You should know something about Kaia Gerber: She is delightfully funny.
If her magnetic stare, in all its glorious intensity, had you thinking otherwise, I don’t blame you, because behind all that “blue steel”—which has graced countless fashion and beauty campaigns, runways, and red carpets—is a genuine sweetheart with one heck of a sense of humor. It’s your classic case of “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Dripping with sarcasm, Gerber’s wit is unassuming and smart. It’s the kind that will catch you off guard in the best way. I know this because I experienced it firsthand during my hour-long interview with the model and actress (which took place in early July before the strike) and because it’s on full display in her new film Bottoms, the raunchy and hilarious teen romp directed by Emma Seligman. It appears Gerber, 22, has officially ushered in her comedic era. Lucky for us, she plans to stay a while.
“I’m excited for people to actually understand that I do, in fact, have a sense of humor,” Gerber tells me from her hotel room in Germany. Wearing a crisp white T-shirt (an item she admits is on heavy rotation in her wardrobe) with her brunette locks framing her face, she, sans makeup, is posted up casually in front of an abstract mural she thinks might be of Angelina Jolie but can’t say for sure. She’s been trying to figure it out for the last couple of months while the room has served as her home away from home. With the exception of a quick jaunt to Los Angeles back in June, Gerber has spent the majority of her spring and early summer abroad filming a yet-to-be-announced project. A few days before our interview, she took another break from production to open the Valentino Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023-24 show in Chantilly, France. It’s but a snapshot of Gerber’s fast-paced life as a rising star in Hollywood and one of fashion’s most prominent faces.
Though it may seem that acting is a new chapter for Gerber, she’ll be the first to tell you otherwise.
From as early as she can remember, Gerber was trying to make people laugh and perform for family and friends. If there were a play or musical happening in her hometown of Malibu, California, she was at the audition ready to go. Playing tree number two in the local production of The Wizard of Oz was a serious endeavor. She was an avid viewer of the classics and adored musical theater. It’s worth noting she is a Wicked superfan. “I actually think I’ve seen that show at least nine times,” she shares proudly. And yes, she is very excited for the upcoming movie adaptation. She loved watching Scorsese films with her dad when she got a bit older and harnessed a passion for international film by way of Jean-Luc Godard and new-wave French cinema. At 15, she landed her first professional acting job in the 2016 film Sister Cities.
Then modelling happened.
Photo:Carissa Gallo; Styling: Valentino blazer, shirt, tie, and shorts; Eéra earrings
A career in front of the lens seemed almost predestined for Gerber given her familial ties to the fashion industry. Her mother, the legendary Cindy Crawford, practically wrote the playbook on how to be a supermodel; her father, Rande Gerber, is a model turned businessman; and her older brother Presley has been the face for major brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Prabal Gurung, and Moschino. At 16, she made her runway debut for Raf Simons’s Calvin Klein collection, and from there, her career skyrocketed. There were the jam-packed fashion weeks, the glossy campaigns, the high-profile print covers—including her first American Vogue cover in 2021—the British Fashion Awards’ Model of the Year award, the design collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld, and a current partnership with Celine. “I got to travel and see the world and be independent and meet people from all over, and I thought, ‘This was so exciting,’” Gerber says. But even with all her success in modelling, her passion for performance never waivered. There was a creative pull, a proverbial knocking at the door she couldn’t ignore. She needed to give acting a real try.
“It’s scary when you have something that you have somewhat of a security in and that you have found success in to go, ‘I’m going to do something that has no guarantee,’” Gerber shares of shifting gears. “But I just thought, ‘Life is too short to not do something because it scares you,’ and oftentimes, the things that scare me are the things I should be doing.”
Photo:Carissa Gallo; Styling: Prada blazer and skirt; Agmes earrings and rings.
In 2021, Gerber made her television debut in the 10th season of the FX horror anthology American Horror Story as well as its spin-off, American Horror Stories. Last year, following a leading role in the short film The Palisades, she appeared in Damien Chazelle’s original epic Babylon.
Gerber compares finding the right role to the feeling of falling in love. “Sometimes, you can’t figure out why, but you just get butterflies, and something happens to you,” she says. Another surefire way Gerber knows she really is excited about something is if the material leaves her asking, “What is this?!” and “Who are these people?!” That was precisely her reaction to watching Emma Seligman’s first feature film, the indie flick Shiva Baby, starring Rachel Sennott. “I watched it and thought, ‘Whatever they do next, my answer would be yes,’” she says.
Photo:Carissa Gallo; Styling: Proenza Schouler dress; Octavia Elizabeth earrings; Mounser cuff; Stuart Weitzman shoes
Enter Bottoms. Co-written by Seligman and Sennott, the comedy follows two queer high school students who start a fight club to meet girls and have sex before graduation. Sennott stars in the film opposite The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri, another girl of the summer. A playful nod to the great teen comedies of the late ’90s and early aughts, Bottoms, which premiered at South by Southwest earlier this year, is the kind of weirdly funny, campy watch we’ve been missing in the last few years.
“I read the script, and I was just like, ‘This is the gayest, horniest, funniest thing I’ve ever read,’” Gerber says. Knowing these scripts don’t come around very often and excited about the opportunity to work with a young female director, Gerber was determined to find her way into the movie. Before auditions were even being held, she put herself on tape. She ultimately landed the part of Brittany, the love interest of Sennott’s PJ. Not far off from Gerber herself, Brittany is usually perceived off looks alone, but if you peel back the layers, you’ll see there’s more there than meets the eye. “If I had watched this movie in high school, I would have had maybe an easier time, so I hope that there is some teenager out there who watches this and is like, ‘Oh my god—okay, there are other people like me,’” Gerber says.
Photo:Carissa Gallo; Styling: Celine vest, bow tie, and pants; Rainbow K earrings
Working on Bottoms was the equivalent of comedy boot camp for Gerber, with Sennott and Edebiri serving as her counsellors. She would study the pair’s every move, trying to match their comedic timing and figure out how their brains worked. The experience would end up being transformational for her—not just in building up her confidence in the comedy space but also in sparking a new passion for the genre.
It’s fitting, then, that Gerber’s next project is another comedy, the Apple TV+ miniseries Palm Royale (formerly titled Mrs. American Pie) about one woman’s attempt to gain a spot in Palm Beach high society. This time around, her counsellors, so to speak, were comedy heavyweights Kristen Wiig and Carol Burnett. The show also stars Laura Dern, Allison Janney, and Leslie Bibb. Not too shabby. “Some people go to Groundlings—I went to the Rachel, Ayo, Kristen, and Carol school of comedy,” Gerber says with a laugh. Gerber could have easily succumbed to imposter syndrome in such a room, but instead, she rose to the occasion and leaned into her vulnerabilities, saying “As an actor, you’re really only as good as the person you are acting with, and you can’t be self-conscious or thinking about yourself when you are with someone as amazing as Kristen or Carol or Laura. … It’s in the fear of failing that I think people don’t actually produce their best work. I’ve been lucky enough to be in environments where I feel safe enough to fall flat on my face.”
When Gerber’s not putting her comedy chops to the test alongside the greats, you’ll likely find her curled up somewhere with a good book. It’s not out of the norm for her to be rotating between three or four at a time—usually a memoir, a novel, a short story, or a poetry book. She is an enthusiastic consumer of literature, one who will happily ham it up with you about her latest book finds. Recent favorites include Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman, Lucky Dogs by Helen Schulman, and Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki.
“When people think of Kaia Gerber’s Instagram, [I don’t think] they expect to go on and basically see me only talking about books,” she says. Looking for a place to connect with others and start purposeful conversations, Gerber created her own online book club. Each month, she shares a new book with her 9.6 million followers, inviting either the author or a special guest to join her live. “I decided, Why not use this book club as a way to highlight authors and encourage people to read but also as a door or window into conversations that are really difficult to have?” she says. For this reason, she’s quite particular about the titles she chooses each month, basing it on the kind of dialogue she wants to spark. For August, Gerber hosted a live with author Alex Auder to discuss her memoir Don’t Call Me Home, a story that tackles being raised by a Warhol superstar and the intimate bonds of mother-daughter relationships. “I get to have these really incredible authors or people who just have so much insight into these topics. I am a very curious person in my life, and I think it lives in my book club as well,” she adds.
So where does modelling fit into all this? It’s obvious Gerber is leaning more into acting these days, but she is quick to clarify it’s not one or the other. The two can live harmoniously in her life. For the moment, she’s enjoying being more selective with the fashion projects she commits to. “I have fun doing it now because I get to come in and do really special, meaningful things with people that I have really deep, wonderful relationships with,” she says. The Valentino Haute Couture show is one example. Working with longtime friend Hedi Slimane as the face of Celine is another. “I love working with Celine because I really feel like it’s the coolest version of myself, and it’s not at all how cool I am in real life,” she says. Even her fashion choices on the red carpet, for which she collaborates with stylist Danielle Goldberg, are meticulously selected and have intent behind them.
Photo:Carissa Gallo; Styling: Ann Demeulemeester top and skirt; Octavia Elizabeth earrings and bracelet
Gerber is nothing if not thoughtful in how she presents herself to the world and where she invests her time. It’s her Virgo energy showing. “I’m very organized and type A and focused,” she says. But that’s not to say she’s closed off to any new adventures the world has in store for her. At 22, Gerber is very much in a period of self-discovery. Having been thrust into the spotlight and adulthood at an early age, she’s essentially been living life in reverse. It’s only now that she’s getting in touch with her inner child and finding out what really excites her, how she feels fulfilled outside of work, and who she is as a friend, a daughter, a partner, and a mother to her rescue pup Milo. Even our cover shoot takes Gerber “back to school” with some of the season’s biggest looks. As our conversation starts winding down, Gerber gets a little introspective: “At 16, I was so much more confident in my knowledge about the world, and now, I’m like, ‘I don’t know anything about the world.’ … Growing up is realising how much more you have to learn.”
Right now, the possibilities seem endless for Gerber. First conquering modelling and now a whole new world in comedy film and television. What will she take on next? While we’ll have to wait and see, one thing is certain. Whether it’s that magnetic stare or her infectious charm on-screen, there’s no taking your eyes off of Kaia Gerber.
Photographer: Carissa Gallo
Stylist and Editorial Director: Lauren Eggertsen
VP of Creative: Alexa Wiley
Video Director: Stephanie Romero
Cinematographer: Amusement Productions
Sound Mixer: Jason Flaster
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Producer: Samantha Rockman
Executive Director of Entertainment: Jessica Baker