Gigi Hadid’s first modeling gig was for Baby GUESS in the early nineties. Although barely talking at the time, she cemented herself in the conscience of the zeitgeist. After taking more than a decade-long hiatus to focus on school and typical extracurricular activities, Hadid, 20, returned to her roots and has become a sensation in the fashion world. Now the face of venerable beauty brand Maybelline New York, the half-Palestinian, half-Dutch beauty shares her pragmatic approach to making it in one of the most inhospitable industries the world has ever known. By Priya Kumar
Since I was young, I have been very intrigued with fashion and cosmetics print advertising and TV commercials. I would always sit in my room and try and re-enact the ones I loved,” Gigi Hadid recalls about her childhood. With beachy blond hair, a svelte physique and a best-of-both-worlds blend of Arabic and Dutch features, Hadid has landed some of the most coveted campaigns including Victoria’s Secret, Cavalli, Tom Ford and now Maybelline. She made her fashion week debut in 2013 for Desigual and has since pounded the runway for Sonia Rykiel, Marc Jacobs and Chanel—a personal career highlight: “Chanel was probably my favourite show because it was so organized, professional, and stress-free. I loved it not only because it was a highlight of my life and career, but mostly I was able to enjoy and take in the beauty of the show because it was so well-run.” Hadid is now the model she aspired to be as a little girl.
The daughter of Mohamed Hadid, a real estate developer and Yolanda Foster, a former model and star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Hadid lived a privileged life growing-up in California. Yet, she has never taken any of it for granted and counts her blessings everyday. Her parents worked incredibly hard to give her and her siblings (Bella and Anwar) the lifestyle they’ve enjoyed. Mohamed was born in Palestine and immigrated in his youth. Without speaking a word of English when he arrived in the States, he studied hard and was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for Architecture. Yolanda grew up a Dutch farm girl and made money in her teenage years washing dishes at a local Chinese restaurant. Eileen Ford of Ford Models discovered Yolanda when she filled in for a sick friend at a modeling gig. Although it was her first time in heels, Yolanda had the sparkle Ford was looking for and began sending her to work in fashion capitals abroad. Success soon followed, but never forsaking her roots, she regularly sent funds home to her family in Holland.
It was Hadid’s parents’ life lessons that instilled her with a sense of responsibility. She became acutely aware of the importance of making a name for herself, independent of her family and channeling her success to help the less fortunate. Perhaps the greatest gift Hadid’s parents bestowed her with was the ability to feel empathy. With the formidable platform Hadid commands—she boasts over two million Instagram followers alone—and the distance her voice will go, she learned early on the value of using one’s fame for good. Most recently Hadid lent her popularity to the aftermath of the Nepali earthquake back in April of this year. In a humbling post, she called on her legion of fans to donate what they could, however modest.
Ironically, Hadid has been accused of using her family’s fame as a stepping-stone alongside her close friend Kendall Jenner of Keeping Up with the Kardashians-fame. In response to such accusations she says that she has the work ethic to back up her natural beauty. And growing up the daughter of an established supermodel hasn’t hurt either in when it comes to technique. While it takes new models two years to learn the basics of the profession, she learned watching her mother at work.
Incidentally, modelling was not always on Gigi Hadid’s radar. As a pre-teen, Hadid was a competitive equestrian. She also went to the Junior Olympic qualifiers for volleyball. Her mother would not allow her to sign a modeling contract until the age of 17 to allow Hadid a normal childhood. IMG snapped her up as soon as she was able to get parental consent.
Unlike many supermodels who suddenly make it big overnight, Hadid continues to put her education first: “I choose The New School [for university] because it’s a place where everyone has a lot of hobbies and interests, and the school embraces that and allows students to explore all of those things, instead of making them choose one.” Studying criminal psychology, Hadid is eager to pursue new projects after modeling. “I think I’ll always be in the entertainment industry; would love to have a talk show or cooking show some day,” Hadid muses.
Her down-to-earth, girl-next-door upbringing is especially evident in her personal style. As opposed glamming up like her fellow celebutants for day-to-day life, Hadid appreciates comfort first. She describes her look as, “Casual chic…for a normal day, I l love a cute outfit that is comfortable. I’d say my style represents my California upbringing and my current New York City lifestyle.” Citing Carine Roitfeld as her biggest fashion influence, the importance Hadid places on effortless cool is obvious: “From the moment we met, she took me under her wing, taught me so much, and led me to so many opportunities.”
Today Hadid is a member of the latest cohort of supermodels. And it’s obvious that confidence has been the secret to her success. She’s well aware the competition in the industry as a supermodel is fierce and was determined to overcome rejection by turning every experience into positive feedback. “Know within yourself that you are beautiful no matter what, so that any words that criticize you or try to tear you down can be used as lessons and motivation.”
Undeniably on a career high, her contract with Maybelline has pushed the supermodel to the next stratosphere of success: “I get more confident as I reach more of goals because I know how hard my team and I work, and it’s really fulfilling to be rewarded through opportunities.”
What makes a woman beautiful?
Confidence and presence.
What are your thoughts on the power of makeup?
I think that makeup has the power to really change someone’s confidence. It is true that beauty comes from within, but I know that when I’m feeling down and I put makeup on, it automatically makes me feel beautiful.
Did you learn any beauty tips or tricks from your mother?
My mom mostly taught me about taking care of my skin, especially protecting it from sun-damage. One thing we used to do together when I was young was exfoliate our lips with a sugar scrub and wet towel. She also taught me that less is more with makeup.
What is your beauty routine from the moment you wake up in the morning?
I wake up and wash and moisturize my face. My everyday must-have makeup is a tinted moisturizer, mascara, a bit of bronzer, but that is just to get me started. At night I wash and moisturize as well.
What does being a Maybelline New York spokesperson mean to you?
Being a Maybelline spokesperson means more than anyone can imagine; it doesn’t seem real! I remember being young, seeing the commercials and singing along to the Maybelline jingle imagining myself on that screen. Now here I am; dreams really do come true.
What do you do for leisure or fun in your free time?
I love being with my friends, walking around, and finding new restaurants and stores.
Where would you like to travel?
I’d love to visit Africa and go on a safari!
What is your favorite food?
Do you enjoy reading? What is your favorite book?
Yes, I love to read mostly the news. My favorite books include The Giver, Brave New World, and Walk Two Moons. I’m currently reading The Alchemist.
Do you exercise? What is your favorite workout?
Every day that I’m in New York, and not working, I box at Gotham Gym with my trainer Rob Piela. I grew up my whole life playing sports, so just working out at the gym doesn’t do it for me mentally. I love boxing because I feel like it’s something I can get better at and it takes my mind off reality when I’m doing it. It’s a great mental escape and I’m always excited to get back in the gym. Gotham is like my second home in the city.
Why did you choose The New School for university?
I chose The New School because it’s a place where everyone has a lot of hobbies and interests, and the school embraces that and allows students to explore all of those things, instead of making them choose one.
What are you studying?
I study criminal psychology at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts.
What type of do you music listen to?
I listen to everything from Beyoncé to Michael Bublé. Though, my favorite artist has to be John Mayer; I could listen to all of his albums start to finish.
What three songs are constantly on repeat?
Right now, “New Flame” by Chris Brown, “I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith, and “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift.