Kaia Gerber interviewed by her book club guests
Jia Tolentino, Brandon Flynn, Cami Morrone and more put their questions to the bookish model.
Over 2020, wedged somewhere in between a global world-changing pandemic and our endlessly increasingly spiralling screen time, in between creeping political dread and end of the year post-Trumpian optimism, Kaia Gerber turned lockdown towards more wholesome ends, running a book club and interviewing authors via Instagram. We got some of those authors to ask Kaia a few questions about literature, art, representations of modelling, and travelling to the moon…
What’s the last piece of art that moved you? The last piece of art that moved me was a book I read about Paris in the 50s called In the Cafe of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano. Which medium do you often find yourself returning to? I often find myself returning to literature in one form or another because it touches me in a place most other mediums have yet to. It quiets my mind and the world around me. Is there a piece of art that you’re constantly trying to spread the word about? I think I’m constantly trying to spread the word about art in general, and inspire creativity. When you’re getting to know someone new, is there a piece of art (any medium) you might share to introduce yourself? I almost always give someone I’m getting to know a book that has impacted me a lot and I always ask for a recommendation from them in return. I have found a language through literature that has helped shape some of my closest relationships.
Jennifer Egan’s great Look At Me is one of the only novels I can think of that really uses the interior point of view of a model (and what modelling imparted to her in terms of perception and performance) as the key to a larger story. What’s an aspect of modelling that casual onlookers might not be able to perceive? The perspective of a model isn’t something commonly portrayed in the images we help to create, and I too have struggled to find my voice within the industry. I think an aspect of modelling that casual onlookers might not be able to perceive is all of the time spent behind the scenes to create an image. I see pictures that took so many creative minds, not to mention hours of flights, fittings and preparation to capture, being scrolled past as though they were the same as any iPhone picture. And, while I do think it’s incredible that everyone has the ability to capture a moment at their fingertips, I also believe it is important to differentiate between the two. If you could go to the moon, would you? I would go, just as a reminder of how small we all are, and how we need to take care of our planet so we don’t all have to move to Mars.
You’re a voracious reader. If you wrote a novel, what would it be about? I have no idea what my novel will be about, but I know I want to make people cry when reading it. Crying over someone else’s troubles is the closest we can get to empathy and, I believe, one of the greatest gifts of literature. What draws you to a book, and what draws you to a person? Are the qualities the same? What draws me to a book is usually if I think it has something to teach me and emotions to evoke. I guess I could say the same for people.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”– James Baldwin
I think about this quote when I pick up a book; for someone who is quite an accomplished half-ass reader, it’s a reminder that the books I finished have stuck with me in ways that no schooling or job could ever. The intimacy of getting to know someone’s story this way, and perchance seeing your own, is what I find so sacred in opening a book. In 2020, what story made you feel most connected to you? In 2020, having a passion and the drive to fight for a cause that I care deeply about made me feel most connected to myself. And being able to see the positive changes that have come from those efforts has made me feel even more connected to myself and others. Even though we still have a long way to go, this made me feel like I had a purpose that was so much bigger than me. One of my inspirations during this time was and will forever be James Baldwin. Setup is such an important part of storytelling. We see it in books, movies and plays. Often times, the first line is an intoxicating lure that will encourage me to take the bait and be carried along for an entire read. Kaia, what would your first line be? My first line – and believe me I have thought a lot about this because I couldn’t agree more – would be “I forgive you.”
What is an important book you would want your son/daughter to read? I would want my son/daughter to read Just Kids by Patti Smith because this is the book that sparked creativity and confidence within me as I was moving away from home for the first time. Is there a book that you remember your parents reading to you when you were a child? My mom often read The Giving Tree to my brother and I and I still believe that book has one of the most important messages that I will carry with me through my whole life.
Through your book club series, what’s the biggest take away that you hope readers and listeners get from listening to the series? I hope that the biggest takeaways for readers and listeners are the ways in which literature can connect us all on a very human level. What do you do to reclaim and protect your peace during these difficult times? I have made sure to spend this time educating myself. I think reading has helped create that safe space for me this year.
Photography Zoë Ghertner
Styling Alastair McKimm
Hair James Pecis at Bryant Artists using Oribe Haircare.
Make-up Aaron de Mey at Art Partner.
Props/Set Design Spencer Vrooman
Photography assistance Milan Aguirre and Hunter Blackwell.
Styling assistance Madison Matusich and Milton Dixon III.
Hair assistance Anton Alexander.
Make-up assistance Tayler Treadwell.
Production Meghan Gallagher at Connect The Dots. Production coordinator Hannah Murphy.
Production assistance Jeremy Sinclair, Sonny Castaneda and Nick Brown.
Casting director Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DMCASTING.
Model Kaia Gerber at DNA.