Gigi Hadid On Motherhood and Life Beyond Modeling

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Cover Look
Model Gigi Hadid wears a Prada coat. To get this look, try: Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation, Fit Me! Blush in Plum, FaceStudio Master Holographic Prismatic Highlighter in Opal, The City Mini Eyeshadow Palette in Matte About Town, TattooStudio Longwear Brow Pencil in Blonde, Lash Sensational Sky High Washable Mascara Makeup, TattooStudio Sharpenable Gel Pencil Longwear Eyeliner in Smooth Walnut, Color Sensational The Mattes, Matte Finish Lipstick in Blushing Pout. All by Maybelline New York. Hair, Jimmy Paul; makeup, Dick Page. Set design, Julia Wagner.
Photographed by Ethan James Green, Vogue, March 2021

To listen to Chloe Malle read this profile, click the play button below:

I THINK THEY ALL knew that I have that animal in me,” says Gigi Hadid, relaxed and bright from the December cold. The 25-year-old model is astride a cinnamon-colored quarter horse named Dallas and telling me about the birth of her baby in September, here at her home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, following a 14 hour labor.  At her side were her partner, Zayn Malik; her mother, Yolanda; her sister, Bella; and a local midwife and her assistant. “When you see someone do that, you look at them a bit differently. I probably looked crazy, actually,” she says, a giggle tinged with pride. “I was an animal woman.” 

Malik caught the baby. “It didn’t even click that she was out,” says Gigi, gazing forward through Dallas’s alert ears as we plod through the upper fields of Harmony Hollow, the farm owned by Yolanda’s boyfriend, Joseph Jingoli, a construction-firm CEO. “I was so exhausted, and I looked up and he’s holding her. It was so cute.”

She’s in a cropped North Face puffer, stretch Zara jeans, and worn black riding boots, and looks like neither a harried mother of a 10-week-old nor a paparazzi-ducking supermodel. With her hair roped into a smooth bun, bare face, and tiny gold hoop earrings, she resembles mostly her teenage self, an equestrienne who show-jumped competitively while growing up in her hometown of Santa Barbara, California.

“What I really wanted from my experience was to feel like, Okay, this is a natural thing that women are meant to do.” She’d planned to deliver at a New York City hospital, but then the realities of COVID hit—particularly sequestering here, 90 minutes from Manhattan, and the limits on numbers in the delivery room, which would have precluded Yolanda and Bella from being present. Then she and Malik watched the 2008 documentary The Business of Being Born, which is critical of medical interventions and depicts a successful home birth. “We both looked at each other and were like, I think that’s the call,” Gigi says.

They placed a blow-up bath in their bedroom and sent their three cats and border collie away when the midwife expressed concern that the sphynx and Maine coon felines might puncture the tub with their claws. Malik asked Gigi what music she wanted to hear, and she surprised him by requesting the audio of a favorite children’s novel, The Indian in the Cupboard. He downloaded the film because it was one of his favorites too, and they spent the early hours of labor watching it together. “That’s something we’d never talked about but in that moment we discovered we both loved,” Gigi says bashfully. She then tells me that Malik, the former One Direction star turned solo artist, who is famously press-shy (Gigi’s publicist declined on his behalf to an interview), likened his own experience of her birth to a lion documentary he’d seen in which a male lion paces nervously outside the cave while the lioness delivers her cubs. “Z was like, ‘That’s how I felt! You feel so helpless to see the person you love in pain.’”

Full Spectrum
“In high school I used to Xerox Steven Meisel’s pictures and color them in with pencil. When asked to do a cover story for Vogue’s creativity issue, I thought back to that first creative output. It was a way to play with the idea of fantasy in fashion,” says Ethan James Green of his inspiration for this digital cover.

Gigi’s Zoom doula, Malibu High classmate Carson Meyer, had prepared her for the moment where the mother feels she can’t go any longer without drugs. “I had to dig deep,” Gigi says. “I knew it was going to be the craziest pain in my life, but you have to surrender to it and be like, ‘This is what it is.’ I loved that.” Yolanda and the midwife coached Gigi through the pain. “There definitely was a point where I was like, I wonder what it would be like with an epidural, how it would be different,” Gigi says frankly. “My midwife looked at me and was like, ‘You’re doing it. No one can help you. You’re past the point of the epidural anyway, so you’d be pushing exactly the same way in a hospital bed.’” So she kept pushing.

“I know my mom and Zayn and Bella were proud of me, but at certain points I saw each of them in terror,” says Gigi, ducking under a leafless branch, Dallas’s hooves sucking in the muddy terrain. “Afterward, Z and I looked at each other and were like, We can have some time before we do that again.”

The baby girl—named Khai, Gigi revealed on Instagram in January, from the Arabic for “the chosen one”—was a week late. “She was so bright right away,” Gigi says, adding that the baby’s heart rate stayed consistent throughout the labor. “That’s what I wanted for her, a peaceful bringing to the world.”

Khai’s world has, so far, remained small. Her mother rarely leaves the bucolic corner of horse country where the Hadids put down roots in 2017 (Malik bought a nearby farm). The shoot for this story, in early December at a studio in Manhattan, was the first time Gigi had left her daughter since the birth. Yolanda took over caregiving duties, even bringing her granddaughter along to feed the miniature ponies Mamma and Muku. Gigi has no nanny, no baby nurse, none of the traditional celebrity crutches of new motherhood. (During our interview the baby stayed with her father and Zayn’s mother, Trisha, who is visiting from England for a month to help.)

First Impressions
Gigi and her partner, Zayn Malik, chose a home birth. “What I really wanted was to feel like, Okay, this is a natural thing that women are meant to do.” Alexander McQueen jacket and dress (in an image colorized by the photographer)
Photographed by Ethan James Green, Vogue, March 2021

“She decided to completely take care of the baby alone,” says Yolanda, awed, “and I think that bond is so important.” The Dutch former model turned Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum was my welcoming party when I arrived at the farm, booming “Hello!,” her arms wide on the threshold, in a camo-print puffer and Ugg boots. “I’m proud of her face on a magazine, but seeing her give birth was a whole other level of proud,” Yolanda says. “You go from looking at her as a daughter to looking at her as a fellow mother.”

THE NATURAL TRANSITIONS AND generational shifts of new motherhood are at play in the Hadid household. It is a family happily in flux: On the sprawling 32-acre property, the handful of cottages are designated for different siblings, but this summer, when Gigi moved out of her cottage into Zayn’s house, Bella and brother Anwar graduated to larger cottages, leaving the smallest as a guesthouse. “We’re still close by,” says Gigi, “but we have our space to be our own little family.” She hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the first time this year, with Zayn’s mother, cooking the turkey. Gigi (a prolific home cook herself) made Banoffee pie and baked Yolanda’s favorite tarte tatin. Bella and Yolanda carted over stuffing and spiked apple cider in the Kubota RTV. Gigi got her Christmas tree early for the occasion, dressing it with personal ornaments that she and Malik have exchanged over the years, the most recent being a glass Nintendo console, a reference to a favorite quarantine activity. “I decorated fully without my mom’s help, and I think I did her proud,” Gigi says.

They are a tribe publicly known for their closeness: Yolanda the doting den mother, Gigi the fresh-faced, protective older sister, Bella the edgier Veronica to Gigi’s Betty, and aloof baby brother Anwar. Joining Gigi and Yolanda in the kitchen for lattes and cinnamon rolls before our horseback ride, I witness these roles confirmed. Yolanda hovers by the sink drinking a smoothie and finishing Gigi’s sentences when she grasps for a word. Gigi threatens to “have a conniption” if Anwar eats her cinnamon roll when he ambles out of his cottage.

But motherhood is a new phase, and it will be up to Gigi to decide whether it belongs on the silhouette screen of social media. “I think she wants to be real online,” says Bella, 24, by phone from New York City, “but until her child wants to be in the spotlight and can make the decision herself, she doesn’t want to put her in that position.” Bella, who splits her time between her SoHo loft and “The Farm” (and FaceTimes with her niece and sister every morning), says she already enjoys reading books aloud that Gigi used to read to her, including The Rainbow Fish and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “It’s pretty nostalgic,” Bella says.

Gigi in a Proenza Schouler crop top, a painterly Marni skirt, and JW Anderson strappy sandals.Photographed by Ethan James Green, Vogue, March 2021
Mama Bird
Gigi in a Chanel feathered cape, top, pants, and pearl belts. Chained platform sandals by Versace.
Photographed by Ethan James Green, Vogue, March 2021

It could be argued that we’re all hungry caterpillars this year, cocooning and comfort-eating with a hope of emerging bright-winged and vaccinated. Gigi once split her time between her condo in NoHo and the first-class cabins of airplanes. When lockdowns began, she had just returned from walking fashion shows in four countries and discovering that she was pregnant. On the other end of COVID, she will emerge as a mother, happily headquartered in rural Pennsylvania—still a supermodel but one determined to lead a more secluded, less peripatetic life. “I always want to be here full-time,” she tells me. “I love the city, but this is where I’m happiest.”

Furious speculation and countless think pieces have attended the question of what this time will mean: Will we slow down? Flee cities for a less frenzied, more mindful life? In many ways, Gigi is the echt embodiment of such ideas: the chicest, most glamorous version, yes, but also a person drawn to reassessment. “It feels like now I’m in a different place in my life,” she says. And she does seem genuinely at home: At the wheel of her Chevy Silverado, after our horseback ride, she names the local farmers markets and antiques stores she likes to frequent, and ticks off the various dishes she perfected during quarantine cooking. Malik is comfortably ensconced as well, with a recording studio on his property where he’s been working on his next album.

In Yolanda’s classic Bucks County stone Colonial, soupçons of Jenner abound. On each corner of a white marble mantel sits a framed glamour shot of Gigi and Bella, and at the far end of the kitchen an entire wall is hung with Gigi and Bella magazine covers in matching silver frames. “We’re going to end up in the laundry room!” says Yolanda proudly. (“My Vogue cover is not gonna go in the laundry room!” says Gigi.) Apart from Gigi’s childhood stints modeling for Guess, Gigi and Bella were shielded by their mother from the industry until they were 18. “I never wanted them to be in that life until they had some sense of who they were as human beings, as women,” Yolanda explains, “and I think that worked very well.”

Gigi is unfailingly polite. When she arrived 10 minutes late for our interview, she apologized profusely and seemed out of breath, as if she’d actually run here. As we settle into Yolanda’s ponyskin-pillowed breakfast nook, Gigi moves an enormous split quartz crystal so we have a direct view of each other. She scrolls through her iPhone looking for photos of the baby’s nursery to show me, apologizing once again and assuring me she is paying attention. She credits her mother for teaching her how to be: “She always used to say, ‘There are a lot of pretty girls, and if you’re not the nicest and most hardworking, there’s going to be someone prettier, nicer, and more hardworking.’ ”

By most accounts, since Gigi began her career in 2014, she’s been just that. “She is the personification of beast mode,” says stylist Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, a friend since she and Gigi met on a Vogue shoot (at the time Karefa-Johnson was fashion assistant to Vogue’s Tonne Goodman). “She has to master everything. Once I went into one of those escape rooms with her, and it just became CSI: Miami. She handled it; we escaped in record time.” Karefa-Johnson, who styled Vogue’s cover this month and these accompanying images, says that drive was on display on set. “She was dedicated to doing the job she would have done before she was spending the whole night up for feedings.”

Most mothers 10 weeks postpartum are not called upon for a Vogue cover, but Gigi was unfazed. “I know that I’m not as small as I was before, but I also am a very realistic thinker. I straight up was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll shoot a Vogue cover, but I’m obviously not going to be a size 0,’ nor do I, at this point, feel like I need to be back to that,” she says. “I also think it’s a blessing of this time in fashion that anyone who says that I have to be that can suck it.”

Gigi doesn’t feel pressure to rush back to her frenzied work schedule. She’s open to acting roles and relished her recent turn voicing herself on Scooby-Doo. “I’m veering toward things that feel more stable than being in a different country every week,” she says. In a way she’s achieved that stability already, producing and directing her own media content from the comfort of the farm, both for Instagram and for publications hamstrung by COVID. Long ago, Gigi became one of a handful of Supermodels 2.0, capable of delivering a multifaceted and intimate (if highly controlled) world directly to her some 62 million Instagram followers: runway shots of her closing the Chanel show; snaps of her 25th-birthday celebration seven weeks later, with the family crowded around an everything-bagel birthday cake. If quarantine threatened to throw the paparazzi-tabloid industrial complex into peril—what to report on if everyone stayed safe behind their security hedges?—it has only served to cement the power of millennial image makers like Gigi.

“I feel like we all just love cameras in general—like, I always have a Polaroid and my film camera around,” she says sweetly, zipping us across the property in the RTV, pointing out various outbuildings and pulling up in front of the neatly appointed vegetable garden, currently threaded with tufts of winter cabbage and curls of purple kale. The garden is uncannily familiar; I have glimpsed it in the background of Hadid-family Instagrams. Bella has chronicled planting baby lavender for Yolanda’s essential oils, Gigi nuzzling with Cool, her German warmblood, at the garden gate.

THE FARM IS NOT so different from the secluded bougainvillea-clad Tuscan-style villa where Gigi grew up, a Montecito estate abutting John Cleese’s horse farm, where Gigi enjoyed horseback rides down to the Pacific Ocean as a girl at the local elementary. When Gigi was in high school, Yolanda moved her family to Malibu, and in 2011 she married music maven David Foster. (She and the children’s father, Mohamed Hadid, a real estate developer and businessman, had divorced some 10 years prior, though he remained active in his kids’ lives.)

The farm is, in fact, the family’s first joint financial venture, Gigi explains before leading me into a soaring timbered barn, once a boarding ground for circus animals. Elephants were housed in this high-ceilinged space, with built-in ladders under the eaves for washing the pachyderms’ backs; tigers were kept down below in what are now the horse stalls. In a neighboring stall we pass Funky and BamBam, a pair of pygmy goats who typically have the run of the place but are in a time-out because they have been caught eating the holly and evergreen Yolanda has festively swagged on the barn doors and in the stone troughs turned planters. The goats were a gift for Anwar from his girlfriend, Dua Lipa (part of the summer quarantine crew), but it quickly became apparent they were not suited to New York City apartment life and they found their home at the farm. Gigi leads me above the horse barn to a guest suite that, in recent months, has also functioned as a Zoom studio. It is here that Hadid confirmed pregnancy rumors on Jimmy Fallon at the end of April. She first found out she was pregnant in February, the day before the Tom Ford show, and hid a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting behind a textbook sleeve, reading it clandestinely on planes and before shows. She felt liberated by the timing of the lockdowns, she says, noting that she would have otherwise had to work for a few more months before she started showing.

Protecting their child’s privacy is something both she and Malik have been aligned on from the beginning, she tells me. “I have friends who are public figures and that’s how they’ve gone about it, and I see their kids really blossom in a different way,” she says, citing Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Lively, who met her through mutual friend Swift, says she and Gigi had conversations about this early in her pregnancy. “I told her you have to do what works for you,” says the actor on the phone from her closet, where she was hiding from her three daughters. “Gigi has a really special relationship with her fans, and I love how open she is on social media. I love seeing into her world,” Lively adds, and pauses. “I’m grateful for what she shares but also understand whatever boundaries she chooses to set.”

Finishing Touch
Gigi wears a textured Bottega Veneta dress and sandals with Bvlgari earrings.
Photographed by Ethan James Green, Vogue, March 2021
Starry Eyed
Crystal-encrusted Versace dress and sandals, Emma Brewin hat, and JW Anderson shoulder-grazing feathered earring.
Photographed by Ethan James Green, Vogue, March 2021

“I think she’ll definitely be raised here,” says Hadid of her daughter, looking out over the sloping fields stitched with split-rail fences. “The greenery and the farm-y lifestyle are similar to what made me feel really centered as a kid, and I think that’s really important to Zayn and me.” She goes on, “I think that just giving your child the opportunity to explore different interests is such a beautiful thing.” This applies to the baby’s spiritual upbringing as well. “My dad’s Muslim, and my mom grew up celebrating Christmas. I felt like I was allowed to learn about every religion when I was a kid. I think it’s good to take different pieces of different religions that you connect with, and I think that’s how we’ll do that,” she says. Zayn’s father is British-Pakistani, and his mother, who is English and of Irish descent, converted to Islam. The preferred nicknames from the four grandparents reflect the baby’s rich background. Mohamed, who is Palestinian, will be Jido, grandpa in Arabic; Yolanda is Oma, Dutch for grandmother; Malik’s father will be Abu, from the Urdu; and his mother is Nini, a derivative of the British Nana.

“My brother, when he was in elementary school, someone said to him, ‘Your dad’s a terrorist,’ because that was after 9/11.” Gigi is earnest and thoughtful, telling me this, both hands on the wheel of her truck. “I think that [Zayn and I] both want our daughter to understand fully all of her background—and also we want to prepare her. If someone does say something to her at school, we want to give her the tools to understand why other kids would do that and where that comes from.”

Malik bought his daughter a retro pink VHS player and has purchased all the Disney cartoons as well as his favorite Bollywood films on cassette tape. Hadid says that if they’d had a boy, the nursery, thanks to Zayn, would have surely been superhero-themed (the baby dressed as the Hulk for Halloween). Instead she’s decorated it with a macramé cloud mobile, a rattan changing basket, and embroidered pillows from Anthropologie. She painted a frame for a poem Malik wrote for his daughter. “I’ve been popping off on Etsy,” she says. “I really wanted to be working toward something, and the nursery really helped me feel like we were ready.”

Gigi has written thank-you notes for every gift she has received, and there have been legions, from Simon Porte Jacquemus’s micro handbag—in this case, actually size appropriate—to a Versace-logo sweatshirt from “Auntie Donatella.” Swift, a close friend of the couple’s since she and Gigi met at an Oscar party in 2014, sent a teddy bear sewn by the singer out of one of her own dresses. “It’s misshapen, and she called it Ugly Bear,” gushes Gigi. “She had one when she was little.” And Gigi keeps a journal, a simple leather unlined notebook, where she chronicled her pregnancy anxieties. “I would just write every day about what I was feeling, if I was anxious or nervous. A lot of it was ‘I hope I’m good enough to be a mom.’”

Until recently the baby had been sleeping in bed with the couple, secure in a padded DockATot. “I was a little sad to start sleep training because we loved having her,” says Gigi wistfully. “Like when I wake up and I look over and she’s already awake, laughing at the ceiling fan, I love that. It’s going to be so sad when she’s out of our room….” She trails off, her voice catching with emotion.

“You have a kid and you’re lying in bed together and you look over and you’re like, ‘Okay, what now?’ And you ask all of your friends the same questions, and everyone has a different answer. And that’s when you kind of realize that everyone figures it out for themselves,” says Gigi, serene and sincere. “And you do it in your own way, and you can take bits and pieces from people, but you’re always going to end up doing it a little bit differently. This is our way.”

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