From Real Housewives to deadpan East Village Art student: here comes the latest Hadid to enter the world of high fashion.
Interviewing models at the start of their careers can be a unique experience – like very beautiful but skittish foals, they’ve been bred to look incredible, but conversation isn’t their strong point (although imagine how great a talking horse would be). Bella Hadid is an exception to this, however – she and her sister Gigi skipped this awkward phase and are already racehorses, with strong, lithe limbs and very shiny hair and teeth. This is accompanied by a mesmerising torrent of sound, mostly of a sisterly nature, encompassing who couldn’t wake up this morning, who in LA is a crazy bitch, and the terms and conditions of their pilgrimage to the all-important Topshop. Bella is the younger of the two by 18 months, with a short dark bob and, if there’s psychology left in hair, perhaps a more art-school outlook to match it. If there’s any person she most resembles, it’s probably Jane Lane, best friend to cartoon grunge heroine Daria, who once infiltrated the cheerleading squad but found them so inane she returned to making postmodern art.
Until six months ago, Bella had spent most of her life living in and around Los Angeles, with her mother Yolanda and siblings Gigi and Anwar. Yolanda Hadid Foster, née van den Herik, is the Dutch-born ex-model star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which as one might imagine shines a light on LA’s lunching set. Yolanda and the kids’ dad, property developer Mohamed, separated in 2000, but evidently it was amicable enough for Mohamed to introduce her to her second husband, his friend David, who produced Whitney Houston. Bella obviously adores her mum, who from viewing seems like a kind but no-nonsense type, and she is sanguine about the TV show. ‘I’ve made my appearances. I don’t really like it, but it’s a family affair, and I back her in whatever she does. We don’t necessarily like to be on it, but we do it for her!’
Evidently, growing up in Malibu was quite a #blessed existence. ‘There were a lot of beach days, and I rode horses competitively my whole life.’ Aha, back to the horse analogies. ‘I was kind of a tomboy in that sense. I dedicated all my time to that, so I was riding horses all day and then going to the beach in my free time. I started competing when I was five… It was intense but definitely taught me responsibility.’ When asked if she won any rosettes, some of her mother’s imperious tone suddenly comes to the surface of her valley-girl lilt: ‘I dedicated a lot of time, so I was hoping for something! I was champion in most of my divisions!’ I’ve always imagined the horsey lifestyle comes with an acceptance of pain, due to the high probability of a good trampling. “YES! Definitely you fall off a lot – it’s the way it is. When I was younger my mom got me a miniature pony; I was like four years old galloping in Aspen when he bucked me off and I had a horseshoe on my… ARGH!” She winces.
Having said that, there can be few better preparations for a career in fashion than being horseshoed repeatedly in the unmentionables. Just before her 18th birthday, Bella moved in to New York’s East Village to study photography at Parsons. ‘I popped out of the womb and was like I need to be alone.’ Not a very Malibu sentiment, but definitely art-school material. ‘I’ve always been an independent person, and living along at 17 was life-changing. But it was really cool.’
After moving, her modelling gained momentum too. ‘I signed with IMG when I moved to New York and thought I could spend the first six months just focusing on school. But I definitely went full-force in, and ended up walking in Fashion Week.’ From there she shot for Teen Vogue and Glamour, and now she’s shooting for LOVE.
Shooting for LOVE brings its own challenges, which the Hadids gamely throw themselves at. Bella in particular has to look ethereal while been given a piggyback by Hadid senior, which she manages to carry off with aplomb. ‘We’ve always been super close. I mean, yeah, kids fight a lot and we’re a year and a half apart, and, me being the younger sister, I always wanted to hang out with her friends… But by the time we were 16 we were best friends.’
The LOVE shoot was serendipitous then, as neither sister knew they were shooting together. ‘I didn’t even know she was coming to London,’ says Bella, ‘and then she was like, “We’re in the same hotel – come to my room!” We ended up having a sleepover, and both of our agents emailed us last night saying they were going to put us in the same car, and we were like, “OMG, are we shooting the same thing?!”’ This excited outburst is a reminder that for all the Real Housewives lineage and jet-set nonchlance, Bella is in fact 19, and what actually could be better than flying around the world to have room service with your almost supermodel sister?