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Oh That Liberia! Or, Why Every Supermodel Needs A Liberal Arts Education

August 6, 2010, 12:23 am

Diamonds are not always a girl’s best friend. At least, not when they are given to her by agents of a head of state who is supporting a criminal insurgency; when she has gone and lost them; and when an international criminal court wants to know what she was doing with uncut, contraband stones in the first place.

Life as an international supermodel is, of course, super-full of important commitments — beside which investigating rape, murder, slavery and impressing children as soldiers in a civil war surely pales. After reminding the judge that “it was a big inconvenience” for her to appear at the war crimes tribunal at the Hague, where a UN special court is trying former Liberian president Charles Taylor, supermodel Naomi Campbell admitted that she she had received a bag of “dirty pebbles” at 1:30 A.M. after having dinner with Taylor at South African President Nelson Mandela’s house in 1997. Campbell, who says she is used to strangers dropping off gifts in the middle of the night, said she didn’t know the rocks were blood diamonds. As she explained, she is used to diamonds being “shiny” and “in boxes.”

Oh! Aren’t we all, darling? And that cross Campbell is wearing (she is in the white dress, standing to Taylor’s right) is encrusted with shiny diamonds, so you can see why Girlfriend was confused.

The famously ill-tempered Campbell claimed that she gave the “small, dirty looking stones” to Jeremy Ratcliffe, who runs Mandela’s children’s charity in South Africa, but they haven’t turned up since. Taylor claims he had nothing to do with the trade in illicit diamonds, with which he is accused of having been paid in exchange for funding the dirty war in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Asked whether she had been flirting with Taylor at the dinner, and whether he had promised to send her a few diamonds, Campbell said that was nonsense: she had no idea who Taylor was, had no idea what blood diamonds were, and — this is where the liberal arts education would have helped — had never heard of Liberia before that night. This is particularly odd, since Campbell is said to be associated with a number of charities in the region, and claims to have a passionate interest in sub-Saharan Africa.

But perhaps its just the continent she cares about (a common problem among Europeans and Americans, many of whom speak about “Africa” as if it were one country.) Or perhaps it is only people who live a little further “sub” who capture Campbell’s interest. Below is an April 23 2010 film clip of Naomi Campbell caring so deeply about the war-torn region in and around Liberia that she has not yet come up with a cover story about the blood diamonds, agreed to testify at the trial, or even admitted that she knew Taylor was present at the dinner.

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