback. You don't have to be very clever (and as fashion writer and stylist Michael Roberts has said, Naomi is 'no Einstein') to work out that 'Lindy-Jane Johnson', the evil tabloid journalist who is trying to destroy Swan, has a remarkably similar name to Lesley-Ann Jones, the journalist whose unauthorised biography, Naomi, portrayed the supermodel's father as a convicted rapist, her mother as pushy and Naomi herself as a neurotic brat.

I am proud to say that I play a small but vital part in exposing the wicked Lindy- Jane Johnson, after she tricks Swan into an interview.

'Hello, I'm Ruth Picardie,' I say on page 258, 'to do the piece for the Independent'. I make a haughty gesture towards Lindy-Jane, sadly not captured in the book. 'I wouldn't have thought,' I say 'your publishers would let someone like her near you. It's not as if she writes for the good pages or anything.' Naomi, I love you.

The more important motive for writing this book is the Great Supermodel Conundrum. Naomi is super-rich: though barred from a lucrative cosmetics contract because of the colour of her skin, she is reported to earn pounds 25,000 a day. Naomi is superyoung, though how young is something of a mystery: according to book blurb she is 23, though American Vogue devoted a page to her 21st birthday in May 1991, which would make her 24. And Naomi is a super-icon, whose look (hard, sexy, post- grunge) is back in fashion. But, like all supermodels - including the ones in the book - Naomi is unfulfilled, can't stand the fact that her life is all about looking pretty, and is desperate to prove she is a clever, interesting, Real Person. Superconfusing, no?

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