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Image / Living / Culture

Saying Gigi Hadid is “self-made” completely (and wrongly) ignores her privilege


By Jennifer McShane
24th Apr 2021
Saying Gigi Hadid is “self-made” completely (and wrongly) ignores her privilege

Gigi Hadid’s father, a millionaire real estate developer, has sparked a debate online after referring to the supermodel as “self-made” while insisting that she has never taken a “single dollar from her parents.”

Not all who have a life of privilege have blinkers on. Many know their circumstances have ultimately set them up with greater opportunities, opening up paths not afforded to the average person. Unfortunately, Gigi Hadid’s father Mohamed Hadid does not seem to be the latter.

This week, ahead of Hadid’s birthday, her father Mohamed Hadid celebrated his daughter on Instagram, where he shared a list of “20 things that you did not know about Gigi Hadid”. In this, he insists his 26-year-old daughter has achieved everything on her impressive resume through her own hard work.

While there is no doubt the model, who is worth an estimated $29m and one of the highest-paid models in the world, is the one responsible for making her career what it is as an adult – her siblings Bella Hadid and Anwar Hadid are also successful models – the post has naturally caused debate given that Gigi was born into a life of privilege from the outset, therefore many objected to the term used, saying she could not technically be considered “self-made” due to this upbringing.

Back in February 2019, Gigi opened up to ELLE about her frustrations in her success being solely tied to her parents’ connections, though she recognised her privilege.

“I mean, I understand it. I come from privilege, and I recognise my privilege,” she said at the time. “But because my mom was on a TV show, people think that my whole childhood was fame. It absolutely was not. My mom was a model. She moved to the States when she was 16 to send money back to her family in Holland. My dad was a refugee and worked his way up in every way. I work hard to honour my parents.”

It’s the term ‘self-made’ that has been used incorrectly here, for the most part. To say one is self-made means that everything they have, comes from them alone.

While it might be true that the supermodel always earned her own money, her family’s obvious wealth and privilege offered her a safety net, opportunity, and a foot in the door to the industry with critical connections that can’t be overlooked in this case.

Mohamed also added that the supermodel “started modeling for Baby Guess when she was in Khai’s (Hadid’s daughter) age”. So, did she take herself to those Baby Guess commercials? Did she alone arrange those meetings? How could she have at seven months old? Her parents aided her, giving her this status as a baby, a world-famous brand already knew of her when she was not even one. To put all this into a box and deem it entirely self-made is a stretch, to say the very least.

The claims that Hadid reportedly never relied on money from her parents was also questioned in the comments, with one person recalling an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills during which Yolanda helped move her daughter into a New York City apartment. They wrote: “Did Yolanda not pay for her apartment and do the whole place up for when she first moved to NY? It was on RHOBH? That’s not ‘never taking a dollar from her parents.’”

However, while the post was poorly worded, it is important to make the point here that discussions over being ‘self-made’ (or not) always tend to fall on women in the public eye – rarely on men. Privilege is a critical component of these conversations  – look at The Kardashians and their amassed fortune – but there’s also no denying that these women work incredibly hard to maintain and make a success of their empires even where privilege is concerned. A fact that should not be overlooked when it’s standard for women to have their every move critiqued before a man.