In the space of 31 days, the 20-year-old supermodel racked up four magazine covers, a trio of high-profile ad campaigns, three product launches — including her collaboration with Chrome Hearts — and she walked in Naomi Campbell’s charity fashion show. Bella slayed at the Met Gala in a see-through Alexander Wang catsuit and turned heads at the Cannes Film Festival in risque designer dresses. When it came time to relax, the sultry brunette frolicked in unidentified tropical waters with BFFs Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin, then cavorted on a yacht in the Med with race-car driver Lewis Hamilton.
“Bella is exploding, and she’s just going to keep getting bigger and bigger,” says Mel Ottenberg, celebrity stylist for Rihanna and fashion director for ultra-hip fashion and art magazine 032c, which features a topless Hadid (times three) on the cover of its summer issue. “She’s a face for our times and a star player in a new breed of megafamous models that we as a culture are fascinated by.”
With a career powered by social media and reality TV, Bella was one of the original “Insta-girls,” along with her model older sister, Gigi, and Jenner. Although she has 13.5 million Instagram followers and counting, the New York-based bombshell has long since eclipsed this label. Experts say the 5-foot-9 glamazon is a legit talent with charisma, personal style and one of the best bodies in the business.
“Bella has this unique blend of classically beautiful features mixed with a very of-the-moment confidence and sexiness,” says Elle Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers, who chose her as one of six May cover girls. “She maintains a kind of mystery, too, that is really alluring in the age of the overshare. And she addresses the camera so directly, without artifice, it’s almost startling.”
Adding to her charm is a lively personality. “Her energy is infectious, she’s got a great laugh and she’s magnetic,” says Ottenberg.
And also famously nice. “Her kindness immediately seduced me beyond her beauty,” says French couturier Alexandre Vauthier, a Bella fave.
In an industry known for divas, Bella is said to be punctual and hard-working. “She keeps her cool, no matter what,” says Michael Kors, who cast the IMG stunner in his past two shows and describes her as “a modern California version of Ava Gardner.”
“When she took a tumble on the runway, she brushed herself off and just kept going, no drama,” says the designer, referring to her face-plant in his spring 2017 show. “She is a real professional, even at her young age.”
Easygoing Bella is quick to make fun of herself. After her Kors spill, she tweeted: “Guys I’m a professional break dancer now I forgot to tell u.” And when an InStyle UK reporter at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show asked if she prefers underboob or sideboob, Bella offered this perky reply: “Both at the same time with one little nipple cover!”
With or without pasties, her signature evening look is a naked dress. Last month, she rocked a Ralph & Russo confection at the amfAR gala in Cannes consisting of little more than transparent crystals. “Bella worked very closely with us on the design from inception to creation,” says Tamara Ralph, the couture house’s creative director.