Of all the supermodels I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, Bella Hadid stands out as the most “real”. Why, you ask? Perhaps because, when she first greets me on our Thursday morning interview, she welcomes me with a genuine “Wow, you have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.”
Interestingly, the previous night, I was at a dinner hosted by Bella for the new book ‘Dior, The Art of Color’ (the reason for her visit to Dubai) and I remarked to my seatmate that even across the room, Bella has the most mesmerizingly beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.
Now here’s a model who’s complimenting another woman. Not obsessed with her own (clearly stunning) looks, she comes across as the “girl next door”: A ravishing beauty, yet one who is empowering of other women and, not least of all, extremely eloquent and well-versed on current events and political issues. In the past few days, I have witnessed her charming her way into our city, warmly embracing her fans and friends alike, and holding steady conversations — with corporate heads, no less — that belie her 20 years.
When I tell her she might be the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, she squeals with delight and confides that she’s surprised at the response she has received in Dubai. It’s almost as if she doesn’t realize who she is, I think to myself.
And that’s the beauty of Bella. She is beauty and brains combined, with a lot of humility thrown in for good measure. During the course of our conversation, Dior Makeup’s Image and Creative Director Peter Philips joins in, and she gushes at the prospect of working with him. Philips himself is an icon, but the way Bella speaks about him, you would think he was the only celebrity in the room, and she a loyal fan.
We spend 30 minutes talking in her suite at the newly-opened Address Boulevard, and when our interview ends, she generously offers a hug and says she loves being interviewed by “cool people”.
“And I love interviewing cool people”, I respond.
Below, an excerpt of our conversation.
Are you enjoying your trip to Dubai so far?
Bella: I am in love!
[Laughs] Are you planning on moving here?
Bella: You have no idea — I texted my dad last night, saying “So Dad, I’m going to move to Dubai” and he answers, “Okay great, I’ll move with you!”
It’s my first time here, and it’s my first time being around people of my background, and of my roots. And it feels so empowering to me because I’ve never been able to see all the women and men that are like me. My dad’s side of the family is so big, but I’ve never met most of them. It’s just so nice to finally be able to experience this part of the world.
Congratulations on your relationship with Dior Make-Up. It must be wonderfully rewarding to be named as the face of such an iconic brand and to work with such an iconic makeup artist as Peter Philips. Tell me about the relationship and how it’s evolved since you started a few months ago.
Bella: I say it every single time, but I mean it more and more every time because we get to work with each other on a regular basis. It’s such an honor for me because I know how many people look up to Peter as a makeup artist. I always heard about Peter Philips, but to be able to work next to him with Dior is something that I never would’ve imagined.
We should all be feminists, but we should all be equal as well.
Working with Dior is amazing. We shot the mascara campaign together. It was my first beauty campaign and I was so nervous to be able to have Peter next to me, calming me down. He looks like he’s a tough cookie, but he’s so sweet and calming and brings everybody to a center — which is really nice to have, especially working with a brand that is so big and so prestigious. It’s a nice thing for me especially on set — I feel so happy and lucky!
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Peter before, and obviously his reputation precedes him. I think it’s testament to how iconic he is that our Beauty Editor [Frankie Rozwodowska] was just as excited yesterday to meet Peter as she was to meet you, Bella.
Peter: [Laughs] Yes, she was so excited! We took several selfies! To go back to your question about Bella and Dior, we are very lucky to have her as our face, and I’m having more and more fun with her every day. We’ve almost become like family.
[Laughs] A very chic Dior Family!
Bella, Dior’s Maria Grazia Chuiri single-handedly started a global conversation about feminism. As an entrepreneurial woman carving her own path, what are your thoughts on this ideal?
Bella: I think that feminism is always a topic of conversation, especially in the past year. As a woman, to be able to express myself is of paramount importance. It’s amazing for people to wear shirts now and declare, ‘We’re all feminists’ and ‘we all love women’. It’s important to remember, though, that it’s not only about women, but it’s also about human equality — equality between men and women, races, and religions. Everybody together. We should all be feminists, but we should all be equal as well, and I think that her message was sent in a time of darkness for us all, with everything that’s going on in the world.
Regardless of political views, these past two years have been a lot about feminism, and the rights of humans around in the world. She brought that to fashion, which is really incredible because fashion can sometimes become quite “unreal”.
Peter: The catwalk is a great platform to send messages out. And Maria did it in a really great way. It’s not only about the woman; Maria pushed a button and she reminded us of those messages. But it’s important that feminism shouldn’t be seen as a trend.
Peter, do you think there is room for men to be feminists?
Peter: Absolutely! I’m in a position through my job and through the way I was brought up, to believe that. My Mom and Dad were a team. There was absolute equality in our household. It’s what I’ve seen all my life, and it’s very important. One can’t be without the other.
Bella: It’s also very European. That’s how my Mom [Yolanda Foster] always was too.
Bella, you’ve been quite outspoken recently. You and your sister [Gigi] were protesting at a rally in New York a few months ago. Does declaring your personal beliefs come at a burden to you, as someone who is idolized all over the world?
Bella: Because I am only 20, it’s hard to be a role model to so many young women. I want the best for every girl. I stay away from expressing my political views, because if I say something wrong, it’s a heavy burden on my shoulders. We’re living in such incredibly hard times right now, and it’s difficult to put my opinion out there without somebody saying something about it. But when I feel something, I really feel it.
To be able to be a part of a protest for the Muslim ban was life-changing for me. To be able to walk with the people was incredible. Nobody cares about who anybody is; nobody cares about what you’re doing, what you do, or what you look like. Everybody is marching completely for what they believe in, and we have all the same beliefs.
My sister and I started marching with all these random people. It was the most liberating feeling of all.
To be able to be a part of a protest for the Muslim ban was life-changing for me.
Nobody cared that you were Bella and Gigi?
[Laughs] No. We were just two people in a group where there happened to be cameras, and all of a sudden, the cameras were gone, and it was just us two and all these people.
Any kind of ban is just awful, but this touched me personally, because my Dad had a really tough upbringing, and coming to America was a really big deal for him. Now, he lives really comfortably, but it took him so much to get to where he is, and he really taught us the value of a single dollar. I’ve always saved my money since I was a kid. I’ve had a job since I was 13. Even though my parents were well-off, at one point they weren’t, so it wasn’t my right to spend their money the way I want to, because I didn’t earn it.
When I turned 18, my Mom said I wasn’t allowed to have anything “designer”, unless I earned my own money. So when I turned 18, I bought my first pair of Louboutins and they’re still the ones I wear; they’re a complete disaster at this point! I should put them in a box and frame them. But I used to wear them every single day to every single fitting and to every single casting, because they were my only pair of high heels.
When I think of my Dad coming to America, and making a life for himself, and the fact that now somebody else is allowed to dictate what he is allowed to do or where he is allowed to travel, I feel so angry. If I can stand up for something I believe in, I will always go for it.
Speaking of your Palestinian roots, do you think being part-Arab has affected the way you perceive the ideals of beauty?
Bella: If I love you, then I love you. I think that the perception of beauty comes from within, and I think that being Palestinian doesn’t necessarily change anything that I feel about beauty.
You are one of the top models in the industry, along with a handful of others, who happen to be your family or close friends. You’ve all set an incredible example for women empowerment and supporting one another – does this come very naturally to you, or is it something you all purposefully set out to do?
Bella: Thank you. For my sister and I, it comes very naturally. We treat the person who’s cleaning no different from how we’d treat the president. You should treat everybody the same no matter what, and we’ve always lived by that rule. It’s something my Mom taught us. I think that it takes more energy to be mean than it takes to be nice.
Women should support women! My sister and I genuinely support each other, and there’s always a place for everybody to succeed. If I want to do something that you want to do, we can both be the best at it and succeed. There’s a space for everybody! If we have the same path, so be it. Let’s kill it together!
If I want to do something that you want to do, we can both be the best at it and succeed. There’s a space for everybody!
There’s no reason for me to try and put you down and make you fail. I think that, at the end of the day, it’ll make me feel worse. I just genuinely love people, so it comes naturally.
Let’s talk about the power of makeup and its ability to transform you. Tell me some anecdotes about your childhood and first experiences with makeup.
Bella: Peter has some really good stories about his childhood and makeup.
Peter: It’s almost like a cliché story. I just saw my mom doing her makeup and putting on her face every morning, and making herself even more beautiful than she already was. It made her feel good. I love the transformations. I remember the lipstick and the little blue eyeshadow on the eyes. I’m an 80s child! I loved that decade of makeup and the funny thing is, by the time the 90s came around, we were like “What were we thinking?!”
Do you think we’re doing anything now with makeup that we’ll look back at in ten years and wonder, “What on earth were we thinking?”
Peter: Of course! I’m sure we will. Every girl has a phase she has to go through. Every generation has to have a chance at the phase they go through for their mistakes.
Bella: What I find beautiful about the story of Peter and his mother is that it’s not so much about how much makeup she used to put on, but it’s about how she put a little bit of makeup on and it made her feel beautiful. Peter says it made him look at her and feel beautiful too. I love that story!
Peter: My mom actually never let me do her makeup. The first time she did, she had to go to a ball with my stepfather, and it was only seven or eight years ago. When I did her makeup, she looked really great! My stepfather said, “Wow, she looks amazing,” and he was totally in love with her. He was so proud of her. She went to sleep with the eyelash extensions on, and in the morning they had all fallen out onto her pillowcase.
Bella: I love that story too!
Bella, you’re famously known as a brunette, but many people don’t know you were born a blonde. Do you subscribe to the notion that changing your hair color changes your personality?
Bella: I don’t really know. I’m naturally blonde and, when I was 13, I dyed my hair black. When I was 15, I dyed it blue. I’ve had so many different hair colors. When my hair is darker, I feel a whole lot darker, but I don’t know why. It does actually change the way I feel.
So we’ve talked about outer beauty. What about inner beauty? What are the characteristics you look for in a friend?
Bella: I’ve had the same four best friends since I was 13, and I keep my circle really small. I see the same characteristics in my girlfriends as they see in me. Trust is a big thing for me. I laugh with my girlfriends and need to have loyal friends and trustworthy friends and genuine people around me.
It’s kind of rare that you’d find people like that, but for example, as soon as you sat down, I just felt an energy, and I was comfortable with you. If I’m comfortable with you, then you’ll know. I feel energies very intensely. I would never not get along with anybody, but if I love you, I really love you, and that’s just how I’ve been and how I always will be.
An exhibition celebrating ‘Dior, The Art of Color’ is taking place at The Dubai Mall from April 12th to April 23rd.