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“People are always going to speculate and people are always going to wonder, ‘Could she have done it without her parents being who they are?’ And I’ve always thought, in this industry, your parents can’t really get you that far.”
That’s what 15-year-old Ivanka Trump told VH1 during a segment that went behind the scenes of her cover shoot for Seventeen’s May 1997 issue. Trump spoke in a polished, direct tone, already versed in the art of delivering a sound bite.
“It’s more about the public opinion,” she continued, confidently. “And if the public doesn’t like you, then you’re never gonna succeed.”
Nearly 6 feet tall with wide brown eyes and a round baby face, Trump was pursuing an extracurricular career as a fashion model. She was signed to Elite Model Management — her father, Donald Trump, a real estate mogul but not yet a reality television star nor a politician, had known Elite’s president for years — and in the late ’90s she booked advertising campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, Mugler Trademark, and Sasson Jeans. When she wasn’t in school, Trump walked runways wearing a furry black bustier (at Thierry Mugler), an iridescent gold cocktail dress (Paco Rabanne), and a wintry outfit the color of a maraschino cherry (Marc Bouwer).
Of course she was defensive about her qualifications as a model. That year, a fashion show producer informed the New York Daily News that Trump’s agents had demanded $10,000 for a single runway appearance, the kind of money awarded to reigning supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. (Elite denied the claim.) Michael Flutie of Company Management, another agency, told the Times that he didn’t think Trump had an extraordinary knack for modeling and said that, personally, he would not have offered her a contract.
Presenting a united front with its client, Elite’s team maintained that, family aside (her mother, Ivana, had once been a professional model), the teenage Trump had the drive and looks to succeed in fashion.
“I’m sure later people are going to look at her as Ivanka Trump because she’s a great model and not because she’s Donald and Ivana’s daughter,” Audrey Roatta, an Elite employee, told VH1.
This dance — the dismissals and appeals that bubble up when privilege and nepotism collide with the faulty meritocracy of beauty — has played out innumerable times in the modeling business. Ever since fashion modeling was professionalized in the early 20th century, children of the wealthy, powerful, and famous have been featured in advertising campaigns, on magazine covers, and on catwalks the world over. Some “children of” outlast the industry’s notorious whims and become modeling legends in their own right, and some move on to prove themselves elsewhere. Trump’s short-lived modeling career is now so beside the point that, after she rose to new prominence during the first year of her father’s presidency, Vanity Fair and BuzzFeed published stories with the headlines “Ivanka Trump’s Forgotten Modeling Years” and “OMG, Ivanka Trump Was Once a Model for Tommy Hilfiger in the ’90s.”
When fashion magazines started replacing illustrations with photographs in the 1910s, a new world of modeling opportunities opened up to adventurous young women, write the historians Harold Koda and Kohle Yohannan in Model as Muse, the catalog for a 2009 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit of the same name. Many of those models emerged out of “the uppermost ranks of high society and the decidedly more risque realm of stage performers and follies girls.”
In the ensuing years, some of the biggest names in modeling came from prominent families, like the 1960s Vogue superstars Veruschka von Lehndorff (an East Prussian aristocrat) and Marisa Berenson (granddaughter of the designer Elsa Schiaparelli). Berenson’s luminous green eyes made her the perfect model for the decade’s spidery false lashes, but in retrospect, her success seemed preordained from the moment Vogue published a photo of her christening. In 1975, a 20-year-old Margaux Hemingway (granddaughter of Ernest) signed what the New Yorker described as “the largest single advertising contract ever involving a female personality”: $1 million to be the face of Fabergé’s latest fragrance.
Years before the “children of” are old enough to forge their own careers (and across industries, not just fashion, many do have illustrious careers), the public is already watching with fascination. Consider the business of celebrity birth announcements, which reached mind-boggling heights in 2008 when People and Hello! reportedly teamed up to buy exclusive photos of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s newborn twins for $14 million. Today, the biggest names in entertainment flex their influence and seize the internet’s attention by announcing a baby’s arrival directly on social media, for free. Nothing demonstrates Beyoncé Knowles’s icon status (or her image-making brilliance) as succinctly as the 10 million likes attached to the first photo of her twins that she posted on Instagram: their little faces angled toward the light, and she in a gauzy veil, framed by a halo of flowers like a modern-day Madonna. It was practically divine, a gift delivered straight into the open hands of her fans.
The babies of celebrities eventually grow into the teenage and 20-something children of celebrities. And these days, a lot of them want to model. The last few years have once again brought an unmistakable influx of famous last names to the modeling business, a trend that has been documented and perpetuated by the fashion media. This time around, there are a striking number of them.
Here’s a sampling: Hailey Baldwin (daughter of Stephen), Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis (son of Daniel), Patrick Schwarzenegger (son of Arnold, and Maria Shriver), Sistine, Sophia, and Scarlet Stallone (daughters of Sylvester), Amelia Gray and Delilah Belle Hamlin (daughters of Harry, and Lisa Rinna), Simone Garcia Johnson (daughter of Dwayne, aka the Rock), Sofia Richie (daughter of Lionel), Iris and Rafferty Law (children of Jude), Christian Combs (son of Sean, aka Diddy), Jack Marsden (son of James), Lily-Rose Depp (daughter of Johnny, and Vanessa Paradis), Willow Smith (daughter of Will, and Jada Pinkett Smith), Brandon Thomas and Dylan Jagger Lee (sons of Tommy, and Pamela Anderson), Paris and Dylan Brosnan (sons of Pierce), Roberto Rossellini (son of Isabella), Paris Jackson (daughter of Michael), and Kaia and Presley Gerber (children of Cindy Crawford).
The luckiest among them find early champions in tastemakers at the top of fashion’s food chain, like former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld and Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld. Downmarket, brands like Hudson Jeans and H&M have cashed in on their hype. Last fall, Lifetime cued up a new reality series, Growing Up Supermodel, that followed the children of well- and lesser-known models as they attempted to carve out their own paths in the profession.
No “children of” are presently as successful or ubiquitous as Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Bella Hadid. Jenner is the daughter of Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner and Kris Jenner, Keeping Up With the Kardashians matriarch and ex-wife of the late O.J. Simpson lawyer Robert Kardashian. At 22, Jenner literally grew up on the show, which premiered in 2007, and was not a full-fledged celebrity on her own until she hit the modeling big-time. You can trace her takeoff almost to the minute: February 13th, 2014, when she made her runway debut at Marc Jacobs.
Jenner’s combination of lanky good looks and unparalleled family fame have translated into near-constant Vogue coverage, an Estée Lauder contract, and ads for Fendi, Topshop, and Balmain, sometimes with her younger sister, Kylie, who is not technically a model. You may wonder, as some within the fashion industry have: Where does the Kardashian end and the fashion model begin? Does it matter?
In addition to being part of Jenner’s social circle, Gigi and Bella Hadid are the mesmerizingly pretty daughters of model and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Foster and the real estate developer Mohamed Hadid. Gigi, a 22-year-old athletic blonde with 38 million Instagram followers, has been the face of Victoria’s Secret, Tom Ford, Reebok, and Stuart Weitzman and designed namesake collections for Tommy Hilfiger and Maybelline. Bella, one year Gigi’s junior, is a dead ringer for a young Carla Bruni and works with Bulgari, Dior Beauty, Fendi, Nike, and DKNY.
Both sisters ranked on Forbes’s 2017 list of the highest paid models: Gigi tied for No. 5, with $9.5 million, and Bella in ninth place, with $6 million. Jenner took the top spot, at $22 million in earnings, knocking Gisele Bündchen from her throne.
“[The Hadids] come from a mother who was well-known and a well-known dad in his profession, but they work really hard. I mean really, really hard,” says Ivan Bart, the president of IMG Models, which represents the sisters. “They continue to put in the hours and travel around the world, and I think it’s their work ethic and their love of the industry and their desire to really build their brand and their messaging that has made them successful.”
“My advice to future celebrity children,” adds Bart, “is that you were born into a very privileged situation, but now it’s up to you to make that situation into something for yourself.”
The fashion models of any given moment are products of myriad forces: changing attitudes toward women, cultural and political movements, technological advances in how images are created and spread, evolutions in the business of fashion, and, rather simply, what kinds of faces feel fresh relative to what came just before. As with other aesthetic concerns, modeling is a pendulum, but it never quite hits the same mark twice.
Even so, the scrutiny aimed at young women who try their hand at modeling can curdle into an almost vengeful intensity when those young women are the daughters of someone famous. The crowd can’t help but watch their debuts with interest. We want proof that they possess not just stunning good looks and charisma, but the star quality of their parents. If they don’t, a bummer truth is laid bare: Brands and publications sometimes make grabs for easy attention. Fashion is often mercenary, rather than transcendent. But when they do have that extra special something, it’s magic.
Despite its revolutionary origins and rising populism, America loves royalty. Just look at its obsession with the British monarchy. People magazine has put Princess Diana on its cover 57 times, and her funeral in September 1997 drew a US television audience of 33.2 million. Another 22.7 million Americans tuned in for Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding in 2011.
What the Duchess of Cambridge wears, sells out, and early evidence suggests that the same is true of Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s bride-to-be. After she wore Misha Nonoo’s “Husband” button-down to the Invictus Games in September, sales of the simple white shirt rose 3,000 percent on the e-commerce site Orchard Mile. For Americans, motivated as they are by specialness and social ascension, the only thing better than being born into an aristocratic family is being chosen by one.
“The combination of beauty and social entrée is irresistible to Americans. That’s the one jewel in the crown that we couldn’t get,” the Model as Muse co-author Kohle Yohannan says over the phone when I ask why fashion loves models from elite families. “Americans aspire to a social status that, by virtue of not being a royal caste system, they will never have. Our social insecurities and fantasies are lit up by aristocratic beauties.”
A woman who works at a top modeling agency, who asked to remain anonymous because of her company’s media policy, believes that this “children of” moment started with the English model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne. The offspring of an English society family, Delevingne inspired a thousand fan accounts in the early 2010s with her waggish humor and habit of making goofy faces at the camera. Her name was already familiar in fashion, since her older sister Poppy had been modeling for a few years by that time.
Delevingne’s timing was perfect: She signed with Storm Model Management in 2009, and Instagram, fashion’s favorite platform by far, launched in 2010. Spirited, unique models translated incredibly well to social media, and they built large, devoted followings that ignited brands’ interest. Fashion and beauty companies want to work with models who can bring eyeballs to their products and amplify their messaging, and though Instagram fame is available to anyone with a compelling story and a knack for marketing, the children of celebrities have a leg up when it comes to generating public interest. It’s important to note the difference between having personality (a compelling one) and being a personality (famous, with a large presence on social media). A single person can certainly have both qualities, but one does not guarantee the other.
That a model can and should be a personality is not a new idea. In 1983, the Chanel muse Inès de la Fressange told the New York Times, “Models used to be employees. Now, we are friends of the designer. Models are booked because of their personality and style, not because they fit into a mold.”
That momentum built until the late ’80s, when a pantheon of supermodels broke out into the mainstream: Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, and Claudia Schiffer. Tall, imposing, and practically heroic in their beauty, the Supers brought to life all the excess, drama, and exuberance that the era had to offer. Brands used their likenesses everywhere, and in doing so, made them household names.
Kate Moss came around a few years later and, though she hung out with Naomi Campbell and her ilk, her waifish looks completely changed the game. Classical beauties like Carolyn Murphy and Shalom Harlow were big hits in the ’90s, but Moss ushered in a wave of unconventional-looking models who embodied the grungy, minimalist style of the decade. Supermodels were on their way out.
In 1999, the New York Times reported that celebrities had officially ousted models from the covers of women’s magazines like Vogue, Elle, and Cosmopolitan. Allure editor-in-chief Linda Wells told the newspaper, ‘’Nobody cares about models anymore.”
Celebrity culture exploded in the early years of the new millennium, a shimmering, mascara-streaked mess. Magazines like Us Weekly and People fed America’s growing interest in the lives of the rich and famous, but websites like Perez Hilton (founded in 2004) and TMZ (2005) blew it out of the water, ravaging and reporting every inch of the celebrity spectrum. Reality television had proven to be a successful format, so celebrities were given their own reality shows too, like The Osbournes (2002, with Ozzy and co.) and Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica (2003, as in Lachey and Simpson). Then there was The Simple Life (2003), a tale of spoiled, out-of-touch rich kids starring the quintessential early-aughts socialite Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie (daughter of Lionel, half-sister to Sofia).
While America was occupied with Brangelina’s romance and the public meltdowns of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, the runways of the ’00s swelled with models, many of them from Eastern Europe, who were very young, very thin, and totally anonymous to everyone but the most diehard fashion fans. At the same time, Keeping Up With the Kardashians was incubating Kendall Jenner.
The modeling world’s factory-farm mentality has now given way to what Sarah Leon, the director of talent at Next Management, describes as “the age of the individual.”
While many of the models in the pages of magazines and on billboards are still tall, thin, and white, consumer demand for greater diversity of size, race, ability, and gender identity has spurred agencies and brands to cast a wider net. On top of that, brands are increasingly likely to book models precisely because of who they are outside of fashion, making it easy to find skateboarders, bakers, and activists who also model. (They invariably exude an aura of unhurried cool, as cool and unhurried as you can be in the gig economy.) Anti-Agency, one of a few “alternative” modeling agencies that have sprung up in the last few years, lists its models’ other careers next to their names on its website: “Ambar, Classics Student,” “Lucas, Illustrator & Skater.”
This focus on individuality harkens back to the enthusiasm for personality of the late ’80s, but differs drastically in scale. The Supers were household names and brands unto themselves, but their personalities and superhuman beauty shone so brilliantly precisely because there were so few of them. Individuality suggests that everyone has something unique to offer, which punctures stifling standards of beauty and gives more people access to modeling money, all while increasing — perhaps into infinity — the pool of people that brands can contract into selling their goods.
No brand has packed its marketing materials with social media–famous millennials as avidly as Dolce & Gabbana. For three seasons running, its men’s runway shows have been stacked with internet personalities (Cameron Dallas), creative jacks-of-all-trades (Luka Sabbat), and musicians (Raury Deshawn Tullis, who went rogue during the finale of Dolce & Gabbana’s June show in protest of what he felt were regressive values and a Trump-supportive stance from the brand). And there are celebrity offspring aplenty, including Christian Combs, Rafferty Law, Paris Brosnan, Brandon Thomas Lee, Roberto Rossellini, Tuki Brando (grandson of Marlon), Tyler Clinton (nephew of Bill and Hillary), and the Stallone sisters. Like many brands, Dolce & Gabbana sprinkles the odd women’s look into its menswear shows.
Do these lineups drastically improve the brand’s position among young people? D&G didn’t respond to a request for comment on its recent casting choices. But they certainly get fashion editors talking, which is a feat considering how little attention men’s collections receive relative to womenswear.
Penshoppe, a Philippines-based teen brand, confirms that hiring Instagram-famous “children of” like Kendall Jenner, Gigi and Bella Hadid, and, most recently, Kaia Gerber, has moved the needle. Brand director Jeff Bascon says that while his team would never force an endorsement, it does look closely at its models’ presence, follower count, and engagement because its core customers are young men and women who learn about fashion on social media. And as Penshoppe looks to expand its sales beyond Southeast Asia and the Middle East, big names are an asset.
“As we are signing the most watched names in fashion, we are starting to get brand awareness all over the world, including in the US. We have consumers from all countries now asking how they can get our merchandise,” Bascon says.
German designer Philipp Plein says that, when it comes to his runway shows and campaigns, what he loves most is creating a diverse cast of models and “cool personalities.” Plein also loves a spectacle. His runway shows have featured monster trucks, performances from Fergie and Dita Von Teese, and jet skis, as well as Victoria’s Secret angels, the “hot felon” Jeremy Meeks, Paris Hilton, and Teyana Taylor. Brandon Thomas Lee, Presley Gerber, Levi Dylan (grandson of Bob), and Sofia Richie have all appeared on Plein’s runway at one time or another too.
What Plein has gotten from relentlessly playing to our love of celebrity, entertainment, and excess is the distinction of being one of New York Fashion Week’s most talked-about runway shows at a time when many editors are questioning the point of it all. In a lengthy New Year’s Eve Instagram post, Plein wrote that his company hit net sales of more than $300 million in 2017. (Geotag: the Billionaire Mansion restaurant and club in Dubai.)
Yet, writing to Racked by email, Plein is quick to add the caveat that nearly everyone makes when discussing Instagram-famous models and the “children of.”
“For sure social media has an impact in the casting process, but honestly the most important element for me is to find someone that truly embraces the unique DNA of my brands,” he writes.
The “children of” wave comes at a time when little in fashion feels secure. Magazines have been a mess of layoffs and reorganizations over the last few years, as titles like Teen Vogue, GQ, Nylon, and Allure have variously slashed their staff counts and cut print editions as they reorient themselves for a digital future. In 2017, numerous mall chains went bankrupt and shuttered hundreds of stores as they reckoned with shoppers’ growing preference for buying online.
At the same time, the luxury brands and magazines responsible for putting the fantasy in fashion are dealing with their own growing pains. In the last two years, creative leadership has turned over at Calvin Klein, Dior, Saint Laurent, Salvatore Ferragamo, Givenchy, Chloe, and Diane Von Furstenberg, leaving some fans with a sense of whiplash. While creative upheaval leaves room for reinvention, not all of it has been good. A Washington Post headline, referring to Olivier Lapidus’s lackluster debut at Lanvin last fall, read: “There is just no excuse for this ugly, boring fashion.”
In early December, the market research firm Euromonitor released stats showing that luxury sales in the US were on track to decline 4 percent for the year, the first time that’s been the case since the 2008 recession.
“At a time when the political world is in turmoil and populism is on the rise, luxury is becoming less about showing off wealth and more about what we find meaningful,” writes Euromonitor’s Fflur Roberts.
In the midst of this, perhaps brands look at a model with a recognizable name and a sizable social media following and see a safe bet.
“Right now is basically a time when the market is nervous, and people feel there’s more confidence in a known entity,” Yohannan says of the industry’s interest in children of the famous. “Many of these kids I’m sure have talent, and they’re being put in a position to market products. But they don’t come off like Linda Evangelista. She redefined everything. You don’t see a Shalom Harlow or a Naomi Campbell, the talk of the walk, people applauding when the models stepped out.”
What constitutes skill in modeling? In part, it’s the willingness to endure constant travel and long days on set while maintaining a friendly, professional attitude. But, as Yohannan says, it’s more than that: It’s also about the dancerly confidence to produce a runway walk like Campbell’s famous slink, or the ability to chameleon from one shoot to the next, à la Evangelista. In Model as Muse, Yohannan and Koda quote Kate Moss: “If you can make a really bad dress look good, then you’re a good model.”
“The celebrity kid thing is a stepping stone on the way to something else,” says casting director James Scully. “I don’t know if I see that it has legs in it.”
To the agencies’ credit, neither do they. Bart at IMG agrees that fashion is in a major transitional moment — “There are all these new designers taking over big luxury brands, looking for new faces, new models, new ideas” — and he isn’t sure that more “children of” will get into the business. This tracks with his overall stance toward the phenomenon, which is that it totally depends on the individual.
“It’s really about their personality, what they’re communicating, what their interests are,” Bart says. “I have no problem telling a celebrity person that unfortunately for us, they’re not a fit. I have no problem doing that. Everyone we find we believe can get to the next level and that we can work together. Coming from a celebrity doesn’t guarantee you a space at IMG.”
Cordell Broadus, Snoop Dogg’s 20-year-old son, attended his first major fashion show this June. He was originally supposed to fly out to Milan to sit in the front row at Dolce & Gabbana’s menswear presentation, but the designers saw some photo shoots that Broadus, who is 6’3” and a former football player, had done and asked him to walk instead.
New models have a tendency to rush when they take the runway, but Broadus came down the red patchwork carpet at a confident, unhurried pace. He wore a burgundy paisley suit with a big heart embroidered on the left rib cage, an outfit that he, like the other models, had selected himself.
In September, Broadus made the rounds at New York Fashion Week with his grandfather, Vernell Varnado, who’s also known as Poppa Snoop. They went to parties hosted by Interview, Marc Jacobs, and John Varvatos, and attended shows held by Desigual and VFiles, which turned the garage of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn into its runway. In their off time, grandfather and grandson cooked together at their Airbnb.
To many fashion editors’ delight — and to the interest of some people who care not at all about the modeling world — they both walked the runway at Philipp Plein’s blowout show at Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan, emerging one after the other in leather jackets and black skinny jeans. The theme of Plein’s collection was, roughly, “S&M Disney” (Cinderella appeared on T-shirts, bound and ball-gagged), but the family moment was surprising and sweet.
Broadus is relatively new to modeling, and it’s not his career goal. In a phone conversation ahead of fashion week, he said that once he graduates from UCLA, where he is a film major, he wants to direct movies and design clothes. In the last year he’s done both, in the form of his father’s “Toss It” music video and a Joyrich collection inspired by Snoop’s style.
Minutes into our call, he answered my biggest question: Given money and access, why model?
“I’m using fashion as my vehicle to open up new doors and opportunities because fashion is so involved with everything, whether it’s film, music, or business,” Broadus said.
He’s on the right track. Bart says that modeling can provide faster traction than other creative industries. Acting in a film entails months on set, a year in postproduction, and a long press tour, but a fashion shoot transpires in days and hits newsstands is a matter of months. A good editorial or two can snowball into numerous other opportunities. At the same time, developing a strong personal style can help young people distinguish themselves from their parents.
“Who would Gaga be without her outfits?” Scully says. “That is her way to tell the world, ‘This is who I am.’”
Even the biggest supermodels in the world have sought to develop careers beyond fashion. Nobody makes that more clear than Cindy Crawford, the original branded model who leapt from modeling to hosting MTV’s House of Style in 1989, to acting, to starting her own beauty brand in 2005.
“When you first start modeling, you start setting certain goals, like I want to do a Cosmo cover, I want to do a Vogue cover, I want a cosmetic contract, and so far, those goals I’ve achieved,” Crawford said in the 1991 documentary Models: The Film. “I think what I’m working on now is taking the momentum that I’ve built in modeling and using that go to other places.”
The divide between fashion and the rest of the entertainment industry is more porous than ever. In the same way that skateboarders and art curators are finding representation at modeling agencies, so are entertainers.
In 2009, the agency Next Models changed its name to Next Management, suggesting a broader focus; that year, it launched a “digital influencers” division to represent the new wave of internet celebrities who were making bank for themselves and for brands. In addition to top runway models, Next now represents musicians (Angel Haze, Diplo), bloggers (Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast), It girls (Alexa Chung, Harley Viera-Newton), and actors (Harry Potter’s Bonnie Wright; Édgar Ramirez, currently starring in American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace). Next also reps “children of,” like Brandon Lee, Levi Dylan, and Selah Marley (daughter of Lauryn Hill, granddaughter of Bob Marley).
Celebrity divisions are now common at modeling agencies, though there’s a great disparity in how well-developed they are. Next has a significant roster but only works with its clients on fashion shoots and beauty campaigns, leaving the rest of their projects to their other managers.
“We very much made a decision to stay in our lane as a fashion and beauty agency,” says Leon.
IMG Models closed the loop on entertainment and modeling in 2013 when, along with IMG’s sports and events arms, it was acquired by the powerhouse Hollywood agency William Morris Endeavor for $2.3 billion. At IMG, crossover with WME is very much a goal. In an interview at the agency’s New York office, Ivan Bart repeatedly mentioned his hope of having a model achieve the highest tier of success in the entertainment industry.
“I’m still waiting, and it still hasn’t happened, for the model client that actually will be nominated in a major category, whether it’s a Golden Globe, an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy, a Grammy,” Bart says. “We’ve had a lot of models that have crossed over and done acting work, but to get to that prestigious mode, that’s an opportunity that has yet to come.”
From the men’s division, which IMG relaunched in 2012 after selling it off in 2007, Bart hopes to see a “Ryan Gosling and a Ryan Seacrest,” the latter being “a host that communicates well and builds a brand in media.”
He references Cameron Dallas, the 23-year-old Vine and YouTube star, as an example of a WME client who has made successful forays into modeling through IMG. It worked, Bart explains, because Dallas was interested in fashion, he had “built-in followers that nobody had ever seen,” and IMG knew how to connect him with the right brands. Dallas has now shot campaigns for Calvin Klein, American Eagle, and Dolce & Gabbana.
As though to signal its investment in Hollywood, IMG opened a new office in Los Angeles in June. Bart walked me through his reasons for doing so.
One: It gives models a home base as they pursue work in entertainment.
Two: LA is a great place to scout diverse talent (“cool skateboarders and artists, things that come out of the California scene”).
Three: It’s becoming a fashion hub with true international pull, as brands like Dior, Saint Laurent, and H&M hold major fashion shows and industry events there.
Four: It means IMG can work with young, LA-based models at the start of their careers.
“If we’re going to start minors, and that’s anyone from 16 up, we want them to have experience but under very guided, closely watched care,” says Bart. “We have a lot of minors that are living in LA, and instead of traveling to New York, right in their backyard we can start doing tests and regional work where they get experience.”
Many celebrities live in LA, and many of those celebrities have kids. So did IMG open its LA office to sign those children? No, Bart says.
One such minor who lives at home in LA is Cindy Crawford’s daughter Kaia Gerber, who signed with IMG in 2015. Among the “children of” who model, Gerber is in a different class. She’s fashion royalty. Designers, photographers, and editors necessarily register her differently than a Baldwin or a Stallone or even a Hadid. It’s hard to overstate the attachment that people in the fashion industry still feel to the vibrant, unabashed glamour of the late ’80s, and to the supermodels who anchored it all.
Donatella Versace designed her fashion show this September as an electrifying tribute to her brother and the house’s founder, Gianni Versace, who was murdered in 1997. Models stalked the simple white runway wearing baroque cheetah prints and boxy denim jackets, and as the final models trailed out, the room faded to black. When the lights came back up, five OG Versace models — Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, and Helena Christensen — were assembled in a tableau wearing liquid gold gowns. The raves were instantaneous, with fashion critic Alexander Fury declaring it “the best fashion show I’ve ever seen.”
Gerber, who walked in that show and is now starring in the collection’s ad campaign, represents a connection to a time when fashion was epic. The pressure to live up to her mother’s legacy is a weighty one.
“Kaia knew, ‘I have to be ready for the role,’” says Bart. “It’s a responsibility, and she took it and understands that she has to work hard and build her own relationships.”
By all accounts, Gerber is serious about modeling. This September, her first time out on the fashion week circuit, she walked for brands like Alexander Wang, Chanel, Valentino, and Miu Miu. In the months since, Gerber has appeared on the cover of Paris Vogue, in Vogue, and in Calvin Klein’s campaign with her brother, Presley. In turn, Presley Gerber and his mother are co-starring in a remake of her iconic 1992 Pepsi commercial, which aired during the Super Bowl.
While the famous parents put their children on the map, the “children of” also reframe their parents. J.D. Ostojic, a silver-haired model and one of the stars of Lifetime’s Growing Up Supermodel, says that the inroads his son Janis has made into modeling have reignited his own career. Ostojic quit the business years ago, but when Janis went into an agency to discuss signing a contract, he wound up inking one, too.
Heading into the John Varvatos party with Cordell Broadus and his stylish, young friends, Poppa Snoop told me, “I’m 67 years old, and they’re giving me youth again because I’m in with the new generation.”
The “children of” trend overtly caters to our interest in celebrities and their families, but oddly, people in the fashion industry are sometimes reluctant to discuss it. They get cagey, as though anticipating unflattering questions about nepotism. Do these kids deserve what they’ve gotten? Are they taking jobs away from more “legitimate” models? Are the agencies, designers, and magazines who work with them selling out?
Maybe it’s the specter of powerful parents hovering over the conversation, or perhaps it’s pure protectiveness. Teenage models are so often treated, photographed, and regarded as adults, but you can never forget that a “child of” is actually someone’s child.
But who can blame them for trying? Celebrity kids are just that, kids trying to figure out how to exist in the world, however significant their privilege.
Barbara Pfister, a casting director who worked on Kaia Gerber’s first solo magazine cover, for Pop, describes Gerber’s maturity level as “not that of a teenager” — that is, she was impressed by the then-14-year-old’s professionalism. Others interviewed observed that the celebrity children they’d worked with were on the whole more comfortable in the company of older people than models who came from more sheltered backgrounds.
Speaking before fashion week, Broadus expressed a keen sense of duty to those who follow him on social media.
“I’d always wanted to design clothes, but I didn’t have the courage to follow those interests because I was a football player. It’s a very masculine world,” Broadus says. “I think I was depressed and confused, and I was just waiting for someone in my age range to speak up and be vocal and say, ‘You can be whatever you want.’ After a while, it didn’t come, so I said, you know what, I’ll be that for any other kid who doesn’t feel like they’re enough or isn’t happy with the decisions they’re making.”
Arissa LeBrock, the daughter of model and actress Kelly LeBrock and actor Steven Seagal, echoed that feeling while getting her hair done backstage at the Mac Duggal fashion show in September. At the time, she was starring in Growing Up Supermodel, which wound up getting canceled midway through the season. As a plus-size model, LeBrock said she was thrilled about the feedback she got from women who watched the show.
“They say that I make them feel good about themselves, and I have little girls who say, ‘Arissa shows me it’s okay to be myself and that anything’s possible.’ I’m just one of those girls in the plus-size community that’s trying to make a change,” says LeBrock. “I feel like frickin’ Superman.”
Eliza Brooke is a senior reporter at Racked.