Meet the Latest Social Media Star-Turned-Model: Bella Hadid

You likely know the name Gigi Hadid by now – thanks to her striking beauty, and constant presence on the runway and in major ad campaigns over the past couple years (think: Tom Ford, Maybelline, Guess, Max Mara, and most recently, Balmain), as well as her significant Instagram following. Oh, and don’t forget her appearances on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (on which her mother, former model Yolanda Foster, is a cast member). But what about Bella, her 18-year old sister? The younger Hadid – who did not sign with mega modeling agency, IMG, until last year – is certainly making her presence known in the industry by way of the Spring/Summer 2016 runways, further proving that Instagram “it” girls are, in fact, the new top models. 

After landing a spot on Models.com’s Hot List, following her appearance in the Balmain Fall/Winter 2015 ad campaign (which she starred in alongside her sister), Bella is skyrocketing to runway fame this season. She got a bit of a slow start last year, walking in just a handful of shows for the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter 2015, but Spring/Summer 2016 is looking pretty promising. Thus far, she has walked for DVF, Tommy Hilfiger, Yeezy, Jeremy Scott (she closed his show), and Marc Jacobs (one of the most prominent shows of New York Fashion Week) in New York. Topshop, Burberry, and Giles in London. And Philipp Plein, Moschino, Missoni, and Bottega Veneta in Milan. 

Hadid’s break out season comes to the heels of the influx of popular social media girls, like Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin and Gigi – all of whom are on Models.com’s Top Social Media Girls list. Jenner’s presence in the industry, in particular, prompted us to ask just what it takes to be a successful model in the current market. A number of other publications have taken a look at the increasingly number of less traditional models, as well. The general consensus: who needs perfect measurements, razor sharp cheekbones, or an Eastern European aesthetic when you have a famous face (it is worth noting that Bella likely has the closest thing to all of these of all of the social media stars, though) – and/or a big social media following?  

Elle magazine noted earlier this year: “This moment in fashion (and perhaps the world) is defined by social media.” In her article for the publication, Myla Dalbesio, wrote: “The number one thing clients are asking about when casting a model these days is her social media numbers.” As Vogue said in its September 2014 issue, this is the age of the "Insta-girls,” after all. 

So, a handful of girls are using their social media numbers to land coveted runway show spots and ad campaigns. Enter: Kendall Jenner, the Hadids and Hailey Baldwin (the latter has 1.1 million Instagram followers and a Topshop campaign) and co. As Adweek wrote earlier this year: “Gigi Hadid is part of a new wave of digitally savvy models taking the fashion industry by storm. These millennial models have achieved success both in the realm of high fashion and the commercial world — a rarity since the supermodel era of the '90s. These days, some models are just as likely to be found on the Paris runways as in the pages of a celebrity weekly or Taylor Swift's latest Instagram post.”

Harper's Bazaar’s executive editor Laura Brown told the publication that numbers do, in fact, drive casting decisions: "If a model happens to come with a few thousand or a few million followers, that's amazing for brands. Especially if you're a brand that wants to target a new, younger demographic, you'd have to consider [hiring] those girls in a second."

But with the rise of the digital media, magazine sales have largely been trumped by online traffic. Nowadays, the success of a magazine cover is arguably much less dependent on the circulation of the print edition than it was before. This is where celebrities make an enormous impact, particularly significant is their power on social media. Jess Cagle, the managing editor of Entertainment Weekly, has said that his team measures the success of a cover by its social media impact. So, in short, pretty girls with big social media numbers have the upper hand on the runway and in ad campaigns for many, many brands. 

It seems Bella Hadid falls neatly within this group of Social Media girls that are transforming the modeling industry, and so, it should come as no surprise that she is having a very good season.