gigi hadid was spotted with a book!
We've not had such excitement since Britney Spears was spotted with a copy of Voltaire's 'Candide'.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.
It has been some time since I was notified about an image on the internet as often or enthusiastically as I was notified by friends about a paparazzi photograph of Gigi Hadid, taken at Paris Fashion Week, holding a copy of Camus’ The Stranger and appearing to be — per my own interpretation — Going Through Some Shit. Eyes downcast, mouth downturned, Hadid looks like a very literate and very sad emoji in an off-white, Off-White suit. It’s possible that she is thinking about fashion week, but equally conceivable that she is thinking about the fate of Meursault, the murderous and motherless character at the centre of The Stranger. Not since Britney Spears appeared on holiday in Maui with a copy of Voltaire’s Candide, in which a man is cast out of “the greatest of all possible worlds” for being too horny, has the visual marriage of a tabloid entity and an extremely philosophical, extremely Francais book raised quite so many questions, and left all of them unanswered.
“In our society,” Camus said, meaning to explain the message of the novel, “any man who does not weep at his mother's funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death”. “I only meant,” he later clarified, “that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.” Few models have played the game more adroitly or more swiftly than the Hadid sisters, who became new women overnight and subsequently achieved overnight success. (Their mother, Yolanda Hadid, was once seen criticising a 17-year-old Gigi for electing to eat her own birthday cake on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which to my mind is a scene as tragic as anything penned by Camus.) Accordingly, both sisters’ reading habits have been covered, first by Vogue and then by Page Six, as if reading were a new trend. “Bella and Gigi are more than just pretty faces,” the report on Page Six chirped, its tone suggestive of having been written by a master satirist. “After all, the supermodel siblings have both been recently photographed carrying books.”
The astonishment expressed by tabloids whenever young starlets, and especially models or sex-symbols, are seen carrying books is neither new nor novel, but an old-school brand of sexism that for some reason will not die out. "I was a reader as a child, believe it or not," Mariah Carey dryly told a Guardian journalist once, as if she expected no-one to believe it, while a Google search for “models reading” throws up a 2011 blog that begins with the line: “Seeing models read makes me realise that they are human too.” “There are more photographs of Marilyn Monroe reading than there are of her naked. Almost always, these images are captioned with a kind of perky can-you-believe-it paternalism,” the artist Audrey Wollen wrote for Affidavit, in an essay from this year about the many, many photographs of Monroe poring over Ulysses, or Leaves of Grass. “Just as Freud said every negative statement includes the wish of its positive, every Instagram post that insists hotness does not prevent intellect only reasserts the unreliability of its claim.” There may be some truth in the idea that extreme intelligence and extreme beauty do not often combine in the same mould, but only because each quality is in and of itself rare. To be surprised that a hot girl is just literate is, frankly, insane: a bar so low it might trip a 5’11” supermodel where she stands.
“Books! You know, those antiquated, analog vessels of information usually associated with smart people,” Page Six continues, before delivering what some might consider to be an almighty burn: “like Emma Watson.” Whether Emma Watson, a “smart person”, would be as content to read The Outsiders by Stephen King — the book that Bella has been photographed with several times over the course of fashion month — as anything by Camus is impossible to know, although Page Six make sure to quote Vogue’s fairly mean assertion that Gigi Hadid “has slightly more intellectual taste” than her pulp-loving sister. They are half-right. While Bella Hadid’s 506-page King thriller is likely to be little more than a smart choice of airport novel for a very busy woman looking to distract herself between castings, or shoots, or red-eye flights, it’s true that Gigi’s copy of The Stranger is a source of fascination to me for exactly the same reason as the photograph of Spears with Candide: it tells us something about this specific woman’s taste, her interior life. I want to ask whether she looks sad because she had just been reading Camus, or whether she chose to read Camus because she felt sad. I would not mind seeing her bookshelf. Mostly, I think she and Britney Spears should start a book club. I think that the first book, based on their shared love of French philosophy, should be The Second Sex.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.