Inside the Surprisingly Private World of Karlie Kloss
The multifaceted supermodel married longtime love Joshua Kushner one year ago today in a ceremony that could've been mistaken for an elopement, so cloaked in secrecy it was, if not for the breathtaking custom Dior dress the bride showed off on her Instagram and the fact that 80 members of their inner circle were invited to the intimate affair, which included a traditional Jewish ceremony, in upstate New York.
As planned, the newlyweds followed their autumn nuptials with a big country-western-themed wedding party, held in Wyoming in June—picture-perfect, even with the groom was on crutches.
"Lean on me," Kloss captioned a photo of them on the dance floor.
Shortly before announcing their engagement they vacationed in Italy, including a stop in Sicily to hang out on Diane Von Furstenberg and her billionaire husband Barry Diller's yacht Eos, which was docked off the coast.
Of course some serious FOMO-inducing photos followed.
Karlie is almost always taking fans along for the ride on Snapchat or Instagram, whether she's working at Fashion Week; hanging with the kids at her Kode With Klossy summer camp; jetting to Barcelona, Paris or Beijing; or wolfing down a quick, perfectly portioned dinner of salmon and broccoli in the back of a cab on her way to the airport.
But at the same time, Kloss obviously has an ironclad grip on her narrative, speaking very little about her personal life, not wading into debates and feuds online (on purpose, anyway), and keeping her interviews on point: fashion, modeling, philanthropic objectives, coding and the business of being Karlie Kloss.
"It's not like I've ever wanted to be so secretive about my private life," she told Net-a-Porter's Porter magazine last year. "Carolina Herrera always says, 'A woman who's an open book is boring.' There's no mystery anymore. I know in my life what really matters to me. I'm not trying to hide that from the world; I just really like having a more private private life.
"I've got nothing to hide, though!"
Most everyone knows by now that Karlie was discovered when she was 13 at a mall in her hometown of St. Louis, one of those stories that has made countless girls think that this too might happen to them, although it happens to almost no one.
The leggy ballerina, already 5'8" at the time, didn't know what walking in a runway show even meant, but her answer amounted to, "Sure, why not?"
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"I didn't feel like I was doing anything. I was just walking 10 feet down, and then 10 steps back," Kloss recalled her "debut" at a benefit fashion show to Willie Geist on Sunday Today in 2017. "And the reaction from the scouts and from the people in the audience was like, 'Oh, this girl has something.' I think they saw a very tall, lanky girl who was very innocent. But I was able to take on this different character and I really loved that. I still love that."
She was busy with ballet, piano lessons and homework (math and science were always favorites), but she decided to give the modeling thing a go. Kloss was 15 when she booked her first New York Fashion Week show, for Calvin Klein, and appeared in Teen Vogue in a spread shot by Arthur Elgort, Ansel Elgort's famed photographer father. The Monday before her senior prom, she went to the Met Gala in fuchsia Donna Karan. And then she wore Dior to the prom, which she attended with her foot-shorter best friend.
"I could not have paid someone to date me at that time," Kloss said of her high school days, when she towered over most of the boys...and the teachers.
It's been a blur of runways, photo shoots, ad campaigns and VIP treatment ever since. Kloss, who now stands at a statuesque 6'2", has appeared on more than three dozen Vogue covers (domestic and international) and became a Victoria's Secret Angel in 2013 (though she left the company in 2015 after four years after getting in touch with her feminist side).
Boosted by her stellar personal brand, as well as contracts with Swarovski, Adidas and Estée Lauder, Forbes estimated that she earned $13 million in 2018, good enough to be the second-highest paid model in the world. This year, she took over as host of Project Runway when it returned to Bravo.
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Though she had just dropped who knows how much on a hand-painted Gucci leather jacket, InStyle's June 2017 cover girl told the magazine, "I am frugal. I spend money on experiences. I like to take amazing vacations with my loved ones. I like property. I just bought a beautiful home in St. Louis."
Though there's nothing normal about her lifestyle, relatability does creep in here and there.
"I'm a Netflix and chill kind of girl," Kloss said in a 2018 Q&A with lifestyle vlogger Niomi Smart in London. "I will happily curl up in bed and like 7 p.m. and watch Netflix," The Crown being her latest obsession, "but I also love a night out on the town with my girlfriends."
As someone who's always walking, or sometimes running, all over whichever city she's in, she prefers sneakers to heels, but she does love a good cocktail dress.
Part of the business of modeling, of course—and Kloss puts on no airs about it—is eating certain things more than others and working out regularly, and that includes when she's traveling, which is almost always. And since she's on the road constantly, her trainer makes virtual house calls.
"Another day, another hotel gym, another FaceTime workout with @kirkmyersfitness," she posted while tackling a workout remotely with Dogpound founder Kirk Myers. Kloss, whose mantra tends toward the "strong body, strong mind" variety combined with a healthy dose of self-love, mixes it up with weights, boxing, yoga and Pilates, HIIT routines and whatever else keeps her from getting bored. She also ran the New York City Marathon in November 2017, her first-ever marathon, and her training sessions included scenic runs along the Seine in Paris, or the West Side Highway when she was home in Manhattan.
Her diet tends toward the low-carb, protein-and-veggie-heavy variety, but the exercise helps clear the slate for tacos, baking (especially around the holidays), trips to Imo's Pizza when she's back in St. Louis, pasta in Italy and, her great love, dark chocolate.
"It's how I take care of my body, what I eat," Kloss told Porter. "Not to an excessive point where I'm scared to gain a pound, but I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish and I need strength and energy to do that."
In 2012, she partnered with New York's famed Momofuku Milk Bar to sell her vegan, gluten-free Karlie's Kookies (the recipe is still in her Instagram Story highlights), with proceeds benefiting political scion and fashion world insider Lauren Bush Lauren's FEED Projects, which donates to organizations that provide meals for children in need.
"I feel like I have had a bit of a Cinderella story," Kloss acknowledged to Trevor Noah on The Daily Show in April 2018. "I feel really, really lucky...that [being discovered at the mall] was the beginning of a career, and I grew up in the Midwest and I had no idea that someday I would be a model—and it happened really fast."
Naturally, amid the hubbub of a full-time modeling career, Kloss decided in 2015 that she wanted to get schooled in the art of coding, having become fascinated by the tech industry and the entrepreneurs (such as Kushner) who were making new and exciting things happen every day.
When she took her first coding class at New York's Flatiron School, one, she loved it, and two, she realized there weren't that many women in the program—so she took it upon herself to get other girls excited about coding. Hence the birth of Kode With Klossy, a free two-week summer camp program for girls ages 13 to 18, all with an eye on helping to inspire the next generation of female leaders in tech.
The venture landed Kloss on Time's list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2016.
"This is what I am most proud of in my life, hands down," she told Geist, who visited her family's home in St. Louis—a house not far from where she grew up, where she used to babysit and which she later bought for her parents—to conduct the interview.
Kloss has also consolidated her various multimedia, business and philanthropic endeavors under the Klossy umbrella, setting up shop in a sleek office in NYC's SoHo neighborhood.
"There's been a lot of luck and hard work involved to get me to where I am today, and I'm only just scratching the surface," she informed Porter magazine.
Meanwhile, on her arm for the past seven years has been the adequately tall Josh Kushner, the younger brother of senior White House advisor Jared Kushner—meaning Ivanka and Jared, in all their controversial glory, are Karlie's in-laws.
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Kloss has never revealed exactly how she and Kushner met, but their meeting occurred on June 8, 2012, with Kloss tweeting on June 8, 2016, "four years ago today I met my best friend...I love you more everyday." That November, they attended the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show after-party together and Karlie finally put down roots in New York, closing escrow on a two-bedroom apartment in the West Village for $1.975 million.
A neighbor cracked to the Wall Street Journal in 2016 that her husband "started taking the garbage out more" in hopes of catching a glimpse of Kloss, but that the model wasn't home much—and when she was, she was very polite and nice to the couple's young daughter.
Incidentally, seven days after they met, Kloss joined Instagram, which Josh's Thrive Capital bought a stake in days before Facebook snatched it up for $1 billion in April 2012.
Eventually Kloss met Instagram founder Kevin Systrom. She recalled to the New York Times telling him, "'You created a product that touches hundreds of millions of people. What do you know that these hundreds of millions of people don't know?' I wanted to understand that language and skill set." Soon after, she enrolled in her first coding course. (And, she's at 8.3 million Instagram followers and counting.)
Talking to InStyle in 2017, Kloss didn't say much about her serious relationship, saying simply about their competing busy schedules, "You make it work. We've been together almost five years. Time flies. It's crazy. He's a super-solid dude."
Far more so than his wife, Josh Kushner has historically kept discussions about his private life to a bare minimum, the Harvard grad preferring, if he must talk at all, to talk business.
"It is no secret that liberal values have guided my life and that I have supported political leaders that share similar values," he told Forbes. "But neither political party has a monopoly on the truth or on constructive ideas for our country. It's important to be open minded and learn from differing opinions."
Kloss, who enthusiastically declared her support for Hillary Clinton in 2016, lets her actions speak for themselves as far as her politics, such as when she attended the 2017 Women's March and last year's March for Our Lives with Josh. That spring she enrolled in a class at NYU on the political history of feminism, having been accepted into the college's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. (Her application included a letter of recommendation from Christy Turlington, whom she counts as a mentor.)
"Two women can identify as feminists and have wildly different ways of living their lives," she told InStyle "I love what Maria Grazia [Chiuri] is doing at Dior. She's such a powerhouse. Having women in leadership positions is so important. Hopefully it will happen in the White House someday."
The Kushner brothers and their respective mates all shared a box at the U.S. Open in 2016 with a who's-who crew that included entertainment mogul David Geffen, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser; Russian art world maven Dasha Zhukova; Rupert Murdoch's ex-wife Wendi Deng, who's said to have helped Jared and Ivanka get back together when they briefly broke up over religious differences years ago; and Princess Beatrice.
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There hasn't been any public socializing between the couples since the presidential election, after which Jared and Ivanka moved to Washington, but Josh visited the White House after President Trump's inauguration and told Forbes in April 2017 (when he made the cover) that he and his big brother still talked every day.
"Josh and I share a lot of the same liberal values that guide our lives and the things we stand for," Kloss told Vogue last summer. "We've really grown together personally and professionally. Josh knows that I'm just a nerdy, curious human being. I think that's why he loves me. We have each other's back."
Kushner's not a prolific Instagram sharer, but Kloss started to make appearances on his page starting with a Coachella pic from 2013, but evidence of their jet-setting lifestyle together—they've traveled everywhere from England and Iceland to Jordan and Japan—has accumulated over the years.
Meanwhile, Page Six reported that Kloss, like Ivanka Trump, converted to Judaism—a point of supreme importance to the Kushner family—before getting engaged.
Josh popped the question while they were in upstate New York, where he keeps a cabin. They waited a few weeks to share the news with the Instagram world, with Karlie writing on July 24, 2018, "I love you more than I have words to express. Josh, you're my best friend and my soulmate. I can't wait for forever together. Yes a million times over."
The proposal was "romantic and sweet," the bride-to-be later told Vogue.
"So, so happy for you and Josh!" Ivanka Trump commented on Kloss' engagement post, according to The Cut. "I feel blessed to have you as a sister (!!!) Karlie and look forward to the decades of happy memories we will create together as a family!"
The closest Kloss gets to public drama is when her name is linked to the headline-magnets in her midst, such as when in refusing to disparage Kim Kardashian it was assumed she was taking the E! star's side instead of Taylor's in the great Snapchat drama of summer 2016.
"I will not allow the media to misconstrue my words," Kloss tweeted afterward. "Taylor has always had my back and I will always have hers." She later added, "And I will never be the girl that you can use to pit women against each other. That isn't me."
Unless it's young coders competing in a Hackathon, that is. Then, it's game on.
Kloss acknowledged to Vogue that fame indeed does have its downside, particularly when it comes to so much attention being paid to her relationship with Kushner and her various famous friends.
"At the end of the day, I've had to make decisions based on my own moral compass—forget what the public says, forget social media," she said. "I've chosen to be with the man I love despite the complications. It's frustrating, to be honest, that the spotlight is always shifted away from my career toward my relationship. I don't think the same happens in conversations with men."
But that's another reason why she maintains a tight-knit circle of confidantes.
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"I've always been super-close with my family," she told InStyle. "They are my rock. There's so much uncertainty in every direction, like, 'Are you gonna get this job?' So having a solid crew, whether it's your family or a partner, that's a big part of being able to function."
In addition to her family and fiancé, her squad does include famous types like Selena Gomez, Ashley Graham, fellow VS Angels Lily Aldridge and Jourdan Dunn, and Serena Williams, with whom she sits on the board of Verizon subsidiary Oath and whom she calls "one of the most extraordinary women on the planet," but Kloss also has a circle of longtime non-celebrity friends and she maintains close ties to her hometown.
In 2017 she launched her clothing line, a limited-edition collaboration with Express, in St. Louis at a party deejayed by Hannah Bronfman and featuring a performance by Charli XCX. Kloss had an open casting contest on Instagram to find models for her runway show, and among her picks were six local young women, plus her sister Kimberly. (And no wonder she gets along with Kim Kardashian—Karlie and Kimberly have two other sisters named Kariann and Kristine.)
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As for her storied relationship with Swift, with whom she shared the March 2015 cover of Vogue and appeared in her "Bad Blood" video, Kloss quipped to the New York Times, "Don't believe everything you read."
But which version—as friendly as ever, or grown apart—is the fake news? The Times claimed in March 2018 that they still talked all the time, and Karlie liked one of Taylor's Reputation Tour rehearsal pics on Instagram that April (bless the people who keep track of such things), but they haven't actually been spotted together in ages, and Taylor was already in or on her way to Australia getting ready for a show in Perth when Karlie tied the knot.
But the real Karlie Kloss support system is intact, no matter which famous friends come and go—although it's hard to imagine a scenario in which she's not the one doling out the advice, words of wisdom or cookie recipes. Kushner sightings also remain fairly rare on her social media, though for her anniversary—which she kicked off Thursday posting a new video about the making of her wedding dress—fans might be treated to another page of her love story.
"I have this extraordinary life, but also this very normal life," Kloss told Porter. "I think I'm totally normal and boring in a lot of ways. Maybe I'm way off base, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
(Originally published Aug. 3, 2018, at 3 a.m. PT)