Anyone who still thinks all models do is stand around and look pretty need only spend a few minutes in a room with Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha, the three outspoken mentors on Oxygen network’s new reality series The Face, which will make its premiere Tuesday night. The powerhouse trifecta may butt heads on matters of personal style—Rocha is in an elaborate black, gold and jailhouse stripe Fausto Puglisi ensemble while Campbell sticks with raspberry Azzedine Alaia—and emotional restraint (more on that later), but they can all agree on that a model can no longer succeed on looks alone.
“I think personality is more important today than it was when I started modeling,” says Campbell as the other two nod in ascent. “Because you’re a spokesperson, you have to deal with consumers and brands and people.”
A TV genre hybrid of The Voice and America’s Next Top Model, the show pits these three icons against each other as the glamorous captains of teams of aspiring models, doling out advice as their protégés battle it out in style and photo shoot competitions until only one girl is left standing. (The winner will be the new face of ULTA Beauty.) Despite having based their livelihoods on public appearances, all three women admit to a certain level of anxiety over being on television.
“When you try and go into TV, sometimes models get kind of a stink for doing it,” says Rocha. “But when I heard about this show and that Naomi was front-lining it, it meant that it was going to have the essence of high fashion. It wasn’t going to be some reality TV model star saying she’s going to mentor these young girls.”
“It wasn’t just looking pretty,” adds Kurkova. “We were really involved and in their rooms.”
And to go by Tuesday’s episode, in which W Magazine’s Editor in Chief, Stefano Tonchi and Bookings Editor Claudine Ingenieri act as guest judges, the leaders clash as much, if not more, than their neophyte mentees. In one scene, Campbell sequesters herself in a room before later snapping at Kurkova. And in a trailer for the upcoming season, she also calls Kurkova an idiot to her face. Twice.
“I’m sorry, but as an executive producer, I wouldn’t want this show to be all about being sweet. That’s bullshit,” says Campbell. “I get pissed. I get heated. And I want Team Naomi to win. And I don’t want to lose any of my girls. End of.”
“If you think about what we do already in our day jobs, we are competitive women,” adds Rocha. “We always have something to say. We have that drive for our girls. We’re not like, ‘Camera’s off, we’re fine.’ On our days off every one of us has gotten a phone call about something with our girls and had to go in and deal with it.”
“My team fights the most,” declares Campbell without a trace of irony. “Plenty of times I had to go in the morning, not camera ready, because one of them was going to leave or something.”
Sounds like their contestants got quite the tutorial. Would they have signed up for a reality show if it had been around at the start of their careers?
“I don’t think I would have,” says Campbell.
“Me either,” says Kurkova.
“I think we just have such a bad history of reality TV,” says Rocha. “When people see this, then maybe I would have had a different mindset.”
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Photo: Barker and Campbell: Oxygen Media/ Steve Fenn; Campbell, Kurkova, and Rocha: Oxygen Media/Walter Sassard