This month, Gigi Hadid walked in shows in New York, Milan, and Paris, but the biggest story came out of her Instagram account. This past week, the 20-year-old model posted a lengthy Instagram in response to her body-shaming critics. “No, I don’t have the same body type as the other models in the shows,” she wrote. “If I didn’t have the body I do, I wouldn’t have the career I do. I love that I can be sexy. I’m proud of it.” The post raked up more than 300,000 likes on Instagram, and was swiftly celebrated by many in the modeling community. “I honestly broke down, I started crying at the multiple text messages I got today from everyone, from Victoria’s Secret models to plus-size models to people like Tyra Banks, who posted the Instagram letter and who is someone I’ve looked up to for my entire life,” Hadid told Vogue.com. “Those are the people who really touched me because I know those are the people who are the most emotionally affected within the fashion industry by this type of criticism.” On the heels of Hadid’s triumphant body-positive post and her whirlwind fashion month, here are five things you never knew about the model-of-the-moment.
1. Gigi’s real name is Jelena Noura Hadid. Her mother, Yolanda Foster (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star and former Ford model), came up with the nickname when Gigi was just starting grade school. “My mom was called that as a kid by her mother when she was younger, but only around the house. I was called that around the house when I was really young,” she told Vogue earlier this year. “In first or second grade, there was a girl named Helena and it got confusing with the teacher who had to call out our names, and so the teacher asked my mom, ‘If I needed to call Jelena a nickname, what would it be?’ And my mom was like, ‘I call her Gigi sometimes,’ and the name stuck.”
2. Though Hadid signed with IMG Models when she was 17 years old, her modeling career began well before then. “I was discovered by Paul Marciano, of Guess, when I was actually, like, 2 years old,” she told Vanity Fair in 2014. “And so I started with Baby Guess; I did Guess Kids. . . . Since I started with IMG, I’ve done three Guess campaigns.”
3. During her teen years, Hadid put modeling aside and focused on more athletic ambitions. “I stopped because I was a really competitive horseback rider and a club volleyball player,” she said. “I went to Junior Olympic qualifiers for volleyball. So, I kind of stopped modeling. I just wanted to have a normal childhood and go to high school.” Gigi’s younger sister, Bella, is also an accomplished equestrian and just this past week revealed that she’s training for the 2016 Olympics. While Gigi has since given up the sport competitively, the model has now found a new athletic outlet in the boxing ring.