Q&A: Yolanda Hadid on ‘Making a Model’ and mother-daughter bonds
Yolanda Hadid is returning to TV by “divine intervention.” The former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star is tapping into her modeling past — and TV expertise — to host a new Lifetime show called “Making a Model.”
Set in New York, where Hadid now lives, the series follows six aspiring models and their mothers. Hadid serves as a mentor to the girls, putting them through an eight-week training program that tests their modeling capabilities and their mother-daughter bonds. The grand prize is a management contract with her company and the opportunity to be represented by IMG Models in New York. Daughters Gigi and Bella both make appearances, as does Tommy Hilfiger.
While snowed in in her new Manhattan home during last week’s “bomb cyclone,” Hadid spoke to WWD via phone. Here, she shares her thoughts on modeling, social media and mother-daughter relationships.
WWD: What are you looking for in a model?
Yolanda Hadid: When you start casting for a show like this, it’s really important that they’re authentic. Every girl on the planet has the dream to become a supermodel. I think it’s a great platform to have. We didn’t go out with all girls that are 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10, like the usual model. We have a great variety of different girls and they have personality because beauty alone is not enough, as you know.
WWD: Were the moms just as big a factor as the girls?
Y.H.: Yes, because they couldn’t come on the show without their moms. I wasn’t into doing just a model show. It was more about the mother-daughter relationship and the importance of that foundation going into an industry like this. So yes, the moms were very much part of it. They had to go through the auditioning process and be put on tape and ask questions.
WWD: How was filming with Tommy Hilfiger?
Y.H.: I’ve obviously worked with Tommy in the past. Gigi is on their fourth collection now, so I’ve been working with him and his team and he’s become a friend of mine. I really respect him as not only somebody in the business, but mostly as a great human being. I thought that he was a great person to bring along.
WWD: In the first episode, you make a point about how “It” girls can become supermodels if they have enough followers. Do you think it’s important for aspiring models to concentrate on building a following in order to get noticed?
Y.H.: When I was modeling, I had to live in every city — in Milan, in Paris, in New York, I was in Sydney and Tokyo — and spend six months there to actually go in person with my portfolio and meet clients and get jobs. Today, [social media is] free advertising and it’s global. It’s a connection to the world in a split second. So yeah, I think it’s really important, but it also has brought a very difficult side because these kids, they’re constantly evaluated on social media by people that really don’t know who they are as human beings. They’re being judged on pictures. So as much as it’s a great thing, it’s also a dangerous thing, which we speak about on the show. That’s also where the moms come in and where the foundation at home is so important. If I apply that to my own children, it’s like I’m the anchor of our family. When they go off a little bit, they come back to the anchor and I ground them and remind them of who they are.
WWD: Your daughters are two of the most sought-after models in the industry today. How has it been watching them grow?
Y.H.: They’re really hard-working girls. It’s been amazing for me to watch because that’s the industry that I came from. When they were children, even though I didn’t allow them to work, at home I would always play with clothes with them and take pictures. It’s something that they fell into in a very playful way. There is no greater joy for a mother than to see your children succeed in something that they love to do.
WWD: Do you try to make it to every show and shoot?
Y.H.: No, no, no. They are completely independent. The crazy thing is that when they started, I brought them to New York, got them an agency, but I got sick with Lyme disease and [was] bedridden for most of the years of their career, so they had to step into their own power and make this happen for themselves. I wasn’t there, which was probably a blessing because had I not been sick, I probably would have babied them a lot more than I did.
WWD: What’s one piece of advice you tell them that they still don’t listen to?
Y.H. I always said to the girls, “You’re not allowed to model until you’re 18 years old.” I remember when they were 16, [they said,] “Mom, everybody 16 works” and I said, “I do not care what everybody else does, I care what you do and I’m not gonna break my rule on that.” They fought me on that for many years and now they look at me and say, “Mommy, thank you so much for giving us the gift of having time to grow up and get to a place where we were more self-confident because we don’t think we could have managed the fame, the success if we had started two years earlier.” Generally, they trust my input and they listen, but they definitely have a mind of their own.
WWD: You have so much TV experience already. How did this show feel different?
Y.H.: I had never had another job. I started modeling when I was 15, so that’s been my journey. I wish I could run a bank and wear a suit every day, but God didn’t give me the brains to do that. I’m very natural in front of the camera and I was passionate about this project and the message that I had in my heart, which is the love of the dream and the relationship between the mom and daughter, more so than other modeling shows that are out there. I wanted to set myself apart because I have a different message.
WWD: Have your kids watched the show? What do they think of it?
Y.H.: They think it’s amazing. Both the girls came on the show and they understand that a part of the higher purpose of their journey is to be a role model and to give back to younger girls that have exactly the same dream that they have. It was really great to see that they were actually capable of making the girls understand that they’re just human and they’re the same as they are. They’re no better, we’re all the same.