New Beginnings: An Interview With Yolanda Hadid

Yolanda Hadid is no stranger to the unexpected. The proud Netherlands native turned runway model, turned loving mother, turned reality TV star, turned Lyme disease advocate has worn so many hats, it’s certainly good that fashion modeling was one of them. Otherwise, how could she make wearing so many hats look so good?

Born Yolanda van den Herik in Papendrecht, Netherlands, Yolanda credits her small European farm town upbringing for giving her the tools she needed to navigate the life she has now.

“I am extremely thankful for my humble beginnings,” she says. “It was a much more simple life than my blessed California lifestyle.”

Yolanda’s young life was quaint, but not without hardships. “Unfortunately, my father died when I was seven years old and my mother raised us alone.” When thinking back on her childhood, instead of dwelling on tragedy, Yolanda chooses to focus on the positive relationship she built with her mother. “She gave me a strong foundation with unconditional love and discipline. She empowered me to have self-worth, strength, integrity and honor.” Even in her early days, Yolanda displayed the kind of boundless gratitude most practiced yogis struggle to find. As you’ll see, this is something Yolanda does a lot.

Yolanda dreamt of becoming a professional equestrian until a chance encounter at a fashion show changed the course of her life. Dutch designer, Frans Molenaar, asked the naturally-beautiful Yolanda to replace one of his models in a show—a show that Ford Models founder, Eileen Ford, just happened to be watching. You know Ford Models, the famous agency that brought us all supermodels like Twiggy and today represents talent like Bar Rafaeli? Yeah, that Eileen Ford. Most of us would be shaking in our boots (or heels) if asked to perform in such a high-stakes situation. But Yolanda’s grace and her admitted ignorance about the world of fashion allowed her to pass that first modeling test with flying colors.

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“I honestly had never seen a VOGUE magazine until I was sixteen ... but when I was discovered I left Holland to model all over the world.” Yolanda had vastly different plans for her life, and suddenly new opportunities meant drastically readjusting. To some of us, that would be the most stressful situation as in a “let’s hope I’m modeling antiperspirant because I’m gonna need it to get through this” kind of thing. But not Ms. Hadid. She just went with it.

“Life took a different turn,” she reflects. “Destiny took me to where I am today.”

After years of posing and strutting her stuff around the world, Yolanda married real estate developer, Mohamed Hadid, and moved to sunny Santa Barbara. If Yolanda Hadid’s last name sounds familiar to you or your Instagram-obsessed teenagers, that’s no coincidence. Yolanda is mother to models Anwar, Gigi and Bella Hadid. Even though her children have ended up very much in the spotlight, Yolanda made sure that their early lives were as conventional as possible.

“We lived a very private life on a horse ranch in Santa Barbara,” she remembers. “The majority and most defining years of my children’s childhoods were very normal, as it was focused on school and sports.”

And she isn’t lying; Gigi became captain of her high school volleyball team and Bella had plans to become a professional equestrian. But then a little combination of destiny and genetics stepped in, bringing change— yet again—to the life of Yolanda and to the lives of her daughters.

“Gigi and Bella moved to New York City and started their modeling careers, which really changed their visibility in the world.” Two young women moving to a big city after growing up on a secluded ranch? Some moms might not be so thrilled. But, as you can imagine, not Yolanda. Instead she says, “I love watching my children grow and thrive in their lives as they become who they desire to be.”

And they certainly are becoming people that a lot of people would want to be. Gigi has appeared on the cover of VOGUE, walked the runway for designers like Versace and Chanel, and performed in music videos for DJ Calvin Harris and bestie, Taylor Swift. Bella could be spotted walking for Chanel and Givenchy at Paris Fashion week this year and posing for photoshoots by the likes of Marc Jacobs and designer, Karl Lagerfield. Maybe the reason Yolanda didn’t stress her daughter’s east coast move is that, much like she did in her own life, Yolanda chose to focus more on the tools she gave her children as opposed to worrying about the possible challenges they might encounter.
“The most important thing I like to remind them of is to always follow their intuition, stand strong in their shoes and remember who they were as a human being before the world told them who they should be.”

At the same time that her daughters were coming into their own, Yolanda chose to add to her already successful career with a new role as a reality TV star, joining the cast of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alongside her second husband, musician and producer, David Foster. While most reality shows are a series of fake arguments in front of a camera, Yolanda went through some pretty harrowing experiences on Real Housewives. She was documented going through the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.

“Chronic Lyme is a silent killer that slowly takes over every part of your body,” Yolanda says, adding that, “Uncovering the mystery of this disease was a long and hideous process.”

Long, hideous, and caught on film. Fans of Yolanda’s show could watch as she saw over one hundred doctors and experimented with, as she puts it, “every western and holistic protocol available.” Yolanda’s sickness got so bad that in 2015 she had lost the ability to read, write, or even watch TV. But as you’ve probably realized, Yolanda is never one to reflect negatively without finding something for which to be grateful.

“I am very lucky ... for the phenomenal medical team that has guided me to eighty percent improvement in the past two years.”

Not content with simply expressing gratitude, Yolanda Hadid has decided to do something about her battle with Lyme disease. “It would be easy to walk away from this journey and forget it ever happened, but I feel compelled to speak up and share.” So Yolanda wrote a book, adding the profession of author to her already impressive resume.

“Plenty of treatments were a waste of money and time, most of which are not covered by health insurance ... I hope my book will educate and shine light on the dark maze I had to travel to restore my health.”

Set to be released in February of 2017, “Believe Me: My Battle With the Invisible Disability of Lyme Disease,” is Yolanda’s way of using her hardships to empower others. “I am a voice for those who can’t be heard. Millions of people around the world suffer from this disease without answers.”

As you probably noticed, time and time again, reading this interview, Yolanda has the incredible ability to lean into change while also finding a way to be thankful for that change. Now that we’re barreling into fall, change is more apparent than ever. The days get shorter, the kids go back to school, and the weather changes (kind of). As we are confronted with all these changes, it’s pretty clear that we would do well to take a leaf out of Yolanda’s book.

“The only thing constant in life is change,” Yolanda says, “so embrace it and relax.” Relax. The California lifestyle definitely rubbed off a little on this Dutch model and mother of three.


Features Editor Logan Guntzelman
Photographed by Jim Jordan