For Gigi Hadid, perhaps the only greater relief than discovering her last look after a long day of shooting is a bathrobe is to make that discovery after a day so long that it actually began the day before. Maybe that's why she announced one recent afternoon that she would be "staying in character"—aka her bathrobe—for the length of a lengthy Q&A.
Hadid's schedule may sound like a nightmare, but in this case, it could have been worse. Her jetlag was the result of taking an overnight flight (with the designer Alexander Wang) from California to New York and then a car to the Carlyle Hotel, just in time for the announcement that she would be one of the four women to star in the upcoming 2019 Pirelli calendar photographed by Albert Watson—a modeling milestone that, before she turned 23 this April, Hadid has already hit twice.
Whereas the 2015 calendar with Steven Meisel had a teenaged Hadid “so shy and terrified” that she doesn’t recall speaking that day, this time, she spent it joking with her companion in the shoot: Wang, who also witnessed Hadid pull the exact same pro move that her sister Bella has in front of him so many times—falling asleep instantly after hearing the call for a 15-minute break.
In the 2019 calendar, Gigi plays a Paris Hilton-esque heiress, currently hiding out from the world for months in a hotel penthouse, and Wang her confidante. Both characters were dreamed up by Watson, who’s photographed more than 100 covers of Vogue across the world, and who laboriously crafted four stories about four women and their ideas of goals, dreams, and success for the calendar. (Misty Copeland, who along with Julia Garner and Laetitia Casta, is another one of this year's stars, so convincingly played her role of a stripper that the owner of the Miami strip club where they shot mistook her for a local he could hire.)
To her surprise, Hadid found her role startlingly familiar from the start. Other than being blonde and a celebrity, she and Hilton don’t have too much in common; Hadid, for example, would almost always rather be on her family farm. The more she got into character, though, the more she discovered that she was able to relate, thanks to her life of “always traveling alone."
Being surrounded by “hundreds of people” who have her first and foremost on their minds, Hadid explained, isn’t nearly as glamorous as it looks. “At the end of the night I’m in a hotel room by myself in a country where I don’t know anyone, and the time’s weird so no one at home is awake and there’s no one to talk to, and I find myself in this same situation as this character—kind of lonely and sad,” she told a group of reporters barely two minutes into meeting them.
“But I think that there’s kind of a beauty in that, in terms of getting to know and how to fulfill yourself, and learning how to find strength, you know what I mean?” she continued. “Over the last few years, I’ve really learned that for me, that’s going to the farm and kind of shutting off and not putting on hair and makeup and not worrying about that kind of stuff, because it gets too overwhelming, and then I feel like I’m not able to be really present mentally at work. So, yeah. I relate to this character because she’s okay with feeling sadness in sad times, and then knowing how to grow from that.”
A mother in the room couldn’t help but remark on Hadid’s maturity, prompting the supermodel to thank her. “I guess it was kind of put into words for me this year, but I’ve realized I’ve always had kind of a guilt of privilege,” Hadid said, with a surprising degree of vulnerability to the assembled media. “When I came into modeling, I really worked so hard to prove myself. It was the same in high school; everything that I wanted to do, I wanted to be great at, because I wanted not only not to be defined by my parents’ success, but also not to be defined by... ” She paused. "... being pretty."
Likewise, Hadid felt “so blessed” to also have such familiarity with the character Wang played—that of a friend who’s there for her in “dark times,” like when she’s going down a privilege guilt spiral. “It’s tough to hear, you know, She doesn’t deserve it because this or that. You don’t necessarily believe it fully, but you start to kind of have that in the back of your head,” she said, taking care to also give a shout-out to her industry friends like Blake Lively, who “really understand what I’m going through.”
And Lively may soon have to watch her back. It turns out that Hadid would in fact “love to act”—just not playing the roles she’s sent “every week, like ‘the model’ or ‘the girlfriend.’” In the meantime, you know exactly where to find her: “I’d rather do one or two great movies in my life than do a bunch of random cameos"—especially, she added, "when I could just be at the farm."