From second daughter to supermodel.
Ella Emhoff, the stepdaughter of Vice President Kamala Harris, made waves for donning a sparkling Miu Miu coat to “Momala’s” swearing in on Jan. 20. The chic inauguration ensemble even caught the eye of prestigious modeling agency IMG Models.
“It’s not really about shape, size or gender any more,” Ivan Bart, the president of IMG Models, told the The New York Times. He said labels and consumers are attracted to authenticity above all else, which the 21-year-old artist appears to have in spades.
“Ella communicates this moment in time. There’s a cheekiness and a joy she exudes,” he said.
Emhoff is a senior at New York’s Parsons School of Design, studying fine arts and focusing on textiles, though she gained modeling experience over the past year.
“I was pretty surprised when everything with IMG was happening because when I was younger, I never saw that as being part of my timeline,” Emhoff told the Times. “As someone who, like a lot of young girls out there, had self-confidence issues, it is intimidating and scary to go into this world that is hyper-focused on you and the body.”
Yet, she’s drawn to the current movement within the modeling industry to improve inclusivity and diversity, and hopes to be “part of that change,” noting she has “really weird tattoos and kind of a funky haircut.”
She said her family was “protective” of her and initially hesitant about the modeling deal because of how “intense” the industry can be. But, “when they saw my interest in it and saw what is changing in that world… I think they’re pretty excited I can be part of that.”
The trendsetter has already updated her Instagram bio to reflect her association with IMG.
Emhoff’s chats with Bart started in the summer of 2020 when the exec noticed her at a political fundraiser. They began talking about her potentially joining the modeling agency, and she showed him her loom and homemade knitting projects over Zoom.
Her 318,000 Instagram followers recently got a look at her vibrant knitwear when she showed off a Tweety Bird bag, as well as a three-part matching set with a purse, bikini top and bucket hat in a neon green checkered print.
Bart said Emhoff really caught his attention at the inauguration in Washington, D.C.
“Wow, she’s communicating fashion,” he thought. “What she wore and who she was that day was in line with the person I met… That’s why everyone noticed her.”
For the historic event, Emhoff turned to celebrity stylists Jill Lincoln and Jordan Johnson, who have worked with such stars as Jennifer Lawrence, Rachel Brosnahan, Margaret Qualley and Kiernan Shipka.
The fashion duo spoke to E! News after Inauguration Day.
“We had a feeling she would get some attention because she has a very specific look and aura, and would stand out whether wearing jeans and a tee, or a neon ball gown,” they said.
Lincoln and Johnson proved to be rather clairvoyant when they predicted Emhoff’s success in the fashion world.
“Her talent and creativity knows no limits. In the short time that we have been acquainted, our takeaway is that it would be a disservice to the world for her to not show everyone what she is capable of inclusive of and beyond fashion.”
As Emhoff put it, “I knew the coat would be a hit because I loved it so much, and I think that’s all that really mattered to me… But I don’t think anyone expected the kerfuffle it caused on the internet.”
She isn’t the only one who signed to the agency after Inauguration Day. Last week, poet Amanda Gorman also inked a contract with IMG Models. Gigi Hadid gave the performer a very enthusiastic shoutout on her Instagram Story, writing, “WERK,” “FAAAAAM” and “MAJOR.”
It seems the modeling industry is ready for the shakeup.