In the multimillion-dollar modeling world, opposites attract. It’s a story as old as Eve – the magnetic duality of the good girl versus bad girl. Together, LA-born, Palestinian-Dutch sisters, Gigi and Bella Hadid, with two years and dozens of Vogue covers between them, represent the epitome of a kind of beauty that speaks to our deepest desires, in the most primitive way. With sun-kissed apple cheeks and flaxen hair, Gigi, Vogue Arabia’s March 2016 launch cover girl, offers a wholesome (nonetheless unattainable) beauty. Meanwhile, Bella is the cool cat. The dark, brooding beauty, captured here for Vogue Arabia by Karl Lagerfeld, beholding of porcelain skin, black hair, and seagreen eyes.
Genetics alone are not what propelled the 20-year-old onto the world stage. Along with a 24-inch waist, she bellies a fierce determination. To wit: smiling, Bella strode past her singing ex-boyfriend The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) on a Victoria’s Secret runway in December wearing a lacy corset. This is not a story that many have scribbled in the secret diary of their youth.
It served as something of a breakaway. The Victoria’s Secret show was watched by 6.65 million people, and the Tesfaye real-life drama, analyzed around the world with screen-shot precision by a reality TV-obsessed generation, guaranteed that all eyes were on Bella. What she did next drew even more headlines – this time, in political papers. In January, the Hadid sisters took to the streets of New York to protest US President Donald Trump’s executive order banning people from seven predominately Muslim countries, with ripple effects felt throughout the global Muslim community – one that the Hadids are a proud part of.
When Bella posted this Vogue Arabia cover to her 14.5 million followers on Instagram, she reaffirmed her pride of identity when she wrote that it allowed her to “represent and cherish my half-Palestinian blood from my father and his strong, loving, wonderful Arab side of my family. This cover is in honor of my teta Khair Hadid, my family, and my Arab/ Muslim friends out there.” In one post, Bella was the relatable Arab daughter and granddaughter: showering her family and friends with love and gratitude.
“Bella Hadid is one of the girls of the moment. She represents the strong, bold, and elegant woman of today,” affirms Karl Lagerfeld, Fendi’s creative director and our cover photographer. She’s also a role model.
“I think the reason for my success is to eventually be able to shine a light on bigger issues and help people across the world”
“Growing up on a ranch in Santa Barbara, I would go to school during the day, then go straight to the barn and ride my horses, have dinner with my family every night at 6pm, do my homework, and go to sleep.” On the friendship front, with a crew that includes photographer Renell Medrano and pop punk singer Jesse Jo Stark, she is the bestie millennials aspire to be. On the family side, she is the doting daughter who refers to her mother, the Dutch former model Yolanda Hadid, as “everlasting, trusting, and loving.” Of her older sister, she spurts heart-shaped emojis: “I am so proud to have her by my side.” Bella hits every one of life’s facets with precision. Ultimately, she is a good girl in bad girl attire – ripped jeans, crop tops, and leather – sashaying to the old-school rap and Nineties rock on her playlist.
Since her Victoria’s Secret show, she has signed Fendi, Max Mara, Bulgari, and Dior campaigns, among others, along with a 40-piece apparel and accessories collaboration with LA-based brand Chrome Hearts. “I travel almost three days a week. So whatever that calculates into a year,” she says of her schedule, adding, “I always order some kind of fried chicken. It never lets me down!” A glance at her slender 1.75m frame, and one can only hope.
If the clothes on the catwalk are a reflection of our developed world’s current state of affairs, so do our models mirror the times. In the pre-millennial grunge rock era, waifish Kate Moss took the Nineties by storm with her anti-supermodel stature and bohochic nature. Before her, Cindy Crawford was the ultimate Eighties poster girl: strong, independent, and a burgeoning businesswoman. Bella stands apart as the model who preaches cultural and religious pride and compassion in a meteor shower of international uncertainty. Time will tell if she has the staying power to follow in their footsteps. A good omen: for all her interviews and Instastories, Bella treads the fine line of staying relevant without being too revealing. “I feel that if you give too much on social media, there will always be a want for more. Right now, privacy is my biggest concern, not only for myself, but my family. Keeping boundaries is always a good idea,” she says.
Her social media feed isn’t all selfies and backstage hugs, however. In June, she auctioned off the pink Alexandre Vauthier dress she wore at this year’s Cannes Film Festival through an Instagram charity auction, raising US $21 000. “There are so many people suffering through poverty, sickness, and death around the world, that I need to help. I think the reason for my success is to eventually be able to shine a light on bigger issues and help people across the world,” says Bella with the fearlessness of a person who risks online criticism with every Muslim-proud post she writes and the ingenue earnest of a woman whose whole life lies ahead of her. The surface hasn’t been scratched. Precisely why everyone’s still interested.
September 2017 Cover Model Bella Hadid in Fendi total look
Photographed by Karl Lagerfeld and styled by Lady Amanda Harlech
Makeup Peter Philips; hair Sam McKnight
The September issue of Vogue Arabia is available from August 30th.