Hailey Clauson Talks Her Career
3rd January 2018
The term “supermodel” isn’t something to throw around lightly. But what was once the territory of leggy glamazons with goddess status and attitudes to match is now populated by a generation of women who are challenging industry norms, tackling body shaming and driving their careers in whatever direction they damn well please. Meet Hailey Clauson, the new Super in charge.
Flocked denim jacket in black, $595, by Marc Jacobs at Saks Fifth Avenue, Brickell City Centre; silk panty, $345, at Dolce & Gabbana, Bal Harbour Shops; Nadira heels in black satin, $1,030, by Manolo Blahnik at Nordstrom, Aventura Mall; (top) snowflake bracelet featuring diamonds set in platinum, price upon request, at Van Cleef & Arpels, Bal Harbour Shops; (bottom) cuff in 18K white gold set with 1,949 diamonds, price upon request, at Piaget, Design District; short diamond cascade earrings, $2,750, by Anita Ko at The Webster; RoyalT wedding band, $28,390, by Tacori at Montica Jewelry, Coral Gables.
We'll get to the iconic #throwback moment happening on the cover and on these pages in a minute. But first, the Northern Lights. It was not Hailey Clauson’s dream to pose in a string bikini. At 2am. In a snowy field 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. But that was where the blond bombshell found herself one subzero morning a couple of years ago, launching her modeling career into the stratosphere with a Sports Illustrated cover shoot.
It would be a disservice to the Clauson-makes-it-big story to not call out that frigid day because, in her words, “it helped me embrace being myself, come into my own and love myself for me.” And in a world where “young girls are being told to look a certain way or to fit a certain mold,” she says, conquering your own body-confidence issues—or at the very least learning to navigate those emotionally charged waters— should be a job requirement. But it can be so much more than that. For Clauson, it was a career-defining moment.
As a 13-year-old in Southern California, Clauson idolized the usual suspects: Cindy, Linda, Naomi, Claudia. “My mom would always tell me about these amazing supermodels [who] almost had superpowers. I was really inspired by them and the fact that they were more than just models.” And so the too-tall adolescent, mocked for towering above her classmates (“I was 6 feet tall and everybody thought I was a teacher!”), decided to follow in their leggy legacy. At an open call in Los Angeles, she signed with Ford and spent the next 12 months doing Wildfox Couture and Forever 21, her sights set on the couture runways of Paris. But just as quickly as her career began to skyrocket, she was thrown some curves—literally.
The lanky clothes-hanger frame blossomed into sinuous proportions. “My body really changed when I was about 17 or 18, like most girls, and I did not fit into sample sizes anymore,” Clauson recalls. Instead of giving up—or, worse, attempting to fight her God-given physique—she did what only someone wise beyond their years knows to do: She gave herself a break. “I took a year off and let myself be a normal teenager to figure out if I still wanted to do this or not, and I decided I did.” Her solution was to follow the path of many of the supermodels she admired: to the sandy beaches around the world. “I didn’t realize how amazing of an experience [working with Sports Illustrated] was going to be until I shot with them. They’re a cool, awesome, happy crew to be around, and they’ve helped me embrace my body. That part alone was amazing. And then once the issue comes out, it gives you a lot more recognition in the mainstream world, so it’s definitely changed my name in many amazing ways. I’m very thankful for it.”
And so here we are. A bona fide star (in addition to all the bikini work, she continues to walk runways from New York to Paris and has done major editorials for CR Fashion Book, Allure and Vogue Japan), Clauson arrives on set to re-create the shoot supermodel Claudia Schiffer did for Ocean Drive when the title launched 25 years ago.
There is the Bardot-esque blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess. There is the vintage Versace catsuit. And there is a copy of the original cover for reference. “Hailey has legs for days, just like Claudia. But even more, her energy, her confidence and her total knowing of her womanhood mirrors a young Claudia,” says Modern Luxury Style Director Jacqueline Zenere. For her part, Clauson is over-the-moon when Zenere—or one of her nearly 500,000 Instagram followers—draws the comparison. “It’s always a huge compliment; I’ll take that comparison every day!”
But it’s not only the iconic shoots of the ’90s Clauson wants to mirror. She recognizes that the truly spectacular achievement of the Supers is the career they each launched after they “retired” from the catwalks. “All these women have taken advantage of their opportunities and created businesses out of them… creating long-term [ventures] for themselves that don’t only involve modeling, which I think is really amazing,” she says. Clauson is also exploring multiple avenues, including a forthcoming women’s clothing line that will encompass all body types with a versatility that reflects her own multitasking lifestyle, including “classic staples any woman can wear that are flattering—something you can wear with your leather jacket, or to the gym, but you’re going to still look good in it no matter what.”
Television hosting and acting are also on the table. “I want to train before I full-on get into it,” she says. “I think it’s better to be prepared in that kind of situation than to not have any idea what you’re doing. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it right.” And there are more modeling goals she hopes to attain, including a beauty contract, a fragrance deal and the always-coveted cover of Vogue. “I want to ride the wave and see where it takes me, because you never know!” But at the moment she has something a little more pressing on her to-do list: “I don’t [have a driver’s license], so that’s something that I need to get on,” she confesses. “I’ve never driven on a freeway. I’m scared, but I need to do it. I’ll be happy I did it, in the long run.” But for someone who can beam sunnily while wearing a bikini, earmuffs and mukluks while being towed on a sled by a reindeer through a snowbank, a driver’s license seems a reasonably attainable goal.
After all, she’s a supermodel.