Among today’s generation of It Girl top models, Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner, and Gigi Hadid are an unstoppable triumvirate, dominating the industry with their striking looks, family pedigrees, and massive social media influence.
Delevingne has established her own personal brand on Instagram as a quirky British supermodel-turned-actress who refuses to cow to the fashion industry’s body standards.
Hadid, 20, has now taken a similar stand on Instagram, posting on Monday a lengthy message to the trolls among her 6.5 million followers who declared her too heavy for high fashion.
“So many people are so quick to comment negative opinions this month,” she wrote, during a month that has seen her star in major Spring/Summer 2016 shows like Tommy Hilfiger, Diane von Furstenberg, Jeremy Scott, and Versace.
Hadid acknowledged that nasty comments about her voluptuous figure come from people “who, 99% of the time, have no idea what they’re talking about,” but that she “did let the negativity get to me a bit.”
It was a bold confession of vulnerability and body insecurity from a model who, in the last two years, has transitioned overnight from being a senior in high school to one of the most buzzed-about bright young things on the runway.
But Hadid’s post also demonstrates how consumed we are with body image: one of the sexiest young models in the industry was so distraught by body-shaming that she couldn’t resist engaging the trolls.
Much like Delevingne and Jenner, Hadid’s privileged upbringing as the daughter of Yolanda Foster, a former model and Real Housewife of Beverly Hills (her father is the wealthy Middle Eastern real estate tycoon, Mohamed Hadid; her stepfather is songwriter and record producer David Foster) has prepared her for a career that requires being surrounded by the rich and famous.
Hadid landed her first modeling gig with Guess when she was 2 years old, and now has distinguished herself with her bold personality and her ability to move seamlessly between high and mainstream fashion.
W magazine recently crowned her “the world’s most connected supermodel.” Ever since Hadid was spotted by style doyenne Carine Roitfeld nearly two years ago, she has been the face of Tom Ford’s fragrance as well as the face of Maybelline; she’s walked runways in Paris and posed (two years in a row) in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition. She also appeared in Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video this year.
“I represent a body image that wasn’t accepted in high-fashion before, and I’m very lucky to be supported by the designers, stylists, and editors that I am: ones who know this is fashion, it’s art; it can never stay the same,” Hadid wrote in her post.
“But if you’re not one of those people, don’t take your anger out on me. Yes, I have boobs, I have abs, I have a butt, I have thighs, but I’m not asking for special treatment. I’m fitting into the sample sizes…If I didn’t have the body I do, I wouldn’t have the career I do.”
Hadid was quickly propped up by the famously voluptuous Tyra Banks, who struggled to meet the industry’s skinny standards when she was a top model in the ’90s. “I haven’t met you yet @gigihadid but I FEEL you so much. Your words are powerful. Your words are necessary. Your words are real…From one model that had curves and a unique walk to another, Tyra.”
Indeed, Banks was one of the first models to ignite a longstanding cultural debate about fashion’s preference for impossibly thin models, arguing that it has led many of them to internalize unhealthy body images and develop debilitating eating disorders.
Hadid’s Instagram post is proof that models today are more voluble than ever, thanks in large part to social media.
Several weeks ago, Agnes Hedengård, a 19-year-old Swedish model, posted a video to YouTube and Facebook denouncing the industry’s “absurd” standards. The slender Hedengård claimed she had been rejected from multiple modeling gigs because she was “too big,” and the video quickly went viral.
On the other end of the spectrum, Australian model Genevieve Barker recently railed against skinny-shaming critics who commented on an Instagram picture of her, calling her a “bag of bones” and bullying her to “eat a burger.”
She told The Daily Mail that she “used to feel embarrassed, and guilty for being the way I am. I don’t anymore, I work hard for my body…I am healthy and strong and yes, thin.”
What resonated most about Hadid’s post were the notes of vulnerability—the admissions that she wants “to have a unique walk but I also know I have to improve,” followed by her insistence that she’s “a really hard worker that’s confident in myself, one that came at a time where the fashion industry was ready for a change.”
“Your mean comments don’t make me want to change my body,” she added, “they don’t make me want to say no to the designers that ask me to be in their shows, and they definitely don’t change the designers’ opinions of me,” she wrote.
It’s certainly not the first time Hadid has been scrutinized for her curves. When she first began interviewing at modeling agencies in New York, many of them encouraged her to “lose a lot of weight,” she told The Daily Mail. “I would cry at night and my mom would be like, ‘We’re going to find the [right] people.’”
Ultimately, they did find the right people. And while Hadid’s brazenness in the face of Instagram trolls sends an empowering message to her fans and others in the industry, the truth is that fashion is fickle and restricting. That’s why Delevingne has decided to pursue acting.
Meanwhile, as her Instagram words convey, Hadid, the darling of top designers, isn’t about to let a few Internet trolls derail or negate her success.
It’s disheartening that insecurity about body image affects even the most genetically blessed. But at a time when personality is so important to a model’s success, Hadid’s authenticity is a huge part of her appeal—and, for now, that holds far more sway over the industry than the circumference of her thighs.