02/09/2013 05:00 EST | Updated 04/10/2013 05:12 EDT

'The Face' mentor Naomi Campbell says new series is no 'Top Model' clone

TORONTO - Modelling competition series "The Face" will inevitably be compared to another long-running televised catwalk contest — but Naomi Campbell begs to differ.

The fashion icon is an executive director of "The Face," which premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on MuchMusic. The series centres on aspiring models vying for a grand prize, not unlike its predecessor "America's Next Top Model."

Campbell said she has a lot of respect "Top Model" host Tyra Banks and what the fellow supermodel has accomplished with her series. And while the programs have obvious parallels, Campbell insisted that there is a clear distinction.

"It's a different type of format in mentoring the girls, by having us three coaches — Karolina (Kurkova), Coco (Rocha) and myself — with teams of four and going through all the paces with them, and for the challenges, and with the tasks that we do daily," Campbell said in a conference call with reporters.

Campbell described her coaching style as "honest" and "tough," and said the chance to mentor models rather than judging them sold her on the project.

"I've been asked for many years to do television, but I didn't feel comfortable in telling someone, 'You're not right. You're not this,'" she said.

"Of course in our show we have eliminations because there is only one winner," she added. "What's nice is that I think ... the 12 girls that are in the show can say that they've learned something that they didn't know before and it was meaningful to them, and that they can incorporate in their life in some way."

British photographer and former "Top Model" judge Nigel Barker hosts "The Face." Canadian supermodel Rocha and Czech-born Kurkova of Victoria's Secret fame join the London-born Campbell as mentors.

Models on "The Face" will compete in challenges ranging from photo shoots and runway shows to commercials for national brands. The teams helmed by Campbell, Kurkova and Rocha will square off each week in two different challenges — a test shoot and a campaign — aimed at determining their skills and versatility.

Brand representatives from each challenge along with special guest judges will select the winning team, leaving the remaining two model squads to nominate a team member for elimination.

In addition to the presence of Toronto-born, Richmond B.C.-raised Rocha on "The Face," Canadians will see a homegrown model competing for the top prize.

Chinese-Icelandic beauty Jocelyn Chew, 20, from Victoria, is on Campbell's team. The series embarked on a worldwide search for participants, with others in the top 12 hailing from Australia, China, Russia and the U.S.

The winner of "The Face" will become spokesperson and brand ambassador for U.S. retailer Ulta Beauty.

Campbell said the chance to land such a lucrative contract usually only comes towards the end of a model's career. She believes "The Face" contestants are no different than singers competing on "The Voice" or "American Idol" for a payday and shot at stardom.

"They're getting this opportunity, but they still have to go and persevere and go on through the door that we're opening for them," Campbell said.

"Once that door is open, they have to then take everything that they've learned and then use it. And that's the time to use it. But, you know, it's tough," she added. "There's a lot of models out there and everyone wants to be a star. And that's why you have to have that extra something to be able to catch the eye."

The 42-year-old Campbell began her ascension to style stardom in the 1980s, part of a supermodel trio with Christy Turlington and Canadian Linda Evangelista dubbed "The Trinity," who reigned supreme on the runways.

Despite blazing trails in the fashion world as the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue, Campbell lamented that achieving full-fledged diversity within the industry remains an issue.

"I pray each Fashion Week that I do see a lot of the young models of colour out there, and when they do come and say to me, 'Oh my God, they didn't want me because of this,' it does hurt," she said. "I feel that I've worked so long in this business and I hoped that it would make it easier.

"We're in 2013. It shouldn't be happening. We have (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama and Michelle Obama as the first lady," she added. "So I try to stay optimistic but (I've been) disappointed many times.

"Now Fashion Week is coming upon us here in New York. I hope that we're going to see a lot of women of different colours and cultures up on the runways."