Thanks to her famous parents — and her striking resemblance to supermodel mom Cindy Crawford — Kaia Gerber's spent most of her life in the public eye. But in a candid new interview with Vogue, the 19-year-old admits that she was unequipped to deal with some of the situations that came with being a teen catwalk queen.
"My dad [businessman Rande Gerber] would call me when I'd be in Paris and be like, 'Do you want to come home?'" says Gerber, who was accompanied to fashion month by a "very protective" Crawford at first before venturing out solo. "At the time I thought I was fine, but now I look back to 16-year-old Kaia and I’m like, 'Come home!’ And I found myself in situations where I was, like, I actually don’t have the life experience that I need to handle this."
That included both basic logistical tasks and mature situations foreign to many high schoolers.
"It could be something as small as knowing how to take the bus from the flight to the terminal," she explains. "Or, I remember, when I started traveling alone, in Paris, my driver had to check me into my hotel room — I couldn’t even do it on my own."
She adds, "I was so young I had kissed, like, only one person. I had never had a high school sweetheart or anything. And so I tended to date older people because those were the people I was around. And I got put in situations where one day I'd wake up and be like, How did I get here? I have no idea what I’m doing, and I need help. And being able to ask for that help was amazing. That’s what real growing up means, not being afraid to ask."
The June cover girl is now finding her voice, telling the magazine that "for a long time, I thought my face and my body had more to say than I did, because that's what people thought of me."
"I always wanted to be good and easy, not to make trouble," she continues, "but when you do that, you sometimes end up losing your voice."
These days, Gerber — now in a "safe, steady" relationship with Euphoria actor Jacob Elordi — is learning to curb that people-pleasing behavior and embrace her own needs.
"One thing I learned is that I have to let go of my need to be a straight-A student across every aspect of my life," she says. "Once I realized that I am going to mess up, I learned to be more forgiving of myself."
She's also investing in her mental health, practicing therapy, meditation, yoga and breathwork alongside daily journaling. Speaking her mind has also proven to be key.
"I started so young that people weren’t expecting me to have an opinion about things, and I was fine with that, because I didn’t feel comfortable enough in who I was," Gerber says. "But when I got a little older, I started to wait for someone, especially in interviews, to ask me something other than 'What are three items in your purse?’ I was like, 'You're not asking Adam Driver that, right?' I was waiting to be invited to speak. Eventually I invited myself. And that was a really freeing feeling."
She adds, "I'm a trusting person. There were moments I’d be going through a hard time, and people would ask me how I was, and I'd say, ‘Oh, I’m good.’ Now it's more, like, maybe the person I'm talking to is also having a bad day, and we can talk about it. If we close ourselves off, a lot of things get buried."
She's now using her platform to share her interests, such as reading, and amplify social justice issues close to her heart. Nabbing a role in Ryan Murphy's next American Horror Story, meanwhile, will let her pursue her passion for acting. While Gerber is relishing these new opportunities, she's mindful that the strides she's made in terms of personal growth must still come first.
"I want moms to be happy that their daughters look up to me, but being a real role model means also being a real human," she says.
Read more from Yahoo Life:
Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.