Gigi Hadid

The Unabashed Joy of Being Gigi Hadid

She leads a supersize life, but Gigi Hadid appreciates the little things now more than ever.

For a Very Famous Model, Gigi Hadid is not too cool for school. I only met Hadid last summer, at The Daily Front Row's Fashion Media Awards in New York City. In a — relatively — restrained awards ceremony, she was clapping her hands in the air and whooping at the speeches before running over to say hello. Previously I'd seen her speak compellingly about her work with UNICEF at Variety's Power of Women luncheon in 2019 and jazz-hand on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (where she also confirmed her pregnancy with daughter Khai, now 18 months) in April 2020. For someone who has, to date, made her fortunes on still images, she is unselfconsciously animated. Oh, and she's about to take on television, too: This week, Netflix announced Hadid would be joining Tan France as co-host of the second season of Next in Fashion.

But for all her beauty, vivacity, and fan base (her Instagram following sits at 72 million), Hadid has not been immune to hard times. Late last year, she broke up with her boyfriend, and Khai's father, Zayn Malik, and lost one of her closest friends, famed designer Virgil Abloh, to a rare form of cancer. So it was possible to read some subtext into a simple Instagram "appreciation post" from December. The first image was of a sunset, but for this extrovert and optimist, the sun also rises.

Laura Brown: Have you always been so self-possessed?

Gigi Hadid: Yeah. When I think of my childhood, I think of the crazy, ecstatic volleyball player. I was that loud voice. I loved sports, I loved being on a team, I loved school and my friends. That's what comes naturally to me. But when people first started to get to know me, it was like, "Oh, her mom was [Yolanda Hadid] on [The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills]. That is her life." But that wasn't my life or a part of my growing up. My mom wasn't on TV until I was a senior in high school, so I was just on my way out of the house. But it was weird for me. I would come home from school and there would be production trucks outside. I would scale the staircase to my room so I wouldn't have to go say hi to my mom in the kitchen.

LB: You get home and there's a bunch of hot middle-aged ladies staring at each other.

GH: Yeah. You're just like, "I'm going to go do homework."

LB: You're a very open person. Is that something you've had to calibrate now, being as known as you are?

GH: I've always been very trusting, and like a lot of people, I learned the hard way in this industry by being too open in interviews. You have to start to calculate your steps, because you went for it with an open heart, and sometimes it doesn't get portrayed that way.

LB: Right.

Gigi Hadid
Isabel Marant shirt. Comme Si socks. From top: Lottie NYC earring and necklaces. Earring, stylist’s own. Earring, her own. From bottom: Harwell Godfrey ring. Mateo rings and anklet. Yulia Gorbachenko

GH: So, in part, yes, I have scaled back. But in the moments when you're face-to-face with people, you still have to be open. You're only going to have a human experience if you're fully in the moment. You try not to have those weird voices in your head that come from traumatic experiences.

LB: I think it's important that you don't portray modeling as skipping around with Champagne all day. [Your sister] Bella has recently been very frank about that too. How important is it to you to be in the world when your industry projects fantasy?

GH: I've always been a creative person. Before I lived in New York, it was through painting, drawing, and sculpting. But I was always crafty. I think that translates into how I see modeling now. When I go to a set, I'm not just thinking about myself and the photographer. I watch the crew, lighting, catering, how they all set up. I think about all the levels of it. Maybe that will lead to something in the future like having a production company or being a creative director. I love coming up with concepts. In the beginning of your career, you don't have the opportunity to do that.

Gigi Hadid
Lottie NYC necklaces. Cartier necklace. Mateo ring. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: You had the idea for this story — a very loose A to Z of Gigi. That doesn't happen often.

GH: It's getting to this point in my career where I don't only have to take the jobs where I'm just selling clothes. Now I get to be like, "What have I not done?" There are magazines I say no to because I'd rather another girl have an opportunity to get that cover. I don't need to do the same cover again if someone else's career could skyrocket because of it.

LB: You can just sit in your attic up there.

GH: In my crafting room.

LB: Right, to this story concept. The end of last year was shitty for everybody, and you didn't have a great time either. In December, you posted an appreciation slideshow on Instagram. Hence this idea of the ABCs of things you are grateful for. OK, first. Amusement parks.

GH: I've always loved amusement parks, and I'm especially obsessed with Disneyland. I go to Disneyland Paris in the middle of Fashion Week to feel like I'm escaping. Whenever I go to Tokyo for work, I go to Disneyland Tokyo. I love Disneyland California because it's in my home state. I was supposed to go to the Orlando Disney World for my 25th birthday with all my friends, but COVID hit and I never made it. My favorite international amusement park is the Efteling in the Netherlands. I grew up going to it. It's a fairy-tale forest, and you walk through the beautiful woods and come across, like, Hansel and Gretel's [house]. There's also a roller coaster from a Dutch fairy tale about a dragon. It's amazing.

Gigi Hadid
Hadid in a Chanel cardigan and shorts, a Chanel High Jewelry ring, a Mateo ring, a Harwell Godfrey ring, a Mateo anklet, Fendi socks, and Miu Miu loafers. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: Are you the scaredy one or are you the one who's on the roller coasters?

GH: Oh no, I'm on every roller coaster. I've jumped out of a plane in Dubai. We did it over the Palm hotel. It was so cool. The best part of skydiving is the view, so if you're going to skydive, don't do it over some dry fields.

LB: What did you learn about yourself from skydiving?

GH: I love control and organization, but it's good to do things that challenge it. I'm brave, but I try not to be stupid. Skydiving is probably pushing it to the max of responsible idiocy.

LB: How many pairs of Mickey Mouse ears do you have?

GH: Here at the farmhouse, for no apparent reason, I have the conductor's hat. Someone sent some mouse ears for Khai — the iridescent pink ones with the bow.

LB: Do you and Khai just wear them around on a random Thursday?

GH: Oh, yeah. Normal dress-up.

Gigi Hadid
Cartier necklace and watch. Lottie NYC earrings and necklaces. Chanel Fine Jewelry ring. Bottom left: Earring, stylist’s own. Top right: Earring, her own. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: Mommy and me. OK, B is for burgers.

GH: When I moved to New York, my best friend and I decided to go on a mission to find the best burger, so every week we would try a different one. For a long time, it was JG Melon uptown because their griddle is old and literally has the flavor built into it. Now my new favorite is Lure Fishbar. I love to stop in there for oysters and a burger or a shrimp cocktail and a burger.

LB: If you're worn out during fashion month, what do you eat to keep yourself going?

GH: Honestly, I'm always carb-loading. I wake up and I love scrambled eggs and toast. I usually take an orange juice and a coffee in the car with me, because show catering is tragic. I'm grateful that I have resources where I can bring things with me to work, but there are a lot of girls who don't have that, and it pisses me off that there's literally no catering.

LB: And contrary to popular belief, they do need to eat something.

GH: During fashion month, the big relaxing meal is usually dinner, and you want all the pasta and burgers. I'm always going for comfort food because we're traveling. You have your favorite restaurants that feel like home in each city, and you can go back and have the same meal.

Gigi Hadid
Gucci jacket, vest, and tights. Lottie NYC earring and necklaces. Mateo rings (right hand, index finger; left hand, middle finger). Chanel Fine Jewelry ring (right hand, ring finger). Harwell Godfrey ring (left hand, ring finger). Top earring, her own. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: When you see young models running around all hectic, do you just want to go, "It's OK. Have a seat"?

GH: Yeah. Every opportunity that I can get with a young model who I see is stressed out or having a hard time, I try to get to know her or just give advice, if she wants it. Everyone has to learn that balance.

LB: Also, as a mom now, that must have made you calibrate your energy.

GH: Well, I'm trying to learn still, being a mom and letting myself rest. Maybe I'm better at it with work. [laughs]

Gigi Hadid
Isabel Marant shirt. Miu Miu briefs. Lottie NYC earring and necklaces. Chanel watch. Chanel Fine Jewelry ring. Earring, stylist’s own. Earring, her own. BEAUTY BEAT: Create a subtle wash of color by buffing out a rosy shade like Maybelline New York Color Tattoo 24 Hour Eyeshadow in Socialite ($8) across your lids. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: Yeah, but Khai's not even 2 yet, is she?

GH: No.

LB: Of course you're not going to be like, "Yeah. Have a sit-down. I'll see you in a day." OK. D is for documentaries.

GH: So I'm the freak who has watched every documentary. Have you seen Tim's Vermeer?

LB: No.

GH: So Vermeer is obviously [the Dutch painter Johannes] Vermeer and Tim is this guy who I think came to success with video games. He's creative, but in more like a technical way. He goes to Vermeer's house and makes a Vermeer. And Vermeer's work was always looked at like, "Oh, he had this incredible ability to paint light so specifically." Anyway, he pretty much figures out how Vermeer painted with light.

LB: Everyone knows. It was a ring light. Girl with a pearl ring light.

GH: [laughs] They should do a painting of that.

LB: F is for FAO Schwarz; would you go in there and jump on the piano?

Gigi Hadid
Alexander McQueen boots (worn as tights). From bottom: Cartier necklace. Lottie NYC necklaces and earring. From left: Chanel Fine Jewelry rings (right hand, ring finger; left hand, index finger). Mateo rings (right hand, index finger; left hand, middle finger). Harwell Godfrey ring. Chanel watch. Bra and middle earring, stylist’s own. Top earring, her own. Yulia Gorbachenko

GH: Going to FAO Schwarz was my favorite thing to do as a kid. My dad would take us just to hang out. I loved to look and, yeah, jump on the piano. And then a few years ago, they were reopening the flagship store in New York, and they asked me to design the soldier uniforms. So, if you go to FAO Schwarz and see the guys outside, I designed their uniforms.

LB: G is for your fans, who call themselves the Gi-Force. When fans first started to interact with you, how did that make you feel?

GH: Agencies always ask me, "What should we tell younger models with social media? What did you do?" But I got lucky that my timing with social media was perfect. I got Instagram as it was building when I was in high school and no one cared. I just did what felt natural, and because I started with no followers or fans, I had a little bit more time to build my voice. Now it's hard because I don't have as much time to be on social media. Not that I'm not grateful for every single word of encouragement or if people repost or like my stories. I just don't have time to answer that many [72 million] people.

LB: Do you remember your first fans on Instagram?

GH: I know the faces of my earliest fans. If I see them in person, we hug. I know if they've been a fan for 10 years.

Gigi Hadid
Valentino blazer and pants. From top: Lottie NYC necklaces. Roberto Coin necklace. Cartier watch and bracelet. From left: Chanel Fine Jewelry ring. Mateo rings. Harwell Godfrey ring. Earring, stylist’s own. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: What do you think about young girls who use filters too much? Instagram has become what magazines can be accused of, which is too much retouching.

GH: You can't blame young girls, because that's how they have been brought up. People think that models are always going for perfection, but when I look at the computer screen, I don't check to see if I look good. I look at myself as part of the image. I think that a good model has to take her own opinion of how she looks out of the equation, because every photographer, stylist, and makeup artist is going to see what's beautiful differently. It's not authentic if you're trying to control the creative so much that you always look the same.

LB: Exactly.

GH: Also, I've seen my face from every angle, every lighting situation, in every makeup look. I appreciate my face for its weird angles. I use the cute filters, for sure. Some of them are too intense for me. But I think that the more you use them, the more normal it gets, so you have to have this realistic conversation internally where you're like, "I can't do this all the time."

LB: OK, we're speeding to I, which is for Imagineering.

GH: There's a docuseries called The Imagineering Story. It's about the start of the Imagineers at Disney from the beginning until now. Imagineers do everything from story concepting to character building to brand partnership deals for Disney to literally building the rides at Disney World. If I had an alternate life path, I would want to be an Imagineer.

Gigi Hadid
Hanro top. Prada skort and skirt. Comme Si socks. Roger Vivier slingback pumps. Lottie NYC necklaces. Cartier watch. From left: Harwell Godfrey ring. Mateo ring. BEAUTY BEAT: To gain some extra definition in your brows, use Maybelline New York Brow Ultra Slim Defining Pencil ($8) to fill in sparse spots. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: I detect a theme with you: sustenance and joy from creating worlds. If you're at home having a crap day, what do you do?

GH: Usually I get crafty, do some watercoloring or whatever. Sometimes I take a shower, or I cook.

LB: What's your go-to? I know you love all the meats.

GH: I love pesto pasta with chicken. That's just so comforting.

Gigi Hadid

There's always going to be people in the industry who are younger, prettier, up-and-coming. You have to be kinder and more hard-working.

— Gigi Hadid

LB: OK. We're going to kindness. The fashion industry is not famed for it. How do you practice it?

GH: Kindness is so important. It's another one of those things that my mom always told me—there's always going to be people in the industry who are younger, prettier, up-and-coming. You have to be kinder and more hard-working. Sometimes people will be like, "Why did this model come and go? She was so gorgeous." But sometimes they just suck to be around. I'm not saying that I'm the prettiest or the best model, but I can say I'm someone who is nice to be around. Maybe that's what's kept me here for so long. People have to know that you're going to be the same person every time they see you. That doesn't mean you can't have bad days, and thank God, we have so many friends in the industry we can turn to and have a breakdown. But at least they know you're going to show up and do your best and be kind. It gets you a long way.

LB: How old were you when you started? 17? 18?

GH: Technically, I started modeling when I did Baby Guess. But I don't really remember my childhood modeling. It was more something that was fun for me because I got to play in the sand. My mom took me out of it before I realized it, so it never got to my head.

Gigi Hadid
Gigi Hadid in a Gucci jacket, vest, and tights, Lottie NYC necklaces and earring, Mateo rings, a Chanel Fine Jewelry ring, stylist’s own earring, and her own earring. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: So, no Baby Guess campaigns for Khai anytime soon?

GH: Yeah. No. You know, she's going to do what she wants to do. She could be an astronaut. I don't know.

LB: With her little mouse ears on.

GH: Yeah. She could be the first astronaut to go to space with mouse ears on.

LB: What do you appreciate most about Khai?

GH: She's just so smart, and she's so aware. She watches everything, she's always learning, she's always looking. She's just awesome.

LB: I still can't believe you made a baby.

GH: I still can't believe it. It's wild. A lot of my mom friends feel like that, and we're nearing the first couple years [with our kids]. You're obsessed with them, but sometimes you turn and you're like, "Oh my god. Where did you come from?"

LB: It's wild that you're 26 and have mom friends.

GH: Oh, yeah. We only talk about babies and sleeping and what bottles don't leak. One of them was like, "Hey, do you ever want to get dinner without the kids?" I was like, "Yeah, girl. Let's go."

LB: It's not your only currency in life. Racing to P for painting. What have you been painting?

GH: I've always loved painting. This week, my mom-DIY painting project was marbling cabinet locks.

Gigi Hadid
Chanel cardigan and shorts. Fendi socks. Mateo anklet and ring (middle finger). Chanel Fine Jewelry ring (index finger). Harwell Godfrey ring (ring finger). Miu Miu loafers. Yulia Gorbachenko

LB: S is for Secret TikTok. Do you have one?

GH: I do have a secret TikTok, which I don't post on, and I don't follow anyone I know on it.

LB: You're a lurker?

GH: I'm a lurker, but it's for, like, mom videos and kids' lunch videos. And a lot of true crime storytelling, like murder, stalkers, that kind of stuff. Then there are these pool cleaners who go to these moldy pools and spray them down until they're glitzy glam and restore them. There's also a guy where his job is to go into people's homes who were hoarders, and he cleans the entire house and it is gnarly, like, rotting refrigerators. He goes in a hazmat suit, and he repairs it for resell.

LB: That is quite the mix. T is for travel. Where do you want to go?

GH: I'm really excited to take Khai skiing one day, because I learned to ski when I was, like, 2. We're getting close. Somewhere that I've always wanted to go is Greenland; it looks so beautiful. And New Zealand would be kind of epic. I've been to Japan, but I want to go back.

LB: Finally, Z is for Zuma Beach.

GH: This is so funny. I was going through my alphabet, and I get to Z and I'm like, "I'm not going to have anything." Then I thought of Zuma. This was the beach across the street from my high school. I took an AP biology class, and we would go once a week. You had to count every single piece of seaweed, rock; you counted any birds that flew by. We counted dolphins and pieces of trash. We measured the water temperature, the waterline, the air salinity, all these different things. Then at the end of the year, you had to create this environmental study.

LB: Speaking of learnings, what were the key things you learned from 2021?

GH: I've been reminded that when we get time with people, just really appreciate it and take it all in and try not to wish away moments. Even if there's something hard, find something beautiful in it.

Lead image: Off -White bodysuit. Hermès belt. Lottie NYC necklaces.

Photographs by Yulia Gorbachenko for Art Department. Styling by Julia Von Boehm. Hair by Bob Recine for The Wall Group. Makeup by Erin Parsons for Streeters. Manicure by Mei Kawajiri. Set Design by Philipp Haemmerle. Production by Boom Productions.

For more stories like this, pick up the March issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Feb. 11.

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