Gigi Hadid, first supermodel to owe her fame to social media
American appeared out of nowhere to become, at 20, the new Victoria’s Secret supermodel. She wants you to think she's a Girl Like You - so what's her story? Emily Yahr fills in the gaps
Gigi Hadid is one of those stars who suddenly starts to land magazine covers and trend on Facebook even though you’re not quite sure who she is, why she’s famous and if you should care that you don’t know who she is or why she’s famous.
If you’ve decided that you think you should care, now is the time, because Hadid just made her debut appearance in the famed Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
As it happens, Hadid is the ringleader of a new class of supermodels who are stealthily infiltrating the ranks of mainstream fame, thanks to a savvy understanding of the way celebrity works these days.
You may have seen Hadid, 20, in Taylor Swift’s splashy Bad Blood music video earlier this year; or on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in which her mother, Dutch former model Yolanda Foster, is a cast member. But more important than her TV appearances or lucrative modelling contracts is the way that Hadid - much like Karlie Kloss, Martha Hunt, Lily Aldridge and other rising models - has managed to elevate her profile through her strategic use of social media. The Gigi on display for millions of online followers is one that insists she is really Just Like You - even though she’s a celebrity supermodel.
Take her now-viral Instagram post that slammed body-shamers. “I’m not going to lie, I did let the negativity get to me a little,” she wrote after some commenters made rude remarks about her catwalk bikini photo. “Your mean comments don’t make me want to change my body ... if I didn’t have the body I do, I wouldn’t have the career I do.” The underlying message: Even supermodels have insecurities.
She also tries to prove that despite her family money (her father, Mohamed Hadid, is a wealthy real estate developer), she still works hard on her own. One episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills featured Hadid’s high school graduation bash, a lavish fete held in a gigantic mansion. Though viewers may have rolled their eyes at what Foster called her daughter’s “little party,” Hadid’s emotional speech in which she thanked her parents was admittedly moving.
“One thing I’ve always said about my parents is that they both came from amazing families, but they both definitely had to work their way up for the life that they’ve given me,” Hadid said through tears. “And obviously, beautiful homes and great opportunities have come with having them as parents. But I think the best thing they’ve given me is their work ethic.”
In addition, Hadid projects an image of a girl-next-door who just happens to be pals with lots of famous people. She’s candid about her star-studded friend circle (some of her closest friends include Kendall Jenner and Taylor Swift), making her jet-set life seem completely casual.
“I’ve known Selena for a little bit, and my boyfriend’s known her for a very long time ‘cause he’s friends with Justin and all that,” she says in one interview. She was talking about superstars Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber.
Fans appreciate her attitude: Hadid seems to recognise her many advantages but still tries to be as down-to-earth as possible. She credits her upbringing: Hadid has modelled since she was a baby, when the co-founder of Guess, a family friend, cast her in ads as a toddler.
“As a little kid everybody wanted to shoot Gigi, and it just never felt right to me,” Foster told Glamour. “I let her model a little bit until she was eight or nine years old, and then I completely pulled her away until she was 17.”
From there, Hadid moved to New York after high school graduation, enrolling in college at the New School until she was inundated with modeling opportunities. She’s a Maybelline spokeswoman and walks in all the top fashion shows - but still attempts to keep her personal life free of #branding.
“All the companies I work for want me to guarantee how much I’ll post for them, but I’m not going to force my career onto the people who follow me,” she explained to W Magazine. “I refuse to do 40 Instagram posts about any campaign.”
Now, Hadid continues to be in the news for any number of reasons, including her series of famous boyfriends, such as Australian pop star Cody Simpson; singer Joe Jonas, or her rumoured current flame, ex-One Directioner Zayn Malik. Or there was that time Hadid inadvertently stepped into politics when Vogue had Hadid (of Palestinian descent on her father’s side) strike a pose reminiscent of editor Anna Wintour’s first cover in 1988, which happened to feature an Israeli model. “Is the Israel-Palestinian conflict being fought on the cover of Vogue?” one publication asked. (Come on.)
And as of Tuesday night, Hadid will make headlines for her appearance on the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show: Which happened, her family wants you to know, after she was rejected twice by the brand - so she understands failure. Just like us!
“This didn’t just fall into her lap,” Foster said, via Us Weekly. “She missed it twice. This was her third try and she pulled it off and got a spot that millions of beautiful, beautiful women deserve as much as she does. That’s part of the game.”