Dawn breaks over Charing Cross in London as our car draws up at the Islington studios where Hitchcock shot his films. I wonder what Taylor Hill will be like in the flesh. The American supermodel who was born in Illinois in 1996, grew up in Colorado and is now one of the most powerful influencers in the world of fashion and beauty. Her followers on Instagram stand at a whopping 8.5 million as we go to press. Malibu, Madrid, Mexico: every post on her social diary averages 400,000 likes. Fought over by designers for their shows, she’s currently heading an international campaign as the face of Lancôme.
Two-piece pin-up swimsuit: Ermanno Scervino, Bracelets: Pandora, Rings: Pandora
While sifting through the clothes we’ve shortlisted for her Cosmopolitan cover shoot, we hear a shy, velvet-soft “hello” behind us. And there she is, bang on time and impeccable, flashing her movie-star smile, with giant mineral green eyes and skin like a squaw, so compact it has the sheen of fabric. Taylor is drop dead gorgeous. Her sweatshirt sends a clear message: “If you don’t want to stay, then leave,” there’s no messing with this girl! She vaunts a simple yet striking style, with sweatpants and a Moschino mini bag decorated with yellow and red pills. While being made up, I can’t help thinking how her unkempt eyebrows, curved like wings, remind me of Brooke Shields circa Blue Lagoon, and I ask her who her female icons are. “My favourite model is Christy Turlington, an extraordinary, magnetic, sweet woman with a strength of character I really admire. And I love Audrey Hepburn for her gentle femininity, her work with children and her commitment to humanitarian causes. But the women who inspire me most in everyday life are my sisters, Logan Rae, who is the eldest and a photographer, and Mackinley, 19, a model like me”. [Her younger brother Chase, 17, is also working toward a career in fashion].
Are the Hills the new Hadids? Taylor smiles at the idea. “You can’t compare us, even though we will always be on the same scene. There’s no rivalry between us and them, and I hope we will soon have our photo taken together!” Taylor’s parents’ home in the States is the safe haven where she takes refuge between trips. Her mum, a Native American, cuts Taylor’s hair the same way she used to when she was a kid, while her Scottish-Irish father takes her to the mountains to play winter sports. I ask what valuable career advice she, as someone who is already a star, can give her siblings: “I always tell them that the world of fashion is a stage, but it’s crucial to be yourself and not to hide behind a mask. This is what really gives you the strength to go on and to deal with whatever comes your way, including coping with rejection which is normal in this line of work. Letting it get to you would be stupid.”
Gilet: Sisley, Bra: Max Mara, Skirt: Faith Connexion Paris, Necklace: Pandora, Bracelets: Pandora, Rings: Pandora
A snowboarder since childhood, Taylor’s finely-tuned sense of balance is an important aspect of her personality. At barely 20 years old, she’s already got six years of modelling experience under her belt and remains grounded and centered. I question her about being bullied in high school to which she responds, “Not really, I was just a very shy teenager, and sometimes at school I was made fun of for being bashful. I was never really part of a gang. All I wanted was the company of my close friends.” She smiles, pausing to get her lipstick applied. “I was already famous, but I never felt different. Thanks to the love of my sisters, my brother and my friends, I could just be myself. They have always supported me, and are my biggest fans. This is the source of my secret superpower.”
During breaks between shots, Taylor checks her telephone, which hangs round her neck like a talisman, but she’s far from obsessed with the amount of likes she gets. Despite her high visibility on social networks, Taylor has a philosophical attitude towards haters. “I don’t pay any attention to online nastiness. I learned never to focus on the negative side: giving importance to hate only makes you feel worse. The more you focus on positive things, the better.” While she talks, she exudes all the innocence of a Disney princess, but when dressed, on set she’s vibrant, saturating the air with her presence, filling the frame with palpable appeal.
Bodysuit: Emilio Pucci, Bracelet: Pandora, Rings: Pandora, Sandals: DSquared2
It’s hard to imagine Taylor ever going through self-esteem issues at all. Has she ever been insecure? “When you’re a teenager you live as if you were in a play, and you’re not sure what you’re doing, you still have to work on your self-esteem but then you learn to manage your insecurities.” Tay, as her friends call her, is far from a stereotypically skinny model. Tall with a curvaceous yet athletic physique, she looks strong rather than frail. “I did gymnastics at a competitive level. I work out regularly, and when I’m away from home I have a personal trainer who helps me work on individual muscles with very slow movements.” Come midday, Taylor’s hungry! Not a typical supermodel, this one. “What time are we eating?” she shouts out. Lunch in the studio is not ready yet and she pleads, “Even a snack will do. Otherwise I’ll collapse.” We love her even more! What does she love eating? “I’m not a vegetarian. I grew up like all American girls eating meat, even though I love animals. My favourite animal is the Elephant.”
When it comes to her love life, Tay prefers keeping mum. She does admit to being in a relationship with an American model but doesn’t elaborate much further, choosing instead to chat about her mad passion for a “hairy boy”, Tate, her honey-coloured poodle with take-me-home button eyes. “I opened an Instagram account for him, so I can see him when I’m away [if you want to follow him: @tatetheminidoodel]. When travelling on business, I often call my family and talk to him on FaceTime.” The little dog is already a social star since everything posted by Taylor Hill is Insta gold. “For me the basis of social media is being authentic and true to yourself. I talk to my followers like they’re my friends even if I don’t know them. Many of them actually do end up becoming friends!”
Denim Jumper: Fracomina, Necklace: Pandora, Rings: Pandora, Bra: Victoria’s Secret
Taylor may have a packed schedule jetting off to various parts of the globe for work, but she always makes time to stop off in LA and New York, where she can meet up with the other members of her girl gang, both Victoria’s Secret Angels. It’s no surprise that her best friends are celeb models Romee Strijd and Jasmine Tookes. The girls spend “regular” nights out with them. Think pizza and a movie (her faves are The Hunger Games and Harry Potter), a day of retail therapy or a night out dancing.
Her absolute normalcy sets her apart from so many other inhabitants of planet Instagirl. She has a firm head on her shoulders and her sights set on the long run. “In the future I would love to go into the business side and design my own line of clothing; we models have so many opportunities compared to other girls; we live in an exciting world full of interesting people. We need to make the most of these experiences.”
Before she vanishes into a taxi to get to the airport for her flight to New York, I ask her if she’s tired after this intense day. “I spend my time doing things that lots of people would love. What for me is sometimes hard work, for someone else would be a dream. I bear that in mind the whole time.”
Necklace: Pandora, Rings: Pandora
STYLING: LISA MANCINI
FASHION DIRECTOR: PAOLO LAPICCA
MAKE-UP: MICHELLE CAMPBELL USING LANCÔME
HAIR: CRISTIANO BASCIU AT RICHARD WARD HAIR AND METROSPA FOR L’ORÉAL PROFESSIONNEL
JEWELLERY: PANDORA, AVAILABLE AT PANDORA STORES ACROSS THE UAE. PANDORA.NET