Campbell has never met her unnamed father, who left then-18-year-old Valerie two months after the birth of their daughter. Campbell is biracial of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese Jamaican descent; her paternal grandmother was Han Chinese (family name Ming). Of her appearance, Campbell has said: "My features are completely ethnic, and I'm proud of them."
When 10 years old, she was accepted into the ItaliaContiAcademy stage school, where she studied ballet. she attended DunravenSchool, a comprehensive school run by Inner London Education Authority in Streatham.
Campbell's first public appearance came aged 7 in February 1978 when she was cast as a pupil to appear in a music video for Bob Marley's song Is This Love?. In 1982, she appeared in another music video, this time as a tap dancer for Culture Club's I'll Tumble 4 Ya.
When she was 15 years and while still a student at the ItaliaContiAcademy, Campbell was spotted by Beth Boldt, a former Ford model and head of the Synchro model agency, while window-shopping in Covent Garden. Aged 15 in April 1986, Campbell appeared on the cover of Elle, replacing a model who had canceled out of the appearance.
Campbell often got a legal problem she overcoming 10 times legal problem and the last facing was on April 3, 2008 Campbell was arrested at Heathrow's Terminal 5. A police statement suggests the model was held on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.