The supermodel with 14 million Instagram followers may have marched against Trumps Muslim ban, but shes happier debunking her mean and intimidating image than talking politics
Not long ago, the most high-profile thing a supermodel could do with her mobile phone was throw it at an underlings head. How times have changed. Now, the worlds most powerful models run empires from their handheld devices and are as unlikely to be caught in a public tantrum as they are to eat a box of doughnuts.
Bella Hadid is one such smartphone supermodel. Keen students of Hadidology will be aware that the 20-year-old has 14.2 million Instagram followers. They will also know her backstory. Hadid broke into fashion two years after her sister, fellow model Gigi Hadid, became globally successful. Before that, the sisters were peripheral characters on glossy reality TV show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, in which their mother, Dutch-American model Yolanda Hadid, was a key player. Their father is millionaire real-estate developer Mohamed Hadid, who is originally from Palestine.
Much has been written about Bella being cooler than Gigi, a conclusion that is seemingly based on the visuals. Gigi is blond haired, blue eyed and smiley. Bella is brunette and looks more aloof, her face habitually arranged into a cheekbone-enhancing fish gape.
When we talk on the phone, she conveys a mix of Miss-World-contestant bubbliness and Thatcherite gusto. Her speech is peppered with giggles and gracious expressions of thank you. Her parents, she says, started from nothing and worked to give us the life that we have, and now I guess all we can try to do is repay them. That shouldnt be difficult now. It is a sign of how obsessed the fashion industry has become with the Hadids that Bellas new Max Mara Accessories campaign sees her replace last seasons face, Gigi. That, says Bella, is crazy. You know, I think about this every day: I feel so genuinely lucky to have the family I do. And later: My mom always said theres prettier girls in the world, theres harder working girls in the world … if you cant be nice and work hard, somebody else will.
Bella suggests that her sunny nature does not always come across in photographs. People meet me sometimes and say: Youre so different to what I expected. People always tell me I seem mean or intimidating on social media. But I really love engaging with new people. This is more than a simple case of bitchy resting face: I feel uncomfortable, sometimes, smiling in front of the camera. It actually took me until probably this year to really understand my face.
Hadids life is minutely documented in the little square boxes of Instagram. Often, she is working: reclining in a grey Max Mara overcoat or lit by flashbulbs backstage at Dior. Or she is hanging out with Kendall Jenner, Winnie Harlow or Emily Ratajkowski (together, they are Snapchats answer to the Rat Pack). Or, we see her striding past paparazzi with a fistful of shopping bags, or posting childhood photographs with her little brother, Anwar (caption: Happy birthday my sweet angel. Your love and light is worth all of the stars in the sky!)
This same formula has been deployed by celebrities since the golden age of Hollywood: an image of hard work and glamour peppered with humble, relatable moments, although the Hadid version contains rather more bikini selfies. My Instagram is just like your Instagram, she assures me (clearly, she has not seen the state of my feed). If I look cute then my friends are going to take a photo, but its not contrived or planned.
Still, she admits to feeling increasingly conflicted about how much to reveal. In the beginning, I was very trusting, she says. Now I have taken a step back. So, I post things that are personal, but not too personal, things that still have that kind of look into my life … but I guess I should hold off. I dont know. Its a very weird subject. You kind of feel its over-exposing sometimes. I guess there shouldnt be that many people looking at one person constantly. Her worst social media experiences have been when you really get into the news. That is not a place I like to be.