I met Karlie in Cannes, and let me tell you right now, it’s absolutely impossible to avoid falling under her spell.
Right in the middle of a photo shoot with other L’Oréal muses, she was relaxed, she was smiling, and she took her time. Often when you meet celebrities, you notice how much of a bubble they live in, but that’s not how Karlie is at all. She’s really tuned in to the world around her. Plus, she speaks French (she learned it on photo shoots) and she goes to NYU.
It was really great meeting her. Here’s a little glimpse of our time together…
It’s so good to meet you, and I’m so glad I can talk to you a little bit about what beauty means to you! You’re a real role model to so many women and girls, so I want to share what you have to say on the blog.
That’s a huge honor! I really love what you do – you were not only the first but you’re, in my opinion, the best. It’s so beautiful aesthetically but also so rich…I think you’re incredibly talented.
Thank you! I feel like you’re talented – you’re so perfectly in tune with the tides of social media; you don’t overdo it, you do it well. I want to talk about this too but, first, how did the industry you’re working in shape your idea of beauty?
I started really at age 15, walking Calvin Klein for New York Fashion Week – I think it was 2007. Not only does it feel like a lifetime ago but, when I look at pictures I think, “Oh my goodness, why did anyone think that I should be a model? I look like a child alien! And it feels like a lifetime – and it has been a lifetime since it all started – but I really have learned so much about this industry. I was never really conscious of the fashion industry or the beauty industry as a teenage girl in the Midwest. I grew up in Missouri, very American; I never wore makeup, I never wore high fashion labels. My world was very simple and normal.
Did you read fashion magazines?
On occasion I would flip through my mom’s Vogue, but I really didn’t have much exposure to too much outside my little bubble of a world. So it has been such an amazing, eye-opening experience over the last eight years to learn this industry inside out, and I really appreciate every component of it. I get to work with the best of the best and, when I’m sitting in a makeup artists’ chair, I can feel the weight of their brush, the technique they’re using. I can see exactly what products they’re using, and I see what works and what doesn’t work, so I’ve learned not only how people apply makeup but what looks best on me from years and years in the makeup and hair chair. So it’s definitely something I really respect.
Do you ever have moments when you’re like, “I don’t know if I can do it, or if I’m beautiful, or if I can deal with this”?
Of course, I did when I started at 15 and also now, at the old age of 22… [Laughs] The last 7 or 8 years have been formidable, from 15 to 22. There are a lot of growing pains that happen between 15 and 22, whether you’re in the spotlight, on a runway, criticized for every hair on your head, or if you’re a teenage girl in high school, living a more “normal” life. And I think the thing is that I had a really unique balance in my life growing up. So all through high school, since day one of my career, I was half exposed to this world and traveling and working; runway shows and being exposed to the tip top of the; but then, at the same time, I would go back at home and be back in school with no makeup on my face, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. So I think I very much separated in my mind the identity I would take on for work, and being a model.
You almost sort of play a role in a way, and I think I’ve always approached it in that way. If somebody critiques, if somebody says something really criticizing — which happens to everyone – I take it with a grain of salt. I don’t really take it as a compliment or an insult to me, as an individual – I think that’s something I’ve just developed over the years. I guess you could call it thick skin! But I also know who I am underneath all of the fabulous hair and makeup, and I like to do things to continue to enrich myself, which is why I’m also passionate about continuing to learn – and health and fitness because it’s something that makes me feel good from the inside out.
The outside and the inside. It’s interesting because I feel like it’s almost an identity crisis between who we really are and who we are on social media, like Instagram. I suppose, in the end, you just have to decide what filters through…. But it’s not always so easy.
Social media, Instagram specifically, is so interesting because you are in complete control of how you want the world to see you. You have a role where you’re not only behind the scenes, the artist behind your blog – you write, create art, create things that people interpret in their own ways; you’re also the figurehead for your business and a public figure. I think for me, I’ve always been clear to identify a polished exterior, the glamorous photo – but also the me underneath. And so I think I use social media to show both sides.
Do you have people who have guided you along the way?
Definitely! Christy Turlington. She is amazing. She is a dear, dear, dear friend of mine – somebody I’ve always looked up to from day one, but also have become close friends with. She very much mentors me. When I applied to NYU, she actually wrote the college recommendation letter.
That’s so nice! And, finally, how do you feel like your role as a beauty spokesperson gives you power, or a voice, in a different way?
I think working with L’Oréal was the absolute dream because the roster of spokeswomen they have is so dynamic and beautiful in so many ways. They have women of all ages, of all ethnicities, different backgrounds, all representing this underlying notion that “they’re worth it”. I think that has so much more meaning than just how all of the spokeswomen look. All of the women that represent L’Oreal have so much to bring as individuals, so much more than just their beauty — they’re smart, they’re hard working, they’re all passionate about what they do.