This week Vogue’s Janelle Okwodu put together a list of the models that “rocked the runways of New York Fashion Week.” Very aptly included on this list: Binx Walton, current Prada “it” girl Yasmin Wijnaldum, Pooja Mor, supermodel Freja Beha, Caroline Brasch Nielsen – who is one of Chanel’s go-to girls, actual icon Veronica Webb, Julia Nobis, Vanessa Axente, Gigi Hadid, and singer Lady Gaga, who walked in Marc Jacobs’ Fall/Winter 2016 show. Not on this list, but absolutely worthy of recognition: Lexi Boling.
It's time you get to know Lexi Boling, in case you’re not up on this runway phenomenon already. The 22-year old model has been something of a runway and campaign staple for the majority of her career, a rarity in this industry, which thrives on a near-constant influx of fresh new faces. Since making her debut, walking in Alexander Wang's S/S 2014 show in September 2013 and opening his show for Balenciaga a few weeks later, Boling has landed roughly 50 or so shows each season and half a dozen campaigns each season, including truly significant ones like Givenchy, Prada and Dior.
In New York alone for the Fall/Winter 2016 shows, Boling, a Chicago-native, who was discovered after her mother “made her go to an open call” at Ford models, walked in just about every major show. She opened Fenty x Puma, closed Coach and Rag & Bone, and walked in Proenza Schouler, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Alexander Wang (of course; he’s had a hand in helping to skyrocket Boling to fame), and Marc Jacobs, amongst others.
So, what is it that separates Boling from a majority of the other models, who are more or less built very similarly to her? Well, it seems there are at least a couple of things at play. First up, she’s versatile. She can go from looking super punk (and dare I say, cracked-out) in the Alexander Wang show wearing a dog collar necklace and a beanie that reads “strict,” to looking pretty and relatively demure in a blouse and brocade trousers for Michael Kors. This is certainly one of her strengths. It means she can book a range of shows, campaigns and magazine covers.
Arguably more important: She’s more than just an anonymous Eastern drone of a runway model. With all of the hoopla over the past couple of years or so about the need for models to up the ante in terms of their social media presence, Boling makes for an interesting case study. She’s not Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid. We know that, as she doesn’t come from a famous family or nor did she break into the modeling industry already having hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. Instead, she’s a real model with very real off-the-runway appeal.
We know this from the industry’s obsession with her model-off-duty look and the corresponding street style photos of her that flood fashion sites during every fashion month.
Then is her off-the-runway persona. Her “bad girl” reputation, which has been the topic of many a fashion blog article. You may have caught the Fashionista article about her not too long ago, in which Maura Brannigan summed her up quite well, writing: “Here are some facts you can learn from doing a mild dive into the @lexiboling [Instagram] handle. Her bio is comprised of just one word: ‘trouble.’ She likes to smoke cigarettes, and does so in a large number of her photos … On a recent trip to Jamaica, she got cornrows, swam topless and took selfies with a leafy marijuana plant. She has the word ‘bad’ tattooed on her ribcage.”
You may also be mildly familiar with her heavily publicized feud with Kendall Jenner just a year ago. Per British Vogue, “Vogue Germany posted a [less than flattering] picture of Jenner on its feed, prompting Boling to leave a comment tagging fellow model Binx Walton with the words: ‘She's never looked better!’ accompanied by a crying with laughter emoticon. Walton then responded with the same image along with the words: ‘That's fucked up.’ Both comments have since been removed.”
And still yet, there is her crew of fellow bad girls (think: Binx Walton, Hanne Gaby, Anna Ewers, and co.), which the industry has come to know and cast – sometimes in tandem. Something like the young Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell bad girls duo (plus an occasional Christy Turlington or Linda Evangelista or Kirsty Hume).
But arguably, Boling out it best herself. When asked by Vogue Italia what she thinks her best quality is, she simply answered: “Not caring about people.”