It is not easy being one of the most requested models of all times. The night before Gigi Hadid reached Paris to shoot Vogue Arabia’s anniversary cover, she was walking in the Marc Jacobs New York fashion week show. Should we get a helicopter so she can reach the airport on time? What about a private jet so she doesn’t waste even a second? Celebrated photographer Peter Lindbergh had only one day available for this shoot, so desperate times asked for desperate measures. The model eventually arrived on set, making that clear February Parisian afternoon even brighter. “Hi, I’m Gigi,” she introduced herself to the team, with an approachable tone that explains why the world fell in love with her when she started modeling professionally, only five years ago. After the Brazilian glamazons and the Russian pack, Hadid leads a tribe of models nicknamed the “instagirls,” which suggests that they rose to popularity because of their high engagement on social media. The term has not always been applied with a positive connotation, with veterans like Naomi Campbell being vocal about the attributes (or lack of them) of this fresh crop, versus the original 1980s and 1990s supermodels. But let’s face it, although Hadid is one of the most followed models on the planet – with more than 46 million Instagram fans – no one survives in the fashion industry without commitment and a work ethic made of steel.
Originally printed in the March 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia.
Hadid, now 23, grew up in Santa Barbara, California, the daughter of Dutch model and reality TV star Yolanda Hadid and Palestinian real estate tycoon Mohamed Hadid. She started modeling for Guess at the tender age of two, but she assures me she had perfectly normal early years. “A lot of people make assumptions about my family, but our childhood wasn’t ‘Hollywood.’ I modeled when I was young but my mom intentionally had me stop before it ever felt like a job,” she notes. “I grew up with my horses, riding and taking care of them, and just coming up with things to do around the barn. Once I got a bit older, in third or fourth grade, I started to get just as passionate about volleyball and went on to play for my school teams. My parents put an importance on doing well in school and were always supportive of anything I wanted to try extracurricularly. Focusing on my sports, doing art, being outside, and spending time with friends took up most of my time, like most kids. My parents never made their success an excuse for me; I always knew that after high school I was expected to work towards supporting myself, so I never put all my eggs in the modeling basket.”
While the original plan was for Hadid to pursue a degree in criminology, she ended up moving to New York to become a model, making her runway debut in February 2014 for Spanish brand Desigual. Since then, her life has changed completely, with Hadid becoming the poster girl for some of the most well-known brands in fashion, including Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, and Reebok. Recently, moving away from a more commercial, “all American” line of work, she became the face of Prada. She also shone on the Versace runway in Milan – Donatella Versace is one of Hadid’s biggest supporters, saying, “you really are my girl and always will be.”
When asked how she feels about her stratospheric but young career, Hadid doesn’t hide her excitement and gratitude. “So much of what I do feels surreal. There are still dreams coming true that I didn’t even know I could possibly dream when I started,” she confesses. “Getting the Prada campaign and show this season is an example – I never saw that as a possibility for myself. But that’s the magic of Miuccia, she is formidable, a risk taker. She does the unexpected, and I am so grateful for her support. But, above any job or career moment, my greatest honor has been getting to know and spend time with the designers and fashion creatives, getting to experience them as people. Those are the most surreal and cherished moments to me.”
The moon is starting to peek through the huge glass windows of our studio while Hadid and Lindbergh look in perfect creative tune, especially considering they only met for the first time a few hours ago. Not needing much direction, Hadid moves on the set with savoir faire, while dressed in a mix of international labels and Arab designers such as Elie Saab and Saudi couturier Ashi. Highlighting Hadid’s Arab heritage was always an important part of this shoot, as she constantly refers to her Middle Eastern side of the family. Last year, she was photographed with pop star Zayn Malik celebrating Eid, and in 2017 she marched in the streets of New York with sister Bella Hadid, protesting US President Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban. “Being half-Palestinian has enriched my life greatly,” she notes proudly. “I have always felt that kids of mixed ethnicity experience a duality of life that is unique. I think besides the obvious, like growing up around and loving Arab food and traditions, being Arab has influenced me to be open and loving of all backgrounds, realizing that being more of one thing doesn’t make you less of something else, and we can all be more well-rounded by embracing every part of ourselves.”
It was this sense of mission towards the region that made Hadid agree with excitement to be featured on our launch cover, exactly two years ago. While she looked exquisite wearing a crystal-encrusted headscarf, the image created a social media storm, with many critics questioning Hadid’s Arab heritage. There was also the culturally gray area and the risky move of wearing a veil when, in reality, the model is known for her gorgeous golden locks. When reflecting on this iconic but controversial moment, Hadid confesses that she felt a huge responsibility when posing for this cover, not just because of her heritage and family, but also towards Arab women and youth. “I wanted to be covered as a sign of respect, and also to help break the stigma around that image being shown in fashion. Women who wear hijabs or dress modestly deserve to feel represented and see themselves in fashion images, and that is an important role that Vogue Arabia plays on the world stage.”
Family, heritage, fashion. These three pillars seem to have a fundamental role on Hadid’s path, especially coming from a family with most of its members under public scrutiny. With her brother Anwar, but mostly with her sister Bella, she shares fashion’s spotlight, being the most in-demand supermodel duo to date. But is there any rivalry between the sisters? “We are best friends. We’ve always celebrated our similarities as well as our differences and continue that in our careers,” Hadid concludes after the last shot is done, now seated on a sofa in the corner of the almost pitch-black studio. “I love seeing the way our careers are different and then align for special moments. We always have the best time together, and even if our schedules aren’t the same during fashion weeks, we are together at the end of the night ordering room service and a movie.” After a full day of work, coming straight from a transatlantic trip, this might just be one of those nights.
Hair: Odile Gilbert at L’Atelier 68
Makeup: Stéphane Marais at Studio 57
Photography Assistants: Stefan Rappo, Joris Rossi, Steven Baillin
Hair Assistant: Fanny Fraslin
Makeup Assistant: Miki Matsunaga
Style Assistants: Gaultier Navarre, Céline Sabbagh
Fashion Coordinator: Danica Zivkovic
Digital Technician: Amelie Ambroise Lafond
On-Site Retoucher: Christian Tochtermann
Set Design: Jean Hugues de Chatillon
Set Design Assistant: Alex Putman
Production: Anthony Graneri
Production Manager: Margaux Huguet