SHE has been hailed as the new face of fashion, and, at just 22, the former American athlete has already been in the top 15 of Forbes’ list of the world’s richest models for the past two consecutive years.
Meet Hilary Rhoda, who has joined the crop of top-grossing supermodels following a lucrative multi-million dollar contract with leading skincare and cosmetic brand Estee Lauder.
For a top model, Rhoda is no prima donna, coming to the door of her posh hotel room in mid-town Manhattan to personally greet groups of fashion writers from Asia and Europe.
Like many models in New York, Rhoda is tall, almost 1.8m. Unlike most, though, she is not reed thin and does not have that easily-blown-away look.
Rhoda is, in fact, a picture of fitness, probably from her years of training as an athlete and playing tennis and field hockey and from swimming.
She admits to enjoying food, and loves to check out restaurants with friends when she goes home to the state of Maryland for visits.
Already a favourite of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar magazines, she recently made her debut in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, getting rave reviews for her curvy figure.
Rhoda says she has often been compared to a young Brooke Shields, probably due to her dark hair and heavy eyebrows.
“I’ve been told that I’ve got the all-American girl look, although some people think I’m Italian. People see something in me that they can relate to – and I love being a chameleon,” she adds with a hearty laugh.
While many European models try to make a name for themselves in the United States, Rhoda’s modelling career actually took off in Paris when Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiére hand-picked her to walk in his spring 2006 show.
She had just finished secondary school then and signed up with a modelling agency.
Since then, Rhoda has graced the catwalks of Chanel, Dior, Marc Jacobs, and Valentino. She is also the current face of St John Knits, replacing Angelina Jolie.
Her eyes, a vivid blue, stand out against her dark features, becoming expressive as she chats animatedly about her life.
Rhoda studied at the Academy of the Holy Cross, a Catholic all-girls’ school, which she admits has helped shape her values in life.
She believes in being down-to-earth and having a positive attitude.
“In my profession, I have to deal with make-up artistes, stylists, and photographers. I am always open to suggestions as they are the professionals.”
She has a close relationship with her family, comprising mum, dad, and an older brother who’s in university in Philadelphia.
Her mother accompanies her on her modelling stints whenever possible.
So how does it feel to be young, rich, and famous?
“I don’t think I have changed much. I try to go home as much as I can, sometimes for a week if I can find the time. It’s very nice to stay close to the family and NYC (New York City) is just a few hours away,” says Rhoda.
“I still do the things I love, like biking and hanging out with friends,” says Rhoda, admitting she was “a bit of a tomboy” while growing up.
Now she finds equal pleasure in girly things like sharing beauty and makeup tips with her old school friends and letting them know about the latest Estee Lauder promotions.
Rhoda is full of praise for the company that “launched” her face.
“My mum and grandmother have been using Estee products for years and I have seen the results of all those creams and lotions.
“That’s how I started using them myself,” says Rhoda, who personally likes the new Advanced Night Repair (ANR) cream for its light texture.
“People think the ANR is just for older women but that’s not true. It helps protect skin against damage and I believe the best way to do so is to start young,” she adds.
Rhoda’s favourite scent is Sensuous, a perfume she launched together with three other famous Estee Lauder faces: model Carolyn Murphy and actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Gwyneth Paltrow.
On what the word “sensuous” means to her, Rhoda replies, “I think of ‘sensuous’ as being strong and confident. It’s a woman in her most natural state.
“I think a woman can be sensuous at all ages.
“I immediately think of women who are older, such as Racquel Welch or Catherine Deneuve, because you can see that they are so comfortable with themselves and in their own skin. But you can also see it in women in their 20s and 30s.”
And when does she herself feel sensuous?
“Sometimes, it’s when I’m wearing really comfortable clothes and feel very natural. Dancing, playing a sport, running ... is sensuous. A steaming cup of espresso after a nice meal is sensuous.
“But, mostly, it’s when you’re having fun and enjoying your life.”
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