I know what you’re thinking: How much wisdom can a 16-year-old model possibly have to share about beauty, career, and confidence? In the case of Kaia Gerber, that would be an impressive amount. You’ve probably seen images of the cover girl swirling around every designer Instagram account, likely in the context of her uncanny resemblance to her famous mother, Cindy Crawford. A lot of celebrity daughters are launching modelling careers right now: Hailey Baldwin has been everywhere this year, and Jude Law’s 16-year-old daughter recently starred in a Burberry lipstick campaign. But as the product of one of America’s most iconic supermodels, Gerber’s knack for beauty and fashion is built into her DNA.
This becomes clear the moment I shake hands with Gerber at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. I don’t know if I was expecting someone more awkward and self-conscious like I was at 16, but instead, I’m met with the poise of a true professional (and the soft waves, clear skin, and 100-mile-long legs of someone with Cindy Crawford’s genes). The day I interview Gerber, she’s been up since 8 a.m. conducting interviews on behalf of Marc Jacobs Daisy ($90)—Gerber is the new face of the perfume, a feminine, floral scent which I distinctly remember every cool girl in my high school wearing.
“It’s amazing that I get to do this campaign,” Gerber tells me with a smile. “I mean, I was five years old when Daisy came out, but I have been wearing it for years.” I accidentally gasp, and Gerber laughs. “Not since I was five, of course,” she clarifies. "But definitely ever since I knew what it was.”
As shockingly young as Gerber is, she has the sort of relaxed confidence and ability to self-reflect that you’d expect of someone closer to 30. It’s obvious to me that, unlike some kids in entertainment, the career decisions Gerber makes are her own—and she doesn’t mind hanging out with grown-ups all day. “I’ve literally always been a 40-year-old woman in a child’s body,” she laughs. “From when I was five, I would always hang out with my parents and their friends, so I get along with 50-year-olds perfectly. All of my friends have always been older than me.”
Her unique wisdom is what makes our conversation so fascinating. Keep scrolling to hear Kaia Gerber speak, in her own words, about the beauty secrets she’s learned from her mum, growing up in Hollywood, and the next generation of supermodels.
KAIA GERBER: “I’ve always been really into the ’90s. I always love going back and looking at photos of my mom when she was closer to my age. You can’t deny that we have similarities. And I’ve always tried to be more like her. I’ve always looked up to her in the way that she hasn’t let anything in the business affect her. In my eyes, she’s the coolest, nicest person in the world. And I understand that she’s ‘my mom,’ but we’ve actually become really good friends. As I get older, we get closer, so I haven’t really experienced that teenage angst against my parents, which I’m glad about. There are definitely days where I’m like, ‘Ugh, okay, Mom.’ But I won’t lie: We’re pretty close, and I’ve always wanted to be just like her.
“For work, my mom is always on time. She’s always super professional, so everyone that I’ve worked with who’s worked with her has been like, ‘Your mom is the most professional model we’ve met.’ She’s always said, ‘If I’m there on time, I’m out on time. I’m here to work; let’s work.’ So I think I’ve taken that from her. I’m very professional, and I’m always on time—I can’t be late. I’ll be in the car in New York on my way to work, and she’ll wake up early and call me from L.A. just to ask, ‘Are you there yet?’
“I think supermodel is a term used a bit lightly now, but back in the ’90s, it was my mom, Claudia, Naomi, Linda, Christy—this whole group of girls that everyone wanted to be just like. They did a lot of work together, but they were all individual, which I really liked about them. No two of them looked the same. Each girl represented a different person that one girl could relate to, so if you couldn’t relate to my mom, you could relate to Christy or to Linda or to Claudia. I think it was cool for young girls to have all those different role models. And I look up to all of them, the image they’ve created for themselves, this group of really strong, powerful women. I think that is actually starting to come back with this new group of models … like [Gigi and Kendall].
“My mum has had a big influence on my beauty routine. The best lesson she’s taught me is that less is more. Because she’s very simple herself. She doesn’t need a lot of time to get ready; she’s very go-with-the-flow. I’ve taken that from her—just not to be a diva in any way. That less-is-more idea also applies to your skin, where the more you do sometimes almost makes your skin angrier. So it’s just about keeping it really simple. She teaches me tricks, like using vitamin E oil for glowy skin, which I would have never thought of. What she’s learned in the beauty world, she passes on to me.
“But working with professional makeup artists is so cool; I’ve learned so much, like the thick brow thing—not to touch my brows and leave them wispy is a trick I picked up on set. Then I’ll teach those things to my friends, and they’ll teach things to me. I’ve never been someone who does a lot of makeup on myself because I have someone doing it for me. So I learn stuff from my friends because they’re doing it all themselves. I never really knew about highlighting and contouring, so they’ll teach me things like that. I’ve always loved makeup; I’ve just never been very good at it. But it’s fun to try new things. I’m not picky at all.
“I love normal high school things. When I’m working, sometimes I’ll have to miss a party or something, and I still get bummed out about stuff like that. I get as excited about something in school as I do about work, and that’s why it’s fun. When I’m not working, I’m a normal high school girl. I think separating it is good—my friends at school, we don’t really talk about this side of my life. The only connection is when they see me on Instagram and stuff, but other than that, when I’m at home, I’m just normal. I don’t think you ever really get used to being photographed; it’s not a normal thing. So when I can stay out of it, I do.
“Staying in shape is definitely something I think about, but I don’t let it get in the way. I’m active, but I’m not just going to wake up and go to the gym and not eat pizza. If there’s pizza or if there’s ice cream, I’m going to eat it. If you’re not going to eat it when you’re 16, when are you going to eat it? This is probably one of the last times that I can do this, so I’m like, ‘Sure, give me everything because one day, I’m not going to be able to eat whatever I want.’
“As far as my career, I just hope to continue working with Marc Jacobs. He’s super collaborative and creative. I’m never afraid to speak my mind. That’s what I love about this brand; there’s never just one girl that you have to be. Otherwise, I just don’t want to close any doors for my career. I did an independent movie, and that was fun. I’m so young—who knows what I’ll do one day? But this modeling thing is working right now. So I’m just going for it.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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