G force

For a young woman born into priv­i­lege and with the fame and for­tune that’s come with ex­tra­or­di­nary beauty, Gigi Ha­did keeps it real, shun­ning the shal­low side of celebrity, keep­ing her loved ones close, and her real self closer. By Zara Wong.

VOGUE Australia - - BEAUTY -

way from New York, Gigi Ha­did is look­ing out of the win­dow at her mother’s farm. It is mid-May, and after a busy win­ter and spring – per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally – there’s change afoot. “It’s so nice to see ev­ery­thing green again after the win­ter,” says Ha­did over the phone.

There’s mint and laven­der planted, and veg­eta­bles which Ha­did’s mother, Yolanda, started grow­ing last year. “Onions, toma­toes, cu­cum­bers and red cap­sicums – a lot of things I reg­u­larly cook with.” They are wait­ing for ap­ples, which are due in au­tumn. Al­though she was too busy for the plant­ing, Ha­did as­sures me she’ll be back for the har­vest. “For sure. Be­ing in na­ture de­fines me a lot.”

For all those bright lights and glit­tery Ver­sace dresses (Ha­did wore a Ver­sace gown for the Met Gala and a gold mini-dress for her birth­day, natch), the farm harks back to her child­hood grow­ing up in Cal­i­for­nia’s Santa Bar­bara, where she played out­doors and rode horses. “The fam­ily farm is where I get away. My lit­tle kitchen is my happy place. I cook al­most ev­ery day I’m here. I’ve got my Masterchef apron hang­ing up – it’s my lit­tle proud­est mo­ment,” she says, re­fer­ring to a US Celebrity Masterchef episode where Gor­don Ram­sey awarded her the episode’s win­ner for her burg­ers.

The fam­ily farm is a re­prieve from New York, where she is fol­lowed by pa­parazzi, and away from her home state of Cal­i­for­nia, which she still misses but the com­mute from the east and west coasts proved ar­du­ous in the long term. “A lot of my stress came from com­ing on and off a plane, and I didn’t want to be do­ing that on my time off,” says Ha­did, who is an oth­er­wise con­fi­dent flyer. But the travel, though seem­ingly glam­orous, was gru­elling – trav­el­ling for work, whether to Europe for shows and cam­paigns or within the US, will of­ten have one in the air al­most as much time as one is on the ground. “I had re­alised how much time I had spent in the air and it rep­re­sented a lot of the lack of con­trol that you feel in a job where you travel all the time.”

Be­cause this is the year that Ha­did is back in con­trol. After years of over-ex­tend­ing her­self work-wise and oth­er­wise, she is tak­ing stock. “I’ve learned a lot in the last year, just fig­ur­ing out what my pri­or­i­ties are and learn­ing how to man­age my time to prioritise the things and peo­ple that are im­por­tant to me, be­cause I’m hard on my­self with those things,” she says wisely of her cur­rent out­look. “Learn­ing to say no, I think, is a big thing I’ve had to tackle … ev­ery­one has to learn to stand up for them­selves at a point in their lives and in work.” As a model, she is thor­oughly aware of her cur­rency and her pur­pose in the fash­ion world: “Ev­ery­one knows that in the mod­el­ling in­dus­try your job is part of the cre­ative process in that you might have an idea of the shoot’s an­gle, but we have no con­trol over what we wear, the cre­ative pro­duc­tion of the shoot and the cre­ative di­rec­tion.” Con­trol over her ca­reer from now on is what Ha­did will be de­mand­ing.

There are many words and phrases that are as­so­ci­ated with Ha­did that have be­come tired with over-use, but are still so ex­plic­itly

Aap­pli­ca­ble for her, that there is no other way to go about it. ‘Su­per­model’ be­ing one. When Ha­did last graced the cover of Vogue Aus­tralia three years ago, she was crowned a so­cial me­dia su­per­model. It seems quaint al­most, to now use the qual­i­fier ‘so­cial me­dia’ for Ha­did, who has some­what stepped back from the plat­form that helped her stand out in the nascent days of her ca­reer. (Though, it has to be said, ev­ery model and celebrity worth their salt has so­cial me­dia ac­counts any­way, so per­haps we can say that Ha­did, as al­ways, is set­ting a new trend.)

Con­sciously tak­ing time-outs from so­cial me­dia has helped Ha­did re-eval­u­ate, too. “In De­cem­ber I took a va­ca­tion and didn’t go on my phone for a week and just turned it off. It’s like it lit­er­ally didn’t exist. When you’re in that so­cial me­dia bub­ble it feels so heated and flammable and then when you step away from it, it just gets lost in the clouds,” she says. “You can take a walk, or do some­thing that’s so much more real than read­ing all of that. Some­times it’s funny to me how much en­ergy peo­ple put into other peo­ple’s lives.”

When we spoke in 2015, for her pre­vi­ous Vogue Aus­tralia cover in­ter­view, Ha­did was ef­fu­sive and, well, youth­ful – bub­bling over with ex­cite­ment. We chat­ted on the phone while she was in the car on the way to the air­port, and she bal­anced her phone all the way through to check-in and cus­toms. To­day she speaks slowly and thought­fully, re­laxed at her mother’s farm – far away from any air­port.

There’s this one story from Ha­did’s child­hood that tells you a lot about the woman she is to­day: she is two years old and learn­ing to ride on a minia­ture pony that was res­cued from across the street. “The minia­ture pony would throw me off ev­ery day,” she says, re­mem­ber­ing how she be­gan her rid­ing. But she was un­de­terred. “I saw it as a way of me be­ing able to get bet­ter. I think it built me into a rider who was very strong.” She ap­plied this to vol­ley­ball – she was cap­tain of her high school team – and her mod­el­ling, too. “I learn how to mas­ter some­thing and con­tinue to want to mas­ter it. I’m not the great­est at mod­el­ling – ob­vi­ously! But ev­ery day I wake up and try to learn some­thing new about what I do.”

Ha­did’s be­gin­nings and back­ground are thor­oughly doc­u­mented. Those in the know, fash­ion-wise at least, can say con­fi­dently that her mother Yolanda Ha­did was a model who of late has be­come known for her role on the Real Housewives of Bev­erly Hills. Her fa­ther is prop­erty de­vel­oper Mo­hamed Ha­did and her for­mer step­fa­ther, who was also in­volved in rais­ing her, is mu­sic pro­ducer David Foster; Yolanda and Foster di­vorced in 2017. The re­al­ity TV se­ries doc­u­mented both the end of the mar­riage as well as Ha­did’s bur­geon­ing mod­el­ling ca­reer.

“I know I come from priv­i­lege, so when I started there was this big guilt of priv­i­lege, ob­vi­ously,” says Ha­did. “I’ve al­ways had this big work ethic, be­cause my par­ents came from noth­ing and I worked hard to hon­our them.” Ha­did re­called how as a young model, her mother would send money earnt from mod­el­ling in the US to her fam­ily back home in Hol­land. “There are so many girls who come

“LEARN­ING TO SAY NO IS A BIG THING I’VE HAD TO TACKLE … EV­ERY­ONE HAS TO LEARN TO STAND UP FOR THEM­SELVES”

[from] all over the world and work their ar­ses off and send money home to their fam­i­lies like my mother did, and I wanted to stand next to them back­stage and for them to look at me and re­spect me and to know that it’s never about me try­ing to over­shadow or take their place. So when I started out I wanted to prove my­self so badly that some­times I would over­work my­self.”

Al­though there are many daugh­ters-of, and girls born into fi­nan­cial for­tu­nate who dream of mod­el­ling ca­reers, few ac­tu­ally reach the lofty heights of Ha­did. There is run-of-the-mill, girl-next-door pretty. The pretty that you re­mem­ber from high school, but then there is that oth­er­worldly look-twice beau­ti­ful – the at­tribute of in­hab­it­ing a beauty that is un­de­ni­able and to many, un­de­fin­able. In­put the sci­en­tific stan­dards of beauty: large eyes, high cheek­bones, a sym­met­ri­cal face and blonde hair (which even the an­cient Greeks would suc­cumb to with dyes) and more – and out will pop Gigi Ha­did. But Ha­did won’t be talk­ing about her own beauty. Ob­vi­ously. She’s too fo­cused on self­im­prove­ment for that. “You know that peo­ple say I shouldn’t be on the run­way? I’ve got a lot bet­ter at deal­ing with that and want­ing to bet­ter my­self.” She pauses. “That’s my mo­ti­va­tion.”

And beauty, as we are cor­rectly re­minded, is be­stowed but not earnt, though if she could, Ha­did would be get­ting bonus points for the way she is so in­tensely com­mit­ted to mak­ing the most of it any­way for her mod­el­ling ca­reer. She has ob­sessed with the minu­tiae of mod­el­ling and how to im­prove how she ap­pears on cam­era, and is at ease talk­ing about adding more. “Now I can see an im­age and know where I can en­hance the photo rather than just be in it,” she says. “And be­ing on set, it’s in­ter­est­ing to see the dif­fer­ent ways peo­ple work, and try­ing to crack their per­son­al­i­ties.” In an ear­lier episode of the Real Housewives of Bev­erly Hills, Yolanda con­grat­u­lates Ha­did on a re­cent shoot. She is ret­i­cent about re­ceiv­ing the praise, re­mind­ing her mother of how much more she needs to do. Her com­pet­i­tive streak is less to do with other peo­ple than her­self.

“Per­fec­tion­ism can be a good thing, but it al­ways comes with a level of pain too, right?” she says sagely. I re­alise she’s re­fer­ring to her own pur­suit of per­fec­tion, but on the flip side, her com­ment could also re­late to her own phys­i­cal per­fec­tion. Per­fec­tion does come with a level of pain. There must be a bur­den in be­ing up­held as both beau­ti­ful and priv­i­leged. “No- one wakes up feel­ing like woman of the year,” Ha­did told Jimmy Fal­lon on his talk show last year. And al­though she made the com­ment with a note of jest, that in it­self re­veals its own truth.

What makes Ha­did stand out from the rest of those who are just beau­ti­ful, though, is her tak­ing a stand, and her fear­less­ness in do­ing so. While chat­ting to her fans (who call them­selves #GiForce) on Twit­ter, she has called out false head­lines, hit back at peo­ple who crit­i­cised her body (she has been out­ra­geously cri­tiqued both for be­ing too thin and too big) and tweeted about the im­por­tance of more gun con­trol in the US as well as the need for Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis to co­ex­ist with­out vi­o­lence, which spurred heated re­sponses. “So­cial me­dia is one of the most frus­trat­ing and twisted things … ev­ery­thing’s taken and read the wrong way be­cause tweets can never show real depth,” she tweeted after the furore.

She spoke to Vogue the day after the tweets, and was more con­tem­pla­tive. “There’s a tug of war be­tween who you are and what you feel nat­u­rally pas­sion­ate about and want­ing to stand up for your­self, then also un­der­stand­ing that you can’t please ev­ery­one and that you need to pro­tect your­self in a way.”

De­spite her ex­ten­sive ties to re­al­ity TV, grow­ing up with the Kar­dashian-Jen­ners and with half-sis­ters Sara and Erin Foster, who have their own scripted show, Barely Fa­mous, pub­lic at­ten­tion only came to Ha­did fol­low­ing her mother’s role on Real Housewives dur­ing the early stages of her mod­el­ling ca­reer.

At­ten­tion of the level she’s now ex­posed to is rel­a­tively new, with Ha­did ap­pear­ing on mag­a­zine cov­ers and in mu­sic videos with for­mer paramours, who, in­ci­den­tally, are all singers, like Zayn Malik (they broke up ear­lier this year), Joe Jonas and Aus­tralian Cody Simp­son, and photo shoots with her sib­lings, fel­low su­per­model Bella Ha­did and younger brother An­war. “There is no hand­book for be­ing in the spot­light,” she says rue­fully.

Ha­did and Malik con­firmed their break-up via co-or­di­nated so­cial me­dia posts. A week later, she tweeted: “Can’t be­lieve that in 2018 the press can still make up and print false sto­ries … but more sad that peo­ple still con­tinue to be­lieve that trash. Click-bait and head­lines are made to cre­ate drama where there is none when out­lets have noth­ing else to write about.”

Aware of the na­ture of celebrity, she is re­signed that al­though peo­ple may think they know what she re­ally is like, what they see are only the briefest glimpses, a glim­mer of the real Gigi Ha­did. “I feel mis­un­der­stood in a lot of ways. I’ve tried for the length of my ca­reer to show who I am and what’s im­por­tant to me but I’m try­ing to re­mem­ber that I can’t meet ev­ery­one and prove my­self to ev­ery­one, so there­fore I have to ac­cept that there are go­ing to be mis­un­der­stand­ings.”

She is beau­ti­ful, sure – you can’t avoid say­ing that, as clichéd as it is, but she is also a na­ture girl, who loves to cook and ride horses, who wants to see her mum, who shies away from celebrity, who misses the dis­cus­sions she had in uni­ver­sity, who loves paint­ing and play­ing vol­ley­ball. And more, we’re sure, but she’s not let­ting up just yet – a form of pro­tec­tion, per­haps. “Un­til you re­ally get to know me, the thing is you just don’t know,” she says. And with that, our time is up. She’ll thank me us­ing my name po­litely yet with a gen­tle firm­ness. Be­cause she wants to go back to the gar­den, to ride the horses, and to the kitchen, where she’ll put on her apron. And she’ll switch her phone off.

“YOU KNOW THAT PEO­PLE SAY I SHOULDN’T BE ON THE RUN­WAY? I’VE GOT A LOT BET­TER AT DEAL­ING WITH THAT”

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