Yolanda Foster

Foster wears a Carolina Herrera top and skirt.
Culture Diet
Culture

Supermodel "Mama Bear" Yolanda Hadid on How She Kept Gigi and Bella From Competing With Each Other

Yolanda Hadid will be the first to admit that when it comes to hosting a modeling competition show, there's no competing with Tyra Banks. If there's anyone who could get close, though, it's Hadid: Her daughters Gigi and Bella might be supermodels—and let's not forget that their oft underrated brother, Anwar, is a model, too—but Yolanda has them all beat, having started off her own decades-long modeling career when she was just 16, breaking into the industry before she'd even seen a fashion magazine. It gave her the wisdom to make sure her kids didn't start modeling until they turned 18, but she's hardly out of touch with the much, much different way things are done today. In fact, Yolanda is rather social media savvy; she even has an Instagram account for her fridge.)

Nothing makes her expertise more obvious, though, than her new Lifetime show Making a Model With Yolanda Hadid, which premiered mid-January and is wrapping up with a four-episode extravaganza this Sunday. The series stars five models undergoing an eight-week training program "focused on the physical, mental, and emotional strength needed to create a successful brand as a model"—along with, quite notably, their mothers, whom Yolanda schools in the art of being there for their kids, sometimes by making them sleep in bunkbeds together. (It almost goes without saying that the show is filled with the requisite America's Next Top Model-levels of drama; Yolanda is, after all, an alum of Real Housewives.)

Spoiler alert: In the end, Yolanda said, "it wasn’t really about finding a supermodel," but pursuing your dreams and especially maintaining a healthy mother-daughter relationship, the latter of which is always at the forefront of her mind as a self-proclaimed "mama bear" to her children and their friends. She's also getting into farming, developing a gin, and staying up to date on what seem to be her biggest loves outside of her family: AOL and Sam Smith. Now that the show's wrapping up, she talks juggling it all, from keeping Gigi and Bella from being competitive to catching Mariah Carey's performance at Karl Lagerfeld's birthday party, in her culture diet, here.

What got you inspired to do this show?
Well, after I got off Housewives, I took a break and was going to focus on writing my book Believe Me [My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme Disease]. I didn’t really think about going back on TV, but then I was asked to come in for a meeting with Lifetime, and they pitched me this idea of a modeling show. I just loved the women in the boardroom, because they were really open to making it more about the mother-daughter relationship. It was really important to me to make it about one of the real important things in life because obviously, you know, Tyra Banks kind of owns the modeling show, and I didn’t feel that I wanted to or could compete with that. So it all evolved from there, and ended up being perfect timing for me, because it made me move to New York and be closer to my girls.

Gigi Hadid Reveals the Secret to Her Signature Runway Walk:

Like you mentioned, America's Next Top Model is usually the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to modeling competition shows. Have you watched it? Are you a fan of Tyra's?
I did when it first started, because seven years ago, when I got sick with Lyme disease, I actually stopped watching TV. But I think she’s amazing—she’s a great young woman who’s done an amazing job with her brand, for sure.

The show often gets pretty emotional. Was there anything you really took away from it in the end, whether about the industry at large or the mother-daughter relationship, at the end of all that?
Because I got started in the industry so young myself, I obviously had a lot of experience with that. But I was really interested in that relationship, because I think that in today’s world, with social media and everyone being on their phones all day and all night, we’re starting to lose the art of communication with those that are closest to us and our family units, which I think is a really important subject to talk about. The show ended up being a great vehicle for that, because the girls slept with their moms in a bunkbed for nine weeks, and there were no phones allowed during the day, unless it was for work. It was a really great time to see moms and daughters learn how to work through problems and communicate without getting mad or upset—and just reconnect and get heart-to-heart.

Did your mom play any role in your modeling career?
No, mine didn’t. I grew up in a really small town in Holland called Papendrecht, and I’d never seen a fashion magazine when I became a model. I was not educated at all, and I was kind of thrown into it by accident—or maybe because it was my destiny, but at the time it felt like an accident. So I kind of discovered and went on a path of my own, but I had a great foundation: The way my mom raised me was very strict but free, and she gave me the greatest gift, which was work ethic. I think I’ve carried that through my life, and it's probably the true foundation of the success I’ve had. And you know, my mom and I are close, but imagine: At that time, there were no cell phones, so on Saturdays I’d buy two rolls of quarters and I’d go to the corner of a street of New York and call my mom in Holland from a payphone. The quarters would go so fast, so it would be rushing to be like, "I love you I love you!!!" [Laughs.] It was a very different time from today.

Gigi and Bella are obviously quite involved with the show, but we don’t get to see much of Anwar, even in general. Does he prefer to stay out of the spotlight?
Yeah, Anwar’s actually kind of shy. Unless I push him into things, he likes to be in the background and do his thing. It’s just not part of his nature, and I try to really respect that.

Yolanda Hadid and Gigi Hadid on Lifetime's Making a Model with Yolanda Hadid.
Polina Yamshchikov, © 2018

Have Gigi and Bella ever been competitive when it comes to modeling?
No, because I taught them at a very early age that it’s not about competing with anybody—it’s about becoming your personal best. Elbowing other women—well, there’s just already enough space for everyone to shine. And in Gigi and Bella’s case, they’re so different, especially with their looks. In the industry, if someone’s looking for you know, the all-American, blonde, blue eyes, they’re not gonna book Bella, and if they’re looking for someone darker and exotic, they’re not gonna book Gigi. So they’re not in competition, and I think they got that messaging very early on, before they even started their careers.

Of all the hurdles, was there anything in particularly they struggled with when getting into modeling, like dealing with social media?
You hit it right on the head. I think that social media, as much as a blessing it is to anyone who wants to do any kind of business out in the world, it also means you open up your life and are held under a microscope and judged 24/7. It takes away a lot of your privacy. But I guess that’s the price to pay for having much easier, and global, access to the industry. You know, when I wanted to break into markets at 16 or 17 years old, I had to live in places like Tokyo, New York, and Paris for three or four months at a time, and I’d go with my portfolio and do 10 or 12 go-sees a day. It took a long time to get bookings, because we didn’t have social media. I think it’s an amazing tool, but we don’t quite understand yet how its long-term effects our children.

Getting into the culture questions, what TV shows other than your own have been keeping you up at night?
You know, I don’t really watch TV. Because of my Lyme journey, I lost the ability to watch TV for many years, and now I like to go to the movies or see documentaries I’m interested in. I just watched a great documentary on food called What the Health, which I quite liked. But I’m not really into TV—I much prefer to read books or write. I’m very into writing at the moment, so I’m on a different vibe. [Laughs.]

Is What the Health the last movie you’ve seen recently?
Yes, and it was pretty crazy. I haven’t eaten meat since. [Laughs.] It’s been a couple of months, actually.

What’s the first thing you read in the morning?
I try not to read first thing when I wake up; I like to check in and meditate and do the holistic program that I do. Then, maybe the second hour, I’ll get into my emails and read the news. I’m very old-fashioned—I’m still on AOL, which is probably very embarrassing. [Laughs.] But I love the AOL news page in the morning, so I’ll quickly scroll through that, and that’s it.

What books have you been reading lately?
I’m ready a book on botanicals, which I’m studying right now, because I’m very interested in the human properties of it and I’m kind of thinking of starting to develop a gin, so I want to be educated. It’s a whole different thing.

Wow, you've really been changing things up lately, since you just got a farm, too.
Yeah, it’s pretty wild, because I’m growing so many things right now, and I’m reading a book about lavender, essential oils, and how to build a distillery to actually make my own essential oils at home. Botanicals and farming and things are really what I’m wrapped up in at the moment. [Laughs.]

Just to be clear, you mean a gin, not a gym, right?
Yes, gin, like gin and tonic! Because I lived in Switzerland a couple of months ago, and I was at the dental office and they were selling gin, and I was like, Why are you selling gin in a dental office? They explained that there’s a lot of healing properties in it—if you drink only one a day, it works as a kidney flush and flushes out toxins. Then I started reading studies about people that drink a gin and tonic every day and the health benefits, and so I’m really obsessed with it. When I get something in my head, I want to read the facts and understand it, so that’s how I got to this book on botanicals.

Yolanda Hadid and Bella Hadid on Lifetime's Making a Model with Yolanda Hadid.
Zach Dilgard, © 2018

Switching gears to quite a different topic, do you buy art? What’s the last piece of art you bought?
You know what? I don’t really buy art. I’m more about making art. I have a huge wall of art that I made with my kids. Sunday afternoons, we like to sit around and paint. I've created some large-scale, eight by 10 canvases, huge pieces, so I don’t really shop that much.

What about music? What’s the last song you had on repeat?
I’m very into music—right now, I love that song "Champagne Cloud" by Malia Civetz. And I’m really crazy into Sam Smithlove Sam Smith. I’m such a romantic! [Laughs.]

What’s the last concert that you went to?
I haven’t been to one in probably eight years—it was Andrea Bocelli, which is probably not your kind of music. But I went to Karl Lagerfeld’s birthday in October and Mariah Carey performed, so that was really cool.

What’s the last thing you googled?
Something about lavender oils.

Getting back to social media, what are your favorite accounts to follow?
I love following my kids, seeing what they do and speak about. But I’m probably not as into it as most people. For me, it’s all about pictures, so I love following Vogue, W, CR Fashion Book, all the magazines, to see what’s going on in fashion. That’s mainly why I look at it.

Do you follow any of your kids’ friends?
Yes, I follow all of my kids’ friends—that’s very important, because they’re my kids, too. I’m like the mama bear of all of them, so I watch them all and see what they’re doing. There’s Olivia, Alana, Allie, but I mean, I really love them all the same.

Do you read your horoscope?
I do, every day. I’m a Capricorn.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?
I pray that I have another healthy day tomorrow.

Last thing: Besides Fashion Week, Valentine’s Day is also coming up. Do you have any plans?
No, no plans. Probably just dinner with my girls and my son, because he’s in town, too, so I’m going to have dinner with the kids.

Are you stealing Gigi away for the night? She and Zayn really seem like the type who'd want to celebrate.
No, no, no, of course not. If she has a date, then I’m not going to be part of that! [Laughs.] I definitely wasn’t invited to that one. But no, no real plans yet.

Related: Yolanda Hadid's Kitchen Is a Shrine to Bella and Gigi's Magazine Covers