Naomi Campbell and Her Supermodel Castmates Dish About Their New ‘Face’

We were more than a little disappointed to learn that we missed Dan Stevens aka Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey when he lunched with producer Paula Wagner at Table One on Monday. (Doesn’t he know Wednesday is the day for lunch at Michael’s?) Luckily, today’s oh-so-fabulous lunch with the cast of Oxygen’s new ‘supermodel competition’ series, The Face, more than made up for it. While in town to promote the new series, which premieres Tuesday, February 12 at 9 pm on Oxygen, supermodels Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova, Coco Rocha and renowned photographer Nigel Barker decided to make ‘Lunch’ their sole joint appearance on their whirlwind media tour.

I couldn’t imagine what yet another reality competition series about fashion could bring to the party, but when I watched the screener of the premiere episode in anticipation for our lunch I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from its stellar production values, The Face has some serious fashion cred thanks to executive producer and supermodel coach Naomi Campbell’s considerable star power (along with fellow coaches Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha) and unrivaled sense of what works. As host, Nigel Barker is a commanding yet reassuring presence. Everything on the show has an authenticity that real fashionistas will appreciate, while giving ‘civilians’ a true glimpse into what it really takes to make it in modeling. The most refreshing twist the series offers is in its approach to working with the 12 hopefuls vying to be the new face of ULTA Beauty. The contestants also get some major opportunities in the course of the show, including photo shoots with the legendary Patrick Demarchelier and challenges with W magazine. Celebrities Wendy Williams and Amare Stoudemire make appearances as guest judges.

Coco Rocha and Diane Clehane

The three supermodels act as mentors to their respective teams and took their roles very seriously. Even though the show wrapped months ago, Naomi, Karolina and Coco forged such strong bonds with their ‘girls’ that all of them remain in touch with the wannabe models, offering career advice whenever the need should arise. “I really worry about my girls,” Naomi told me. “It’s funny, when I’m working in New York or Paris, I always feel like I’m going to miss everyone when the week is over, but after a few days you get on with it. When we finished shooting the show, I felt a little sad. I still talk to my girls and I’m texting them all the time. I really grew quite fond of them.”

Both Karolina and Coco felt the same way. Coco, who is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Posing,’ devotes much of her free time to working with the Model Alliance where she sits on the advisory board that works to establish worker rights for models. In doing the show, she told me she felt a responsibility to the girls to instruct them on how important it was to maintain their integrity in a business that often expects women to check their own values and opinions at the door. “I have a huge belief system and I have always been very concerned about the rights of models,” she said, referring to her faith as a Jehovah’s Witness. “You have to be true to who you are. Sometimes you are asked to do things you don’t want to do, and I wanted to teach the girls to stand up for themselves,” she said. With Naomi at the helm, “I knew this was the perfect opportunity I was looking for, and it gives me a platform for that message. I knew that Naomi would fight for what’s right.”

Karolina, who at 16 was the youngest model ever to grace the cover of American Vogue, has considerable television experience with appearances on several shows including NBC’s Chuck and 30 Rock. She is also the host of The Perfect Model which airs in several European countries, including Switzerland and Germany. When the producers of The Face came calling, she came armed with a list of questions for the powers that be. “I knew what I wanted. I get approached a lot, and I didn’t want to do TV just because that’s the next thing to do. I said, ‘ If I’m going to do something it has to be smart.’ I also wanted to do something to give back,” she told me. “I really liked the format, and it is different from anything else out there. Oxygen put a lot of trust in us. This wasn’t about us. It was an enormous collaboration.”

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