Gigi Ha­did on what it’s like to live the ul­ti­mate #goals life.

ELLE (Canada) - - Contents - By Vanessa Craft

JE­LENA “GIGI” NOURA HA­DID AR­RIVES on- set for her cover shoot with ELLE Canada as low-key as a pho­tog­ra­pher’s as­sis­tant. Wear­ing a black leather biker jacket, leg­gings and sneak­ers, the 20-year-old slips into our West End Toronto stu­dio with lit­tle fanfare. She says a quick but friendly hello to the crew and then heads over to wardrobe to change be­fore hair and makeup. This quiet en­trance be­lies the star power be­hind one of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial mod­els.

Ha­did’s most be­guil­ing im­ages of­ten cen­tre around her aqua­ma­rine eyes. There’s a gen­tle de­tach­ment to her gaze, an air of mys­tery. When asked what the se­cret is to tak­ing a good pic­ture, she pauses and then ad­mits there is a cer­tain art to it. “You learn what looks good,” she says. “And then, some­times, you can turn the ta­bles and only do things you know make you look good so you’re al­ways happy with what comes out. You learn what things to think about to make your eyes light up.” When pressed, she po­litely de­murs on just what ex­actly those things are. (Her boyfriend, Joe Jonas? Her beloved h

fam­ily? Her sky­rock­et­ing ca­reer?) Per­haps us not know­ing is part of what makes Ha­did’s im­ages so com­pelling. Her beauty ef­fort­lessly blurs the line be­tween com­mer­cial (she’s a Sports Il­lus­trated star) and high fash­ion (Tom Ford anointed her the face of his Vel­vet Orchid fra­grance), some­thing she has in com­mon with cer­tain other mod­els who hit strato­spheric lev­els of suc­cess. (See: Cindy Craw­ford, Gisele.)

Ha­did’s first look out of wardrobe is a sil­ver Misha Nonoo minidress, with a neck­line cut to the waist, that ren­ders ev­ery­one speech­less. The stunned si­lence for this oth­er­worldly space-age stew­ardess doesn’t last long, though. As per her re­quest, a mix of friend Tay­lor Swift’s al­bums blasts from the speak­ers, in­spir­ing her to ham it up on cam­era. “When we go crash­ing down, we come back ev­ery time / We never go out of style,” she lip-synchs with a grin. The set be­comes a day­time dance-off, and the en­tire crew gets sucked into the party at­mos­phere. It’s fun, and Ha­did is charm­ing as she dances and turns it up. But as play­ful and re­laxed as this scene is, one thing is cer­tain—she is aware of it. It would be im­pos­si­ble for her not to be when half of us are pho­tograph­ing her be­ing pho­tographed to post on so­cial net­works later.

This height­ened aware­ness is the key dif­fer­ence be­tween mod­el­ling to­day ver­sus in the past. There is no such thing as danc­ing like no one is watch­ing. Some­one is al­ways watch­ing. Take Ha­did’s highly con­spic­u­ous en­trance the night be­fore the shoot to a rooftop party in Toronto for May­belline New York. She ar­rived with then-brand-new beau Joe Jonas in tow and min­gled in a swarm of cam­era-phone-wield­ing beauty ed­i­tors, tele­vi­sion media and blog­gers. Im­ages of Ha­did wear­ing a white tux jacket by Cana­dian de­signer Smythe and graphic white eye­liner in­stantly ap­peared on Periscope, In­sta­gram and Twit­ter. The Joe Jonas thing was big news; it was one of the first times they could be “ver­i­fied” as a cou­ple in public. (Model Cara Delev­ingne, a close friend of Ha­did’s, of­fi­cially con­firmed the re­la­tion­ship a few weeks later with an In­sta­gram photo of the pair, who were by then se­ri­ous enough for her to dub them “G.I. Joe.”) By the next day, shots of Ha­did hold­ing a pink curly straw had gone global, helped in part by her own party selfie, which gar­nered 334,000 likes and com­ments like “My life, my screen­saver!” “I’m ob­sessed!” and “Eye­liner goals!” from ra­bid fans.

Ha­did loves so­cial media for this ex­act rea­son. “Now you can be some­one’s favourite model be­cause of how they con­nect with you on Twit­ter,” she ex­plains, “or be­cause of your sense of hu­mour, or what you be­lieve in, or your will­ing­ness to stand up for cer­tain things.”

Much has been made of Ha­did’s so­cial-media prow­ess (she has six mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers)— she knows that this pres­ence helps sep­a­rate her from the com­pe­ti­tion. “I can be so dif­fer­ent from another blond girl,” she says when asked about the op­por­tu­nity to be seen through more than one lens. “Find­ing what’s dif­fer­ent about you and re­ally show­ing it off cre­ates a new level of con­nec­tion be­tween you and the peo­ple sup­port­ing you.”

The mod­el­ling game has changed. It’s not enough to have glossy blond hair or a body rem­i­nis­cent of juicy ’90s-bomb­shell-era women, such as Claudia Schif­fer. Ha­did, a self-de­scribed “to­tal goof­ball,” is a clear leader in a gen­er­a­tion that finds value in mak­ing gen­uine con­nec­tions. To suc­ceed, you have to have a per­son­al­ity and a strat­egy. “When I go into a job, I want to touch peo­ple,” she says. “I want to make a con­nec­tion. That’s so im­por­tant in cre­at­ing re­la­tion­ships, and re­la­tion­ships are what cre­ate op­por­tu­nity.”

Cer­tain de­vel­op­ments so­lid­ify a mod­el­ling ca­reer: get­ting an agent, walk­ing the run­ways in Paris. But the moth­er­lode is a lu­cra­tive cos­met­ics con­tract. Ha­did reached that mile­stone when she was signed as the face of May­belline New York. “That was one of our goals,” Luiz Mat­tos, her agent at IMG, tells me over the phone. “We sat down to­gether and planned where we wanted to go. We knew the po­ten­tial.” Mat­tos de­scribes Ha­did’s im­age as “all- Amer­i­can, whole­some, healthy and so­phis­ti­cated.”

This im­age, and her mul­ti­cul­tural back­ground— she has Mid­dle Eastern and Dutch parent­age— is per­haps why Ha­did con­nects so well with the all-im­por­tant Gen­er­a­tion Y. “I came into fash­ion at a time when the in­dus­try was ready for my look,” says Ha­did. “I don’t be­lieve in luck, but I do be­lieve in tim­ing.”

Leonardo Chavez, global gen­eral man­ager for May­belline New York, calls Ha­did “the per­fect em­blem­atic It girl.” Un­sur­pris­ingly, her abil­ity to con­nect with women was a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in seal­ing h

“I came into fash­ion at a time when the in­dus­try was ready for my look. I don’t be­lieve in luck, but I do be­lieve in tim­ing.”

the deal, he says. She en­gages with them “in a way that ad­vo­cates pos­i­tiv­ity and pro­motes con­fi­dence.”

On-set, we wit­ness just how easily Ha­did cul­ti­vates re­la­tion­ships. ELLE Canada asked Toron­to­based de­signer Mikhael Kale to cre­ate a cus­tom #Gigi shirt for our shoot, and when he per­son­ally comes by to drop off the white satin crop top, Ha­did can barely con­tain her ex­cite­ment. She gushes over his work, says she’s thrilled to wear a hand­crafted piece of his and asks him to con­sider mak­ing her some­thing for the up­com­ing MMVAs. Within 10 min­utes, they’ve ex­changed de­tails and made plans.

A week later, Kale flew to New York City (where Ha­did is based) for a con­sul­ta­tion and even­tu­ally made her a slinky beaded out­fit with #Ha­did on the back for the awards show. “She’s just a lovely per­son,” he says, his voice warm­ing over the rec­ol­lec­tion when we chat on the phone a few weeks af­ter the shoot. “The first time we met was that day on­set. I went in for a hand­shake, and she went in for a hug! She’s very down-to-earth and level-headed— you can tell she was raised right.”

Ha­did’s up­bring­ing of­ten comes up when those in the in­dus­try talk about her. The daugh­ter of realestate mogul Mo­hamed Ha­did and for­mer model Yolanda Foster (now di­vorced), Gigi, sis­ter Bella and brother An­war were brought up in the wealthy set­ting of Mal­ibu, Calif. Ha­did be­gan mod­el­ling when she was just a tod­dler (her first gig was for a Guess ad), but when she was nine, her mother took her out of the busi­ness and put her into sports like vol­ley­ball and horse­back rid­ing in­stead. This, in­sists Foster, is why her daugh­ter re­mains grounded to this day—she didn’t al­ways get the wins or re­sults she wanted. “It made her a hard-work­ing com­peti­tor,” she says in an email, “so now when she puts her mind to some­thing, she won’t let go un­til she gets it.” Foster finds it “hurt­ful” when peo­ple chalk up her daugh­ter’s suc­cess sim­ply to priv­i­lege. “She has tenac­ity and great in­tegrity, and she works hard to be the suc­cess­ful and fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent young woman she is.”

Foster, a per­son­al­ity on The Real Housewives of Bev­erly Hills, is no stranger to the cam­era. When, as a teen, Ha­did stepped back into mod­el­ling, Foster gave her the gospel on how to man­age her ca­reer. “I told her ‘The in­dus­try is full of the most beau­ti­ful girls in the world who de­serve the job as much as you do,’” she says. “To stand apart, Gigi would need to share her heart and be au­then­tic, hon­est, kind, hum­ble—and, most im­por­tantly, al­ways be grate­ful to be cho­sen. Peo­ple won’t re­mem­ber what you look like or what you said, but they will re­mem­ber how you made them feel.”

These words have res­onated, it seems. For Ha­did’s birth­day last April, she asked friends and fam­ily to give her McDon­alds gift cards in­stead of presents. This, she said (on Twit­ter), was so she could keep them in her wal­let and hand them out to those she passed on the streets of New York who were in need of a meal. Ha­did is also not re­ally a girl who goes hard­core on a night out, pre­fer­ring in­stead to stay out of the scene when she can. A few months ago, she In­sta­grammed a meme of Kourt­ney Kar­dashian’s son out at an event ask­ing his mom if they could go home. Tag­ging fel­low model Kendall Jen­ner, she added the com­ment “Us at par­ties af­ter 11pm?” Jen­ner is a close friend of Ha­did’s, along with Delev­ingne, Kar­lie Kloss, sis­ter Bella, Hai­ley Bald­win and Tay­lor Swift—a ver­i­ta­ble who’s who of quar­ter-cen­tury power play­ers. But Ha­did in­sists the dy­namic in her high-pro­file friend­ships cen­tres around en­cour­age­ment, not com­pe­ti­tion. In­ter­est­ingly, the group dis­cusses this as a tac­tic for suc­cess, both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. “We talk about it a lot; it’s a con­ver­sa­tion we of­ten have,” she says. “We want to be the gen­er­a­tion and the group of friends known for sup­port­ing each other. ‘Squad Goals’ is a big so­cial-media thing right now, and that’s what we want to in­spire in other groups of friends—to be proud of the power you all have when you’re to­gether, which can be am­pli­fied so much by each per­son. That’s what has been cool about ev­ery­one’s will­ing­ness to be there for each other, and we don’t want to be like other gen­er­a­tions who are in­fa­mous for their cat­ti­ness. That was cool and it worked for them and they were great. We just want to be the new gen­er­a­tion.”

Af­ter nu­mer­ous out­fit changes, makeup tweaks and a quick FaceTime be­tween Ha­did and her mom, our shoot is a wrap. She rushes off to the air­port for her flight back to New York while the rest of us re­main, re­view­ing the shots. The buoy­ant, pos­i­tive feel­ing that comes from a day spent mak­ing magic on-set stays with us for hours af­ter­wards—proof that (Gigi’s) mom re­ally does know best. n

“we want to be the gen­er­a­tion and the group of friends known for sup­port­ing each other.”

Ha­did wears her favourite nude lip­stick, May­belline New York Color Sen­sa­tional Creamy Mat­tes in Nude Em­brace ($10, at drug­stores and mass­mar­ket re­tail­ers), to bal­ance out a bold blue eye. Me­tal­lic turtle­neck (Misha Nonoo, shop. mis­hanonoo.com), sil­ver ear

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