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.
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”