Gigi Hadid is the model of the moment, literally. The 21-year-old was named the British Fashion Awards’ international model of the year on Monday and was chosen as Model.com’s top model last year. Hadid has graced the covers of 11 international Vogue issues (two were Teen Vogue), as well as Elle, Vanity Fair and W Magazine. In addition, she has collaborated with Tommy Hilfiger on a clothing line, partnered with Stuart Weitzman on a line of boots and fronted campaigns for Tom Ford, Maybelline and Versace, among others. And that’s not to mention the multiple top designer runways she’s walked. Oh, and she hosted this year’s American Music Awards.
Hadid seems to be ever-present in the spotlight, thanks to social media, which has acted as a catalyst to building her personal brand. Hadid is one of social media’s biggest stars, with a social following of 26 million on Instagram, 3.6 million on Twitter and 3.8 million on Facebook—it’s no surprise brands, designers and magazines want to work with her. It’s worth noting that Hadid’s family is the public eye—her mother is former model and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Yolanda Hadid, and both of her siblings model—and that she dates former One Direction band member Zayn Malik, who boasts a huge social media following, as well. Still, for models today, building a brand on social media is necessary for success, no matter how popular they may be.
“This is no different than what we’ve seen with other major models and celebrities,” said Karen Robinovitz, co-founder and chief creative officer of Digital Brand Architects, in regard to Hadid’s great success—she compared it to the careers of models including Kate Moss and Gisele Bündchen. “But with social media, you see more because it’s not just in print magazines. It’s on her Instagram, her stylist’s and makeup artist’s Instagrams, and suddenly it feels everywhere.”
But when is so much exposure too much?
“I landed in Amsterdam, and there was a huge billboard for Gigi and Tommy. She’s everywhere,” said Rene Gonzalez, the founder of modeling agency State Management, who formerly worked with Hadid at IMG Model Management. “Gigi hops all around, and that’s why she’s relevant, but there’s already saturation,” she said “She’s had longevity in her career, and at the moment, she’s the hottest thing—but I don’t know how long or far that will take her.”
At the end of the day, it comes down to dollars and whether her influence can sell products. Hadid charges an estimated $300,000 per Instagram post, each of which typically results in a lot of eyeballs and strong social media engagement. According to L2’s most recent fashion report, Hadid was the most ubiquitous celebrity mentioned by the brands its monitors. Thirty-six brands mentioned her in more than 200 posts, which generated a 46 percent lift in engagement compared to their average posts, according to the report. However, Hadid still lags behind the top performers Justin Bieber, which drove a 70 percent lift, and Kylie Jenner, at 52 percent.
On Twitter, the picture is similar. Data from Brandwatch showed Hadid drove almost 15,000 Twitter mentions for Reebok (thanks to her collaboration with the brand) and 7,700 for Vogue (following her appearances), and Victoria Secret—for which she famously walks the runway—has been mentioned on the platform over 33,800 times. What’s more, she contributed to 33,900 mentions of Maybelline. But not all of the buzz has been positive—Hadid’s impression of Melania Trump at the American Music Awards caused much social backlash and forced her to apologize.
A photo posted by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on
Models can count on their social media followings for a certain length of time, but it’s their business decisions and collaborations that will maintain their popularity, said Gonzalez, adding that those things are needed for long and sustainable careers.
Take, for example, well-known model Karlie Kloss. The 24-year-old Missouri native has a much smaller social footprint than Hadid, with 5.9 million followers on Instagram, but she has more successfully diversified her brand portfolio: She founded #KodewithKloss, a coding program for young women, and has also launched her own Youtube channel, Klossy, which boasts half a million followers. In addition, she sells a line of charity cookies at Momofuku Milk Bar, and she continues to model for a number of brands, including Swarovski. She has been modeling since 2008.
For Hadid, how she continues to build her brand is the most important factor, according to Robinovitz.
“Gigi has the ability to turn herself into a formidable brand if she surrounds herself with the right people, chooses the right brands to work and communicates in a positive way,” said Robinovitz. She pointed to stars Gwen Stefani, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba, who have all leveraged their popularity to build brands that are bigger than themselves and just their name.
Kevin del Rosario, associate director of social at the agency Huge, said bubbles like Hadid’s popularity have popped before, naming Paris Hilton as an example. But he noted that social media—in particular, live video platforms like Snapchat and Instagram’s stories—makes it a very different playing field.
“There are more intimate ways to know someone, and we have so many avenues to see them—but the question is how we get to know them, and will their popularity sustain our interest?”
Image via Vogue Arabia.