She’s already conquered the modeling world. But Karlie Kloss, 23, has a lot more planned: There’s college. And a video channel. Oh, and teaching an entire generation of women to code! She sits down with friend Derek Blasberg to explain her Nice Person’s Guide to Changing the World.
Karlie has always been the sort of girl who thinks “family first” is a better motto than “first class.” Her ascent began at 13, when she walked in a St. Louis charity fashion show and caught the eye of a local scout, who brought her to an agency in New York. That’s when her career took off in a way that can only be described as a fashion fairy tale: In September 2007, one month after her fifteenth birthday, she appeared in her first New York show, for Calvin Klein. The following spring she walked on more than 31 runways in New York alone. Then came big breaks in campaigns for Christian Dior and Marc Jacobs, and a stint as a Victoria’s Secret Angel. Today she has a much-coveted gig as a face of L’Or??al Paris—and a spot on Forbes’ Highest-Paid Models list.
And that’s just her day job. In 2012 Karlie founded a line of vegan, gluten-free baked goods that raises money for the Feed charity. This past summer, after taking a coding course (that’s right—during the summer!), she established the Kode With Karlie scholarship, which aims to get young women involved in the world of technology. Later this year she’s launching her own YouTube channel—and this month she’s heading back to school as a college freshman at New York University.
DEREK BLASBERG: My little sister is all grown-up and going off to college. Why now?
KARLIE KLOSS: I didn’t want to wait until I’m 30 to continue learning and challenging myself in new ways. I am 23 and at a very busy point in my career, but I hope it’s just the beginning. I want to do it all.
DB: What will you study at NYU?
KK: Like most kids starting college, my major is still “undecided.”Next year will be a big balancing act—but how exciting! I haven’t written a paper in years, so I may be calling you for homework help.
DB: Did you ever take that BuzzFeed quiz I emailed you: “Are You More Cara Delevingne or Karlie Kloss?”
KK: Yep. And you’ll be relieved to know that I got Karlie Kloss.
DB: Phew! I got Cara Delevingne.
KK: I am very confused how you got Cara. Should I be offended?
DB: According to BuzzFeed, “[Karlie Kloss] is as sweet as apple pie.” They say you’re “an amazing friend and always put others before yourself.” Have you ever wanted to shake off that image of being fashion’s sweetest supermodel?
KK: There are worse things than being called sweet. And I think the way that both you and I were raised was to be grateful to people. I’m a nice girl, and I’ve embraced it.
DB: You do have a lot of friends. FYI: This is when I ask you about Taylor Swift.
KK: And here we go! Taylor and I met at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show two years ago. [Model] Lily Aldridge introduced us. She was like, “OK, you two are kindred spirits. How have my two nice American friends never met?” And that was it.
DB: Immediate BFFs?
KK: Our friendship is the same as yours and mine. Many of my closest friends are traveling all the time, so it takes constant effort—texting, Facetiming—on all ends to maintain close relationships.
DB: Let’s talk about that “Bad Blood” video. Selena Gomez, Hailee Steinfeld, Cara, Lena Dunham, and you: It was four minutes of major celebrity cameos. That couldn’t have been easy.
KK: But how often do you get to work with all your best friends on such a fun project? I think Taylor is the only person who could’ve pulled something like that off.
DB: Like Taylor, you’re becoming a role model for young girls. How does that feel?
KK: I’m still wrapping my head around it; I do feel a responsibility to be an example for young women in general. That’s what Kode With Karlie is about: supporting girls to try coding even if they’re not interested in being a programmer. If I can inspire one girl to try it, I’ll be happy.
[ … ]
DB: I remember you doing schoolwork backstage at shows. I thought it was wonderful how you managed to exist in both the fashion world and the real world.
KK: It was a bizarre double life…but at school no one really cared. It’s not like anyone in my high school was reading Vogue Italia.
DB: What did you wear to prom?
KK: I knew you were going to ask me that! Yes, I wore Dior couture to my prom. I probably peaked at my prom, and it’s all downhill from there. [Laughs.] I should say, though, that I wouldn’t have considered myself a high-fashion high-schooler. I lived in a ballet bun and comfy clothes. I still opt for comfort, even today.
DB: How has the business of fashion changed since you started?
KK: Social media. The fashion industry has had to become less elitist and more accessible. When I started, only a few hundred people could see a fashion show live. Now anyone with a computer and Internet access can. It’s put a bigger spotlight on what we do.
DB: Which, I think, has been good for fashion and good for models.
KK: It’s been a great thing for my career, but also as an individual, because I get to show my personality.
DB: Do you ever read the comments? Do you get those nasty trolls?
KK: I read some of them, sure. The vast majority of comments are positive. But there are bullies out there. I’ve learned to ignore them. Because in my life, that’s just noise. (x)