On April 10, 2019, Bravo published throwback clips on their YouTube channel from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which featured the Hadid family for many seasons. The just-over 13 minutes long clip showcases the Hadid siblings as adolescents in transition; Gigi is moving to New York for university and for her budding modeling career, and the Hadid family anxiously awaits the departure of the oldest daughter. They show the siblings and their mother, famed supermodel Yolanda Foster, going through their daily rise and grind — making dinner, shopping-in-your-mom’s-closet, grocery shopping, packing and moving your firstborn away to college, and a graduation celebration. Normal stuff for a girl about the attend senior prom, right?
The 13 minutes-too-long clip is watching the poor girl battle with her mother about volleyball, her looks and personality, and how she cannot have a dorm and roommate like a regular kid because of her mother’s fears of anything distracting her “bred-to-be-a-model” child.
Now, obviously, the Hadids are immensely socioeconomically endowed. Regular people’s parents are not featured on The Real Housewives. Their mother is an international beauty icon, and their father, who did spend much of his childhood as a refugee, is now a multi-millionaire who made a fortune out of real estate development.
However, words are immensely powerful, capable of inflicting intense injury upon the self-esteem of any human, regardless of fame, glory, or wealth. Especially a teenage Gigi on the cusp of leaving home to live all on her own thousands of miles away. Every adolescent, no matter how rich or famous, is still very much a vulnerable child who is just trying to fit in and realize who and what they are going to be in this world. Money cannot ever buy you a self-esteem.
At the start of the clip, Yolanda tells the camera all about her passion for family dinner and bonding. Great. Family bonding time. Go on.
Yolanda is then shown telling the camera directly, “I feel like if you’re not gonna be raising your kids, then you shouldn’t have any.”
And that’s when a normal kitchen pasta dinner goes downhill real fast.
Gigi comments that she misses playing club volleyball, arguing that, “modeling is my job, volleyball is my sport.”
Her mother, on the other hand, disagrees because volleyball is “too masculine” of a sport that will wreak havoc in her budding feminine silhouette. “These girls, they train 4 hours a day after school, and their bodies are BIG and BULKY, and… THEY EAT LIKE MEN!”
And that is where I yelled at my computer screen and decided that this article needed to be written.
ThEy EaT LiKe MeN…I mean, seriously?
I have never really watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I rarely, if ever, have watched a single reality television show start to finish. I first became a fan of Gigi Hadid when she made headlines for being infamously shamed by a Tommy Hilfiger casting director, and being dressed in an oversized poncho due to that casting director’s pettiness.
(Hilfiger himself has apologized publicly for the incident and denounced that casting director’s behavior)
The more I learned about Gigi, the more magazine spreads I read and interviews watched, the more I grew to really admire her. She was articulate, calm, and seemed honest and open. She’s marched in New York’s #NoBanNoWall protest against Trump’s anti refugee and anti-immigrant rhetoric, publicly denounced violence against Muslims, and is immensely proud of her heritage. My dad was a refugee as well, and I too was raised biculturally by immigrant parents. She’s also spoken candidly and bravely about her struggle with Hashimoto’s, a condition where a person’s immune system attacks their thyroid gland, and her burger recipe won Masterchef.
Man, I hope that fashion show jerk from all those years ago got fired.
Watching this video of Gigi, who normally appears so vivacious and enthusiastic, shy away from her mother’s overbearing harshness, was really difficult. To be told by your mother that your favorite sport will keep you from “properly developing as a woman” is nauseating.
Another fantastically horrible moment comes at 1:04 when Gigi asks her mother whether she remembers how in elementary school she lived in basketball shorts and a Kobe jersey (Hadid is a lifelong fan of Bryant, and talks about her jersey collection in detail in her Vogue 73 Questions interview). Her mother so calously remarks, “I thought that my daughter was… a lesbian.” Bravo can add all the quirky music in the world that it wants. That line will never not be immensely problematic and ignorant.
In another clip, Bravo shows Gigi getting her hair curled for a photoshoot, and she giggles about eating “heart attack” food for her birthday. Her mother replies that it will be her singular cheat meal, and that she has to recommit herself to a diet immediately afterwards.
Yolanda: Yeah, Milan likes the girls a tad on the skinny side…
Gigi: Yeah, I’m scared.
What the hell was that?
And then, at the 8 minute mark, it’s Gigi’s going away party and they’re cutting cake and Gigi says, “I have to have a bite for good luck though… Mommy, you’re going to have a little bite with me… yes, you are.” She’s practically begging her mother to let them enjoy birthday cake together, and Yolanda’s rationale is to make a big deal of splitting the smallest bite of birthday cake to ever exist.
The video ends with Gigi in her New York apartment looking at a photoshoot of her, pretending to be Tyra Banks picking Bella to be ANTM, and giggling, “okay, time to eat pizza!” A wholesome, innocent sister moment.
I would hate to know what her mother said next.
Those who know me personally know that I was a complete jock in high school. I religiously attended summer volleyball camp, I ran varsity track, I took dance class as my phys ed requirement, jumping into a swimming pool and diving up and down like a little mermaid is my idea of an awesome summer day, and joining the girls’ gymnastics team as a high school senior was a lifelong dream of mine come true. I have also struggled with my body image immensely, particularly loathing my legs, my hilariously broad wingspan in proportion to my height and frame, and the hefty sprinkle of freckles and birthmarks all over my skin. I am doing so much better now, but knowing how much one of my favorite celebrity/fashion/beauty icons must have struggled emotionally as a child breaks my heart. Someone who I find to be so fabulous and effortlessly cool isn’t too different than I am, and experienced similar heartache growing up. I never knew I had so much in common with a supermodel.
If you or a friend reading this needs help, please call the NEDA hotline toll-free at 1-800-931-2237. I’ve volunteered with NEDA twice at their annual Chicago Walk, and I seriously love their mission.