She may have been holed up on her family farm, but that hasn’t stopped the supermodel from engaging with the outside world. In an exclusive Q&A, our cover star talks life in self-isolation, the future of Fashion Week, and her passionate need to speak up about what matters.
ELLE: Like many prominent people, you have been using your platform to raise awareness about the Black Lives Matter movement. You recently wrote on Instagram, “I’ve been sitting here listening. Understanding. Educating myself. Making calls to demand justice. Donating. And reaching out to friends just in case they feel hurt or lost this week.” As a public figure, what do you see as your responsibility to younger people who look up to you?
Bella Hadid: I have so much responsibility to use my platform for good, especially as I get older. I want young girls and boys to know that it is okay to use your voice and demand justice for what is important to you. I want them to know it’s okay to be empathetic and gentle, but to be strong and speak your truth at the same time.
ELLE: This moment is forcing us to take a hard look at the industries we work in, and fashion has been under particular scrutiny. Where do you think the fashion industry needs to change in terms of diversity and inclusion?
BH: Going into the next season, my fear is having to see another one of my Black girlfriends get her hair burned by a hair straightener, or do her own makeup because the makeup artist hasn’t been trained to work with all different skin types. I hate that some of my Black friends feel the way they do. Even if they’re sitting front row, they’re not feeling accepted. Our industry is supposed to be about expression and individuality, but the reality is that [many people] still discriminate because of exactly [those differences].
ELLE: How do you think things will change as a result of COVID, in terms of shows and how shoots work? Are you personally rethinking the way you work? What does the fantasy fashion industry of the future look like to you?
BH: I’ve had a lot of time to reflect during my quarantine, and I’m really eager to get back to work and make art again. Moving into the next season, I hope we can find a proactive way to move forward in a safe, healthy way. I think that our sets will be smaller and more intimate, which will be nice for a change. We’ll also need to be aware of not using the same makeup brushes at shows, and implement many other health regulations to keep people safe. There is a lot to learn and a lot to do, but I feel with the right people, fashion can change everything.
ELLE: This is not the first time you’ve used your platform to speak about political issues that are important to you: You’ve spoken about attending a protest in 2017 against Trump’s executive order to ban visa entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries, for example. What makes you decide to speak up about a given issue, and do you feel any nervousness about speaking out and possibly alienating your audience? Do you feel that the importance of expressing your beliefs outweighs losing a few followers here and there?
BH: Horrible tragedies happen worldwide on a daily basis, and I have a responsibility to speak up for the people who are not being heard or don’t have a platform. I’ve come to realize that it’s often not about what you say, but how you say it. I never feel nervous about expressing myself when I believe in something. I don’t want any of my followers to feel alienated by my posts, but there are things that I must speak up about. One post can educate a lot of people, and most of the time, what I write resonates with my followers and they realize that they are not alone. I hope people can feel empowered by that. If I am passionate about something, I will talk about it, and talk and talk and talk. For me, it’s not about losing followers or gaining followers, it’s about educating people and giving a platform to the voices that need to be heard
ELLE: Since the quarantine began, you have been living at your family farm in Pennsylvania. What do you miss most about New York?
BH: I miss smiling at people. I miss hugging, a lot. I miss walking around and listening to music. It’s different when you’re in the city. You can walk forever—going nowhere and somehow still feeling like you’ve got somewhere to be.
ELLE: What do you miss most about everyday life pre-quarantine?
BH: Working. After a few years of being a workaholic—not being home for more than five days—I found spending three months at home [intense].
ELLE: You recently participated in a remote campaign for Jacquemus—what was that like? How have these kinds of remote shoots changed the way you approach modeling?
BH: I love both [designer] Simon [Porte Jacquemus] and [photographer] Pierre-Ange [Carlotti]. It turned out great. It was the first online shoot I had done, so I was still trying to figure out the logistics behind the scenes. They are two of my favorite people to work with, and it doesn’t really feel like work when we do! We just FaceTimed, laughed, took screenshots, I changed outfits a few times, and then we were done!