Naomi Campbell's day began along familiar lines on Monday. The supermodel was chauffeur-driven in a black sports utility vehicle with tinted windows surrounded by her minders and bodyguards. Reaching the venue, she strolled languidly past a long line of press photographers baying "Naomi, over here," before entering the building and changing into her costume.
And then it all went skewy. Where were the assistants to help her put on her clothes? Where were the makeup artists, the lighting experts and the seamstresses? Where, for heaven's sake, was the Vogue editor Anna Wintour?
The only people in sight were a few bemused-looking garbage collectors, real ones that is, not actors dressed up as garbage collectors of the sort used to add spice to fashion shoots. Campbell, 36, had just begun a weeklong exercise in seeing how the other half lived, courtesy of the New York penal system.
She was the guest of the city's sanitation department and will spend each day this week, from 8am to 4pm, at its warehouse in downtown Manhattan on the edge of the East River.
The community service, along with a compulsory payment of US$185 and a two-day anger management course, was her punishment for throwing a mobile phone at her housemaid, Ana Scolavino, who needed four stitches to the head.
For a celebrity who has endured a barrage of bad press over the incident a year ago, Campbell pulled off her entry to the warehouse at Pier 36 with considerable aplomb. She wore six-inch (15cm) stiletto heels, brown leggings, a black coat and hat and sunglasses.
Inside the warehouse and out of the reach of press lenses, Campbell changed into her boots and donned the standard issue gloves, dust mask and fluorescent safety vest. Then she was assigned her tasks for the day, at which point the full weight of her penance must have become evident to her.
Albert Durrell, a sanitation department deputy chief, explained that she would be asked to sweep and mop the warehouse floor, the locker rooms and windows. And yes, he said, "if they are dirty she will be cleaning toilets."
The one thing she won't have to endure is the prolonged attention of the media. The judge at her sentencing agreed she could stay indoors all week.
"Let me make this clear," Durrell said. "This program has been in Manhattan for over a year now. We've had a couple of celebrities, but the bottom line is everyone is treated with respect and dignity and they have a job to do and they perform well at it. So far so good, we haven't had any problems."
If Campbell, or any of the three other offenders doing community service with her this week, failed to do what they were told, he added, they would be straight back in front of a judge.
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