Kaia Gerber is on a mission to use her notoriety for good: 'People spend so much time complaining about fame'

Kaia Gerber talks nepotism and burnout. (Photo: Getty Images)
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Kaia Gerber told Elle magazine that she feels she's "lived a whole life already" at just 21. That’s in part because of the spotlight that's followed her mother Cindy Crawford since before Gerber was born, but also due to the modeling career that she’s already created for herself. Still, even after all of these years of public recognition and fame, Gerber said that people don't know who she actually is.

"For so long, I felt like as a model, I was playing these different characters, which was really cool, and I still like doing that. But I think now, because I get to do that in acting and that’s my primary focus, I appreciate when I feel seen by someone as me, the person," she said in the Feb 2023 cover story. "I wasn’t ready for that when I was first modeling, because I didn’t feel fully formed. Now I feel more myself."

Gerber also noted that creating a persona for her modeling career in particular acted as a sort of protection from the rejection that many inevitably face.

Gerber covers the Feb. 2023 issue of Elle magazine. (Photo: Cass Bird for Elle)
Gerber covers the Feb. 2023 issue of Elle magazine. (Photo: Cass Bird for Elle)

"I mean, it’s scary. People were like, 'How do you deal with rejection in modeling?' and I was like, 'Honestly, you don’t take it personally,' because it’s so subjective, and they weren’t rejecting anything about me as a person. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt at times, but it was easier to take," she explained. "It can be scary to show yourself, because it opens you up for criticism and for people to not agree with you and not like you, but I think I just came into myself more. I was like, 'No, I do have a point of view, and I have things to say.; You accept that not everyone is going to agree with that, but I don’t need that anymore."

While Gerber has been criticized for benefiting from her mother's notoriety — she falls under the "nepo baby" label, for “nepotism,” that many next-generation celebrities are currently facing following New York Magazine’s buzzy deep dive on the topic — the 21-year-old has proven herself as a model on the world's most notable runways and in a number of big campaigns. It's the work that she's put into proving her value in those spaces that ultimately led her to experience a bit of burnout just before the pandemic put her and so many others out of work.

"Honestly, it came at a time when I really needed it, and it was a really difficult time in the world, but I really had reached a point where I just felt like I was falling out of love with it, and I didn’t know that you could ask for a break. I was forced to stop, and I realized how badly I needed one," she said of the shutdown that put her at home with her family.

"When you’re being told what to do every day, you don’t have time to sit and reflect,” she continued. “But I had gone through so many changes and had so many massive things happen to me over the years that I was modeling. I had four or five years of processing to do. I felt so lucky that I got to be with my family because I’d spent so much time away from them, and I realized I had so much guilt about missing birthdays and things. I had been traveling since I was a teenager, and so I got to develop an adult relationship with my family."

She even got to know herself in a way that she hadn't gotten the chance to before.

"I developed so much deeper relationships in my life, and also a connection to myself. When you’re forced to sit with yourself, all of a sudden, you’re aware of all the stuff you haven’t dealt with. There wasn’t communication happening between me and myself, and I felt out of body sometimes," she said. "Once I developed that, I was like, 'This isn’t something I want to give up.' My personal life and my mental health are not something I’m willing to sacrifice for my job ever again."

Gerber said that she's now taking advantage of being able to do more work at home and that she’s also traveling less. "I come home, and I’m with my dog. I have friends, and I’m cooking dinner. I see my therapist, and I see my family," she said.

As she's evaluated her priorities, Gerber said that she's also set on using her influence for good.

"When I see people with a platform not using it the way that they could, it makes me upset. I don’t expect everyone to have the same opinions about things, but I think that there’s so much good that can be done with this platform," she said. "So many people spend so much time complaining about fame. But you can also do something so incredible with it. I’ve seen firsthand that actually, you can make a difference. You can change people’s lives, and to not take that opportunity would be silly and make none of it worth it for me."

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