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From Webster Groves cheerleader to supermodel, what’s next for Karlie Kloss? – STLtoday.com
Those who have grown up with Karlie Kloss in Webster Groves describe her the way you might talk about any sweet, “Midwestern nice” girl next door. Except this girl has skyrocketed to the echelon of elite models and runs with the biggest names in entertainment and politics.
She has graced numerous Vogue covers, including one with her bestie Taylor Swift, has joined the ranks of Victoria Secrets Angels and has been the face of haute couture brands, from Marc Jacobs to Dior to Swarovski, around the world. She also launched her own YouTube channel and has millions of followers on social media. She recently sparked controversy after a spread in the March issue of Vogue in which she was styled as a Japanese geisha. Kloss apologized for participating in the photo shoot on Twitter after the images caused online backlash.
She’s been in the news a lot lately. Last week she announced that her Kode With Klossy program is expanding to provide nearly 300 scholarships to teen girls, up from 80 scholarships in 2016. This year the two-week program will include 15 summer camps in 10 U.S. cities including St. Louis. Selected girls will learn about software engineering and app development. (Interested? Apply at kodewithklossy.com/youth-scholarship)
Surprisingly, Kloss led a pretty normal childhood, despite being scouted at 13. She went to Webster Groves High School, was a cheerleader her freshman year and made it to prom. Usually midweek, she’d fly off to work in New York, walking in fashion shows and doing commercial modeling — and make it back for school on Monday.
The homegrown supermodel recently traveled back to St. Louis to launch a new collection she co-designed with Express with a private show at the Pageant. We got to sit down with Kloss before her show here.
Though her team of handlers wanted to steer the conversation toward her new line and said she would not answer any political questions, we were curious about how Kloss is handling the post-election spotlight on her personal relationships. Since 2012, Kloss has been dating Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared, special adviser to President Donald Trump. Joshua Kushner is a Democrat who did not support Trump and was spotted at the Women’s March after the inauguration. Kloss had also tweeted a photo of her ballot, adding #ImWithHer, signaling her support for Hillary Clinton during the election.
Surely, this has to make for some interesting family get-togethers with Ivanka and Jared, arguably the most powerful couple in America.
Here is an edited transcript of our chat:
You recently tweeted a photo with the words “We should all be feminists” and are continuing to invest in coding camps for girls. Are you moving into a more politically and socially engaged message beyond your work as a model?
First of all, I grew up here in St. Louis. I have three sisters. I grew up in a house of strong women. I definitely have always been very aware of how important it is to support other women, and whether that’s in the classroom, in the workforce or in any industry. I think having come from a house of opinionated, strong-minded women, that is just who I am.
I feel very lucky to have mentors like Diane von Furstenberg and Christy Turlington, and even getting to meet and learn from women like Melinda Gates, women who I think are leading by example. I think that’s something that I really aspire to do. It’s one thing to talk the talk, but really, to walk the walk is what it comes down to. The greatest gift that you can give someone is an opportunity to get an education and really be able to create a future for themselves.
How would you describe what it means to be a feminist to you?
I think equal opportunity across the board is not even a question. I think it’s equal opportunity in education and equal opportunity in career. There’s a disproportionate amount of men in the tech industry, for instance, and that was something that I really only realized after taking a coding class. So, the more girls you equip with this training, that’s really how you change that gender gap. By equipping the girls who are teenagers now, who are going to be in the workforce in 10 years. I also believe fashion can be such a powerful form of self-expression. When you are confident in your own skin and when you feel true to yourself from the inside out that is the most beautiful thing, and it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.
Why did you decide not to walk in the show debuting your co-designed collection?
I have had 10 years or more of experience walking in runway shows. This is a very special first for me. I have never designed a collaboration collection, and I have been intimately involved in the creation of this collection. I really feel proud to be walking out at the end as the designer and taking that bow.
What do you miss about not living in St. Louis anymore?
The good news is that it’s only two hours by plane. I go out of my way to come home as often as I can. There’s just no place like home. I’ve traveled to so many beautiful corners of this planet but there is an indescribable feeling, especially for me having grown up here, then graduating at 18 and moving to New York, about coming back. There’s something special about St. Louis that just stays with you.
Do you get to feel like a regular person here?
Oh, for sure. You know what’s so funny, though: I can walk the streets of New York and nobody even blinks an eye. I sometimes come home and go to Schnucks grocery store and see more neighbors, old friends, teachers down the aisles of Schnucks. It’s so funny. I feel so at peace at home, this really is my happy place. I don’t know if it’s just St. Louis, but you can go to the grocery store and just see everyone.
It is a St. Louis thing.
You can’t shop in your pajamas.
Is it strange for you now that you’ve reached this level that what you can say in interviews, all of this now has to be managed and controlled?
I don’t know. I live a very normal life. I really feel fortunate that I got an early start in my career and now at 24, am able to really be proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. I don’t feel like I’ve changed. I don’t think my family would allow me to. Definitely, I surround myself with people who care about the same things.
You recently announced that the Kode with Klossy camps are expanding to Chicago and other cities.
We’re still small. There’s a systematic change that needs to happen to really create change, and I think we are getting there. That’s why these camps are so important to me, because they are really high impact for these girls. A group from last summer went on to win a $50,000 scholarship. Each of the girls individually has this self-realization moment that “this really hard thing that my dad can’t even figure out or my parents don’t know what coding is, I am coding.” By the end of the two weeks, they are really equipped to be able to be dangerous. (Laughs.) Not, be dangerous, but to be able to build. To take an idea and understand how to put it into place.
What is your next thing going to be, expanding the camps, designing another line, or having your own show?
We live in a world where it certainly feels like anything is possible. Also you don’t have to just be one thing. You don’t just have to be interested in fashion, you don’t have to just be interested in tech. I think every woman is very multifaceted. For me, it’s all those things.
I’m a student at NYU. I love to keep learning things. I’m kind of just in this space of life where I’m just continuing to grow and learn every day without a specific agenda.
How do you deal with the new political spotlight that is on you now? Especially with your personal life in the news?
I’m really focused on the things that I’m working on. Obviously, I keep very abreast of what’s going on in the world, as I think everybody is. Taking an interest and a responsibility in understanding what is happening in the world around us, whether it’s on a social front, on a political front, on a cultural front. I think it’s important to be informed and now more than ever. And if nothing else, it’s been amazing to see how people have really taken power in their voice. I think we are going to see a shift in a lot of things. I certainly have been more informed. I have always loved to read the news, but I feel like I have never, and I think a lot of people never paid attention in the way they are now.