On the Runway

The Famous Parents Modeling Club

Modeling used to be an easy fallback ‘career’ for celebrity kids. But a new crop of famous-from-birth models are trying to make it on their own…and they deserve to be taken seriously.

Jeff Schear/Getty

Celebrity children who become successful actresses are easy to come by. Kate Hudson. Drew Barrymore. Gwyneth Paltrow. They’ve become so famous in their own right that sometimes—just sometimes—we forget that their parents were (and still are) some of Hollywood’s biggest and most influential names.

The same, however, historically cannot be said for famous spawn turned high-fashion models.

Lindsay Lohan’s 5’9” little sis, Aliana, signed with modeling agency Wilhelmina in late April of last year. Yet, despite her tall stature and slim figure, Lohan only made a few appearances on minor runways at New York Fashion Week; Aliana is now reportedly focusing on her singing/songwriting career instead. Patrick Schwarzenegger (son of Arnold and Maria Shriver) scored a one-time gig as the face of Hudson jeans. Eddie and Nicole Murphy’s daughter, Bria, also had a short-lived modeling career as the face of Dark & Lovely, a hair relaxer for African-American women, and an appearance in Gucci Mane’s “Spotlight” video. Zoe Kravitz (daughter of Lenny and Lisa Bonet) landed the role as the face of Vera Wang’s two fragrances, Princess and Preppy Princess, in 2009 and 2011, respectively, before realizing that “all that ‘it girl’ shit makes [her] kind of uncomfortable,” leaving behind the fashion world for a successful acting career.

Yet a new crop of celebrity offspring are upending the trend of modeling as a safe “career” move, one that lacks critical acclaim and tends to not go anywhere. Instead, they’re starting to make names for themselves in the fashion industry…and rivaling some of its current hottest faces—Cara Delevingne, Karlie Kloss, Jourdan Dunn. Regardless of their celebrity parents, Gigi Hadid, Ireland Baldwin, and yes, even Kendall Jenner, have proven they are strong models in a short amount of time. They don’t just have their last names to back them up—they have the resume and credibility as well.

Gigi Hadid, daughter of Yolanda Foster (former model and current Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member) and real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, has been dubbed the “next Kate Upton.” Hadid’s BFF Ireland Baldwin (yes, product of Alec and Kim Basinger), who signed with the same agency as Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss a little over a year ago, has already begun to build a successful resume. And then, there’s Kendall Jenner—whose familial association with the Kardashian-Jenner clan could hurt her career more than help it. But Jenner has followed in the footsteps of her peer Georgia May Jagger (daughter of Mick and former model Jerry Hall), stealing the spotlight at high-fashion shows and scoring reputable editorial spreads in a very short time period. This class of kids born with the silver spoon of fame are the new crème of the crop, and, celebrity name or not, they are proving that they have what it takes to make it in the cutthroat fashion industry.

“‘Model’ is the loosest word there is, except for ‘prostitute,’” former supermodel Gita Hall told FOX411 in January, just a month before Hadid and Jenner both made their runway debuts at New York Fashion Week. “Everybody says they’re a model. It’s ridiculous—they’re not all models. They may be would-be models, but I was a model when models were models—working for Irving Penn and Richard Avedon and all of the top photographers in the world. But that was a whole different era, what can I tell you.”

“The sad part is because of these actresses or would-be actresses or whatever they are,” Hall continued, “they take away the livelihood of real models.”

But why shouldn’t girls like Hadid, Baldwin, or Jenner be considered real models when they too have agencies, attend castings, and receive payment for their work on top of actually producing the same reputable work as top models with no familial connections.

Although 19-year-old Hadid modeled for Guess! in both 1996 and 2011, she received her big break earlier this February when she simultaneously landed two major gigs: a cameo in the 50th anniversary issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and the cover of the fourth issue of Carine Roitfeld’s namesake fashion glossy, CR Fashion Book. She made her New York Fashion Week debut on the quirky runway of Jeremy Scott. She was photographed by Sebastian Faena for V magazine. Hadid’s career has been full of unlikely choices for a child of celebrity, who traditionally have landed campaigns for more commercial brands, like Claire’s or Abercrombie & Fitch. She’s opted to take an avant-garde, high-fashion route, which, despite her subtle appearances on trashy reality TV, has allowed her to be seen as a model first.

Plus, she’s earned the respect of her colleagues and peers, who never seem to associate her with her famous fam. “[Gigi] walks into a crowded room and you can feel her presence,” managing director of IMG models (with whom Hadid signed with in 2011), Ivan Bar, told Daily Front Row. “Everyone is like, ‘Who is that?’ I can’t help myself when someone like her comes along …We’ll be seeing a lot of her from the second half of 2014 and into 2015. I have a very good feeling about this girl.” Even supermodel of all supermodels Naomi Campbell has talked about Hadid, describing her as “hard-working.”

The same can be said of Hadid’s resident BFF, Ireland Baldwin, who is making her own mark as an up-and-coming model. Baldwin’s career, like Hadid’s was a year or so ago, is still being nourished—ready to explode at any point now. In March 2013, she signed with the same agency as Hadid, IMG, and is similarly following in her mother’s footsteps (Kim Basinger signed with Ford Models at age 16). Unlike her mother, however, Baldwin is taking pride in her curves.

“I also get compared to my Mom quite a bit and this is where I bridge into the point of this whole post,” Baldwin wrote on her Tumblr. “I AM NOT MY PARENTS. My mom is one of the most beautiful woman [sic] in the world. She is 5’9, I am 6’2. She is petite and fragile, and I am fit and…more to love tehe. I have a booty, she has a thigh gap. As she emerged from her teen years, she developed an angular face and striking cheekbones. I am still a teen making my way out of my awkward phase. I am still trying to figure this whole thing out.” While she decides whether modeling is her true passion (she told DuJour magazine last September that her “end goal is to act, write, and direct), Baldwin has successfully carved out an individual identity for herself separate from her famous folks, regardless of whether or not she ends up following in their footsteps.

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The most surprising success story is, naturally, Kendall Jenner. Belonging to a family plagued by paparazzi and reality TV fame could be a blessing—although being a Kardashian may seem like more of a curse. Unlike her family’s penchant for elaborate, over-the-top announcements and publicity, Jenner flew under the radar during her New York Fashion Week debut on the Marc Jacobs runway, walking among 46 other models with the same pinkish hairdo and a see-through top. Twitter went a flurry with editors posting, “Did Kendall Jenner just walk by at Marc Jacobs?” Website headlines gasped, “BREAKING: A Kardashian is Walking in the Marc Jacobs Show.”

LOVE magazine’s editor-in-chief, Katie Grand, (who also helps cast the Marc Jacobs show) was one of the industry’s first major players to take a particular interest in Jenner’s budding career. “When we are casting Marc Jacobs I always try and throw in a couple of unexpected models,” Grand told Fashionista. “Last season it was Sky [Ferreira], so when Kendall Jenner’s agent, Christopher Michael, called me and asked me to meet Kendall, I was intrigued…The second time [we met], we got chatting and I was surprised how intent she was about modeling—just like all the other girls.”

Following Jenner’s appearance on the Marc Jacobs runway, she continued the international fashion week circuit, walking for Giles in London (for whom Grand also casts), as well as Parisian shows Chanel and Givenchy.

Critics were quick to jump on Jenner’s Givenchy appearance, citing her sister Kim Kardashian and new husband Kanye West’s close relationship with the label’s designer, Riccardo Tisci, as the reason she landed a spot in the show. Kim, however, was quick to defend her little sis, telling The Huffington Post, “She went and auditioned, and she just goes by the name of Kendall, hoping that people won’t think that she gets any [handouts]…She works her butt off! She just goes to casting after casting.”

Although Jenner’s agency, The Society (whom she signed with in November 2013), was unable to comment on her potential as a model, longtime industry insiders like Nigel Barker and Naomi Campbell have quickly come to her defense, family name aside.

“I definitely think she has the potential,” Barker told PEOPLE in March. “These things rely on a little bit of longevity and she’s still young, [but] she’s doing all the right things, walking in the right shows. She’s got the look—that smoldering, strong look. Every once in a while, she reminds me a bit of Gia Carangi, that sort of mystery to her.”

When asked about how her relationship to the Kardashian family may help—or hurt—her career, Barker emphasized that, while obviously there will be critics, the judgments may only fuel Jenner to work harder. “If people think you’re blessed just because you’re a Kardashian, you might think, ‘I want to prove this,’” he said. “That drive, that ambition is inspiring, and people will see it.”

Campbell agreed with Barker’s sentiments. “I saw her, she was in Givenchy,” the supermodel said of the 18-year-old. “She has transcended [her family’s reality show fame].” And if Naomi says it, it’s got to be true.

So why is it that this new flurry of celebrity spawn are able to create their own identities while so many others have failed? Critics are quick to jump on the nepotism bandwagon, questioning things like why a Kardashian child isn’t growing up to be a doctor or why Hollywood kids seem to think that careers outside of the movie industry simply don’t exist. Yet, when searching for criticism of Hadid, Baldwin, and Jenner’s modeling careers, very few—if any—articles come up. Instead, an array of outlets defend the budding models and their independent careers.

The thing about these girls is (surprisingly), they’re not controversial. They’re not participating in excess publicity. They’re not capitalizing off of their family’s fame. They’re making it on their own, blood, sweat, talent, and all. They’ve earned the support—and praise—from the fashion industry. And they deserve our support as well.