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When ELLE Met Gigi Hadid: 'At The End Of The Day, I'm Choosing What I'm Showing You'

In the past 12 months, Gigi Hadid has been crowned model of the year, hosted the AMAs, launched a capsule collection with Tommy Hilfiger and earned her 'wings' at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2016. We sat down with the Californian model to find out what life is really like behind the camera and how it feels to be the 'It' girl of the year.

'Would you like me to turn the fan off? I'm always cold but we can keep it on if you're warm', asks Gigi Hadid as she shuffles down to sit next to me, zipping up her white hoodie to her perfectly chiseled jawline and teasing out her tight ponytail from the collar. For a woman who is scheduled for back-to-back meetings this afternoon, has already taken part in a HIIT fitness class with myself and 100 other journalists and just spent the last hour-and-a-half discussing the pitfalls of social media, modelling and perfection, I'm taken aback to hear her prioritise my well-being over her own.

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But such selflessness doesn't seem to be a one-off character trait for the 21 year-old Californian. 'I always tell myself to remember that I have so many first impressions on a daily basis. I try to give a lot of positive energy to that,' she admits before asking if she can sit on the floor closer to my dictaphone, perched on the glass edge of the coffee table, so it can better record her answers.

One minute into our conversation and one thing's for sure – Gigi Hadid has a voice. And today, she wants it heard loud and clear.

I'm sitting in front of Ms Hadid in the green room of a studio in SoHo, New York where she's just finished taking part in a panel discussion for Reebok's #PerfectNever campaign – for which she is now a brand ambassador – and where she discussed the ramifications of striving for perfection alongside friends Lena Dunham, Ruby Rose, Olympic athlete Aly Raisman and Zoe Kravitz.

Measuring a statuesque 5ft 10inches, dressed in head-to-toe athleisure-wear and having just admitted to being a 'gorilla' when it comes to sport, it's hard not to be intimidated by Gigi Hadid, especially as throughout our interview, she never breaks eye contact. Not once.

For some this might be a little unnerving, but with Gigi, it's just an honest testament to how seriously she takes her career and her relationships with the fans that look up to her.

I always tell myself to remember that I have so many first impressions on a daily basis. I try to give a lot of positive energy to that

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The extent to which she cares what people make of her becomes even more apparent at other parts of our interview when, discussing the demands of the fashion industry, her fans and the media, she wells up a little.

'I always get made fun of on social media because my voice shakes,' she notes.

Gigi Hadid in Paris

The Pressure To Be Perfect

Comparing her profession to a desk-job, Hadid is faced with a new set of people every single day. Each of them, with their own expectations of her.

'We have first impressions every day, every 10 minutes of our lives. So, we have to deal with the fact we're not perfect every minute of the day,' she says.

'I feel like we're always put in situations [with the media] that p*ss us off or make us feel uncomfortable, and then you end up judging the next situation based on a previous bad experience,' she adds.

As a result of such intense pressure to be an angel every minute of the day, Gigi has decided to take a social media cleanse for a month in the new year, to focus her attention on her close relationships and modeling career – a move celebrated by close friend Lena Dunham, who herself has suffered a lot of online scrutiny.

In our interview, the model explains why she felt the need to come off social media:

'It's empowering for everyone because at the end of the day, I'm choosing what I'm showing you. A lot of the world feels so much entitlement to [be part of and comment on] other people's lives, which is crazy, and so new for human beings,' says Gigi.

'You have to realise that I'm going to take a break when I feel like it,' she says.

Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger at launch of the Gigi capsule collection, New York Fashion Week 2016
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'If you want to be supportive and still follow me, I'm grateful for that but if you're going to be negative and dislike the fact I'm going to be human for a month, then I don't want your follow anyway. It's empowering for everyone to choose when they're there or not. It doesn't have to define our lives,' she adds.

But, with over 27.4m Instagram followers, it would be unreasonable to discount the importance of her social media presence. After all, in recent years, models have worked their way up the ladder in the fashion industry on the merit of their Insta-popularity.

You have to realise that I'm going to take a break when I feel like it.

From Kendall Jenner's 71.2m followers to Cara Delevinge's 36.3m followers on Instagram, it's increasingly difficult to imagine a model's career completely divorced from their social media reputation.

🍸 Happiest Birthday weekend my Ken ❤️

A photo posted by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on

More Strings To Her Bow

'I'm so grateful for social media because it's given me so much more in my career, but I also respect my career without it,' she says.

'I want to pay most of my attention to my job as a craft and the relationships that are meaningful to me – not because the money or contracts, but because of how I inspire designers and how they inspire me,' she finishes her point.

This attention to designers is likely what landed her the chance to co-design a capsule collection with Tommy Hilfiger (which launched at New York Fashion Week in September) and create a bespoke 'Gigi' boot for Stuart Weitzman.

But collaboration isn't the only thing Gigi's stomped out a name for this year. In the last month alone, Hadid has been crowned International Model of the Year at the 2016 Fashion Awards and made her second appearance in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Paris, an accolade that saw her earn the brand's covetable 'wings' for the first time.

Gigi Hadid poses alongside sister Bella Hadid at Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2016
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Growing Anxiety

From the outside, at least, it would seem that Gigi is living the dream.

But, like most twenty-something millennials, Gigi admits to being wracked with the sort of anxiety that most millennials feel, faced with the pressure to make resounding success of life.

However, unlike us mere mortals, who can brush off gossip about a new romance or a change in weight among friends and family, Gigi's are publicised, profited from and talked about about on social media and in publications across the world.

I'm so grateful for social media because it's given me so much more in my career, but I also respect my career without it.

Case in point: earlier this year Gigi lashed out at serial prankster Vitalii Sediuk who grabbed her from behind and tried to pick her up while leaving a fashion show in Milan. The majority of women would be praised for fighting off an attacker. For Gigi, her behaviour was deemed 'violent'.

As a result, she contributed to an emotional letter for Lena Dunham's publication The Lenny Letter, explaining why she had the right to defend herself.

She wrote: 'I felt I was in danger, and I had every right to react the way I did. If anything, I want girls to see the video and know that they have the right to fight back, too, if put in a similar situation.'

With media scrutiny over her weight, her high-profile relationship with ELLE September cover star, singer Zayn Malik and her family, it's surprising Gigi hasn't broken under the pressure.

She credits her inner strength and growing confidence to her favourite pastime – sport.

Throughout our interview, the model – who qualified as a junior Olympic volleyball player before choosing a career in modelling – can't help but smile when gushing about the way sport has helped her develop her strength and confidence.

'Being an athlete was such a big part of me being proud of myself and my skin. It's always been from being a kid, going to practice and getting good at my sports and my coach giving me a thumbs up,' she explains.

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'My Mum [model Yolanda Foster] always said to develop how I thought about myself before I went into an industry where the whole world was going to judge me. You have to come back to yourself and be proud of yourself without anyone else's approval,' she explains, proudly looking over to her mother, who is sat across the room on a sofa chatting to Ruby Rose and Lena Dunham, fresh off a flight from London after accompanying Gigi to the 2016 Fashion Awards.

At times when Gigi doubts herself, she recognises the need to remember whose opinion she really cares about. 'My stepdad [David Foster] always says, 'If you believe the good, you're going to believe the bad'. It's important to pick the people who are important to you.'

To this day, the opinions of her volleyball coaches – as well as her family – hold the upmost importance to the model.

Gigi Hadid lifts trophy at Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2014 Beach Volleyball game

'When I was at school, my coaches didn't care about how I looked. They cared about me because I was a good team mate, a good friend and I worked really hard and those were the things that helped me feel strong,' she adds.

What Is Hashimoto's Disease?

Gigi is quick to point out that what makes her feel strong isn't necessarily a recipe for success for everyone else.

Having been diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease – in which your immune system attacks your thyroid – Hadid has to struggle to not lose too much weight, and is therefore reluctant to recommend certain diets or exercise routines to her eager followers.

Instead, the model encourages women (and men) to learn what works for them.

@reebok @reebokwomen #PerfectNever #BeMoreHuman

A photo posted by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on

'There's a lot of pressure that when something is working well for my body, that it might be a good thing to tell other people. But I don't know if it's healthy to advise people to eat a burger like me because it doesn't work for everyone.

'I'm trying to be a role model and be honest so I'm just doing what makes me happy. The biggest thing for me isn't about telling people how to eat and workout but for people to listen to their own bodies and figure out what makes them happy. I never listened to anyone else's diet or workout routine growing up and that's important to just do what's good for you,' she adds.

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Clearly, what's good for Gigi's mental and physical health is exercise, with thanks to the help of the founder of Gotham Gym and personal trainer, Rob Piela.

Squats Can Suck It

if there's one thing Gigi hates the most in the gym, it's squats.

'They're painful. You have to do so many for them to start working', she joked before admitting her top tip to keeping motivated when toning up.

'I put a sticky note in my kitchen so that every time I walked past it, I would have to do 15 squats. It's a good trick because it reminds you. You have to have integrity with yourself because no one is watching you so you have to do it,' she joked.

I never listen to anyone else's diet or workout routine growing up and that's important to just do what's good for you

But, getting fit in the gym for Gigi isn't solely about maintaining her athletic body. The gym is, in fact, something of a surrogate desk-job for the supermodel.

In that it's a safe place, where people know her for the merit of her upper-cut or her split lunges, rather than for the tabloid gossip.

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'I knew I needed to find something that gave me a coach and a family, so that when I walk into the gym, they're like my big brother. They're like 'what up!' They don't care about who I am or what my body looks like. They care that I give a good punch, and that's how I want to be judged in my athletic space because that's what I find pride in. I don't care if they say, 'damn, she's hot', what I want to hear is, 'that's a punch'.

I don't care if they say, 'damn, she's hot', what I want to hear is, 'that's a punch'

Cooking With Gigi

While she might be a prize fighter on the mats, Gigi admits that she's developed a passion for cooking – a move we suspect might have something to do with her boyfriend's love of the kitchen.

In the last year, Gigi has shared numerous pictures of the pair cooking together in the evenings, with Gigi admitting to having developed an addiction to drinking tea, Heinz baked beans and butter chicken thanks to her British beau.

Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid at MET Gala 2016

For Gigi, her speciality in the kitchen is eggs, cooked a myriad of ways with tomato and bacon.

'There's a Middle Eastern spice called, Za'atar, so I'll do eggs and Za'atar. I just love eggs! In general I like fresh ingredients. I'm not a salad and meat type of person; to me, that's boring. I also like making tomato soup from scratch with grilled cheese dippers on the side.

'If I can cook something with ingredients that I know are good, then I'll eat anything. I'm down for carbs. I love a challenge in the kitchen', she admits.

So, What's Next?

So, with a year that's seen her crowned the queen of the modelling industry, maintain a relatively private relationship and bag numerous fashion collaborations, what's next for the breakout star in 2017?

'It always comes back to work and not wanting to let all of it affect me. I was inspired by Zoe [Kravitz] today because she said it's important to be gentle with yourself and the rest of the world.

'You always go to work trying to do your best but you have to remind yourself that everyone f*cks up and it's not the end of the world. It goes back to all the things that happen in high school that feel so dramatic. It always feels bigger than what it is in real life,' she concludes.

Her voice might 'shake', she might get tired of Instagram and succumb to the odd bout of anxiety, but some people are born stars. It's safe to say Gigi Hadid is shining bright.

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