Why is Kaia Gerber suddenly the centre of the fashion universe?

kaia gerber with her mother cindy crawford


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Why is Kaia Gerber suddenly the centre of the fashion universe?” was written by Hadley Freeman, for The Guardian on Monday 18th September 2017 13.32 UTC

Who or what is Kaia Gerber?

Roger, by email

I rather enjoy, Roger, that you thought it easier to write to me with this question as opposed to typing into something I believe is called – reaches for old lady spectacles – “Google”. And jolly glad I am that you did, too, because Kaia Gerber relates to quite a few things that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while, including and not limited to celebrities, parents, teenage girls, fashion, tabloids, exploitation and more. It may turn out to be that Kaia Gerber is now the centre of the universe, which would explain quite a lot about this universe. Because Kaia Gerber is a 16-year-old girl.

In fact, she has just turned 16 and pretty much as soon as Kaia blew out the candles on her cake she was shoved on to every other catwalk at New York fashion week. An exciting start to the autumn for a fresh-faced teenager you may, or may not, be thinking. But this was not young Kaia’s first encounter with fashion. She has already appeared in several fashion magazines and campaigns, starting with a Versace campaign when she was 10, a French Vogue cover with her mother a few years later and her first solo magazine cover when she was 14. Tabloids have been running pap photos of her for years, doing everything from going shopping with her mother when she was 14 (“with long limbs to rival her mother’s”) to putting petrol in a car when she was 15 (“Her slender model figure was covered in a mini white bandeau top and high-waisted jeans”).

The media coverage of her 16th was, shall we say somewhat thigh-rubbing, with the British tabloids in particular barely able to control their excitement that young Kaia is now legally of age – in the UK anyway, if not in her home state of California.

Perhaps you are thinking that this seems a little OTT for your run-of-the-mill pretty teenage girl, which it is. But – and you might have seen this coming – the key detail here is that Kaia is a celebrity offspring. She is the daughter of Cindy Crawford and the rather amusingly named Rande Gerber, who is also, it turns out, George Clooney’s best friend, neatly proving this column’s theory that all famous and vaguely famous people know each other.

There is a sharp divide among celebrities between those who put their kids in the limelight, and those who very much don’t, and I’m always intrigued as to which celebrity chooses which path. Because, contrary to what you might think, celebrity children don’t have to be famous: the parents just have to choose to keep them away from red-carpet events, to get their lawyers to threaten tabloids that publish unobscured photos of them and not to pose with them on the cover of French Vogue. And if you don’t believe me, think of Matt Damon: Damon has four kids and I have not a clue even what their names are and it is kind of my job to know stuff like that. Or Christy Turlington, for that matter. Does Christy have kids? Probably, but I wouldn’t recognise them if they sat next to me on the bus. By contrast, the Crawford-Gerber children, rather like the Beckham children, are by now almost as familiar to me as my own offspring, such is the amount of time they’ve spent in the spotlight. Kaia and her 18-year-old brother, Presley, have been in front of the cameras since they were little and, between the two of them, have 2.2 million followers on Instagram.

Cindy Crawford didn’t become a model until she was 19 so it’s striking that she decided to let her daughter model from the age of 10. It’s not like history is littered with successful tales of high-profile celebrity children, and the few who do end up happy and well and accomplished – Michael Douglas, Stella McCartney – were kept out of the limelight by their parents and then encouraged to make their own way, not just use their family connections. I get that all parents want to give their kids the best childhood, and a lot of people do equate “fame” with “the best”. It’s just weird when famous people do it because they, of all people, should know that being a celebrity ain’t, actually, all that great. So maybe Cindy and Rande have had nothing but positive experiences of fame. If so, they are next to unique.

As it happens, new father George Clooney has been talking about this quite a lot recently in regards to his twins, Ella and Alexander. “We didn’t want to give them one of those ridiculous Hollywood names that don’t mean anything,” he said recently, perhaps unaware that his best friend’s kids are called Kaia and Presley. Clooney added that his own children “are going to be born into a place of privilege and so they’re going to have to learn that it’s just by accident.” I’m guessing this probably means Clooney’s not going to put his kids in movies when they’re 10.

So is Clooney making a dig at his friends here? Isn’t 16 still a little young to be the star of New York fashion week, given Kaia is still in high school? These are questions we may never be able to answer in full. But good luck, Kaia. You are (nearly) an adult now, and not just your mother’s daughter, so don’t let other adults tell you what to do, OK?

Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email ask.hadley@theguardian.com.

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