Model, Media Star, Mogul: Defining the 21st Century Cover Girl
Kendall, Gigi, Bella, Karlie... They're known by their first names instantly, casually referred to in conversation the same way one would mention Cher, Rihanna or Gisele. And while the media and public may speculate on the merit of their fortune and success, its undeniable that these girls have risen beyond their famous families and friends to become household names in their own right. MODA investigates the rapid rise of the so-called "Instagirl" generation of supermodels-cum-social media stars.
The fashion world went crazy when Gigi Hadid landed her first US Vogue cover back in August, striding alongside Olympic decathlete Ashton Eaton in the season's best. One month later, Kendall Jenner followed suit with the highly coveted September Issue. For a model to snag a solo spot on US Vogue is a big deal; the publication has been criticized in the past for supplanting models with actresses and performers as their cover stars under Anna Wintour's leadership (the last model with a solo cameo was Cara Delevingne, who graced the cover more than a year ago).
One only has to look to the impressive roster of actresses and musicians Louis Vuitton's creative director Nicholas Ghesquière has collected for recent campaigns and red carpets, or Olivier Rousteing's eagerness to incorporate "Kimye" into his vision for Balmain, to notice the increasing influence of celebrity in the fashion world.
The ascent of these models to the forefront of fashion, media, philanthropy and the arts is made all the more compelling as a result. For years, the public eye has looked to actresses and pop stars for a glimpse of celebrity and style. Not only did these figures dominate magazine covers, but they became fixtures of the high fashion world as well. The star power these celebrities brought to front rows, fashion events or an exclusive collaboration with a fashion house had the potential to catapult both emerging and established brands to new heights.
It’s no coincidence that this emerging crop of fashion game changers have risen to fame alongside the inception of social media. Interfaces like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have magnified the voices and influence of these women. Any avid follower or curious Instagram user can view photos from Kendall and Bella’s vacation in Turks and Caicos last week, for instance. A quick scroll through Gigi’s feed fills you in on her upcoming collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger and her love for In-N-Out Burger.
Several of these women have turned to other outlets as well to compliment the content they share on social media and create more multifaceted personas. Kendall, along with the rest of her sisters, has her own app which functions like a lifestyle blog. Karlie debuted her own YouTube channel “Klossy” last year and regularly uploads baking videos, interviews, make up tutorials, Q&A’s and behind-the-scenes tours for her fans.
As they’ve risen in prominence over the years, these women have added other titles to their ever expanding resumes, not all of which are affiliated with the fashion industry. In addition to starring in a handful of music videos, Gigi Hadid also took a turn as director for the music video of DNCE’s hit single "Cake By The Ocean." Last month, Kendall jumped behind the lens to photograph Cindy Crawford’s daughter, Kaia Gerber, for the cover of Love Magazine, and Bella has expressed interest in fashion photography as well. Most notably, Karlie has channeled her talent and celebrity into a charitable collaborations with Momofuku Milk Bar, Warby Parker and a coding scholarship program for young girls (all while pursuing an undergraduate degree at NYU). Her success at these various ventures even landed her a title as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People.
Social media prowess and millions of followers alone does not account for the level of success that distinguishes these women from their peers. And while it can't hurt that Jenner and the Hadids hail from affluent families of reality TV fame, and that all of these women consider one another close friends (in addition to rubbing shoulders with everyone from Taylor Swift's "squad" to a handful of Victoria's Secret models), their certain je ne sais quoi arguably stems from an uncanny ability to document and define what success means to the millennial generation.
From their covetable street style to their philanthropic endeavors and business ventures, responses to bullying and issues of body image, these models have proven themselves on various fronts and excelled outside the fashion world as well. To put it simply, their rise to prominence can largely be credited to their candid portraits of fashion and fame, and what it means to be young and ambitious in the 21st century.
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