Hailey Baldwin Minus Justin Bieber: Inside Her Unexpected Road to It Girl Status

Inside the Baldwin daughter's journey leading up to her startling whirlwind engagement

By Natalie Finn Jul 09, 2018 8:59 PMTags
Hailey Baldwin, The Late Late Show With James CordenTerence Patrick/CBS

Suffice it to say, news that Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin were engaged sent eyebrows rocketing upwards.

The still tender-aged pop star and his model/TV host girlfriend had known each other for years, yet they were dating other people barely two months ago. But apparently Bieber couldn't bear the thought of them parting ways again anytime soon, so he made the ultimate move.

Well, the ultimate move will be actually marrying Baldwin, but for now...the massive diamond ring will do.

Overall, however, with their paths having crossed so much—Justin said Hailey was "someone I really love" when they were first dating seemingly not that seriously in 2016—it has been difficult to pinpoint where the Hailey Baldwin phenomenon began apart from her already famous last name and famous boyfriends. But here's how she struck out on her own:

Hailey Baldwin's Evolution

The younger of Stephen Baldwin's two daughters was already headed into big-name model territory when she made a splash with her dad in 2014 at the After Earth premiere, red carpets being one of the best places to spy celebrity progeny once their parents are comfortable with them being in the public eye. She further vaulted onto the radar when it became apparent that she was pals with Kendall and Kylie Jenner

And it turned out she had known Bieber (as well as Miley Cyrus and many other child stars) for years, even before they all ended up part of the same squad.

In the meantime, however, Baldwin was building a fan base of her own on Instagram thanks to her enviably on-point street style (Kristin Cavallari called her ensembles an "obsession") and, of course, the trappings of a rather fabulous life that were on display.

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Of course, palling around with the "new Brat Pack" came with its headaches, namely being the target of far more trolling than ever before. But that's what friends are for, and Kylie & Co. would have her back when the commenters got out of hand.

The Grosby Group / AKM-GSI

"This generation has a lot of eyes on them," Baldwin, who now boasts 12.8 million followers on Instagram, told ES Magazine in 2016, more than 5 million followers ago. "Everybody my age struggles with insecurities, so take that and multiply it by seven million people. There are people much older than me saying horrible things who have no business paying attention to what a 19-year-old does."

Back in 2014 Baldwin shot down rumors that she and Bieber, who had become a frequent companion, were dating, telling E! News, "I've known him since I was so young—since I was like 13—and we've just been good friends over the years. We have just stayed close and there's nothing more to it than that."

Bieber, still in the interminable in-between with Selena Gomez and not anywhere near being ready to be tied down, agreed via Instagram, explaining, "People are crazy. I'm super single and this is my good friend u would know otherwise."

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Though the rumors didn't hurt her name-brand recognition, Baldwin's individual star status continued to rise based on her own social media and style savvy, and before long Hailey, no last name needed, had reached full-fledged It Girl status. In 2015 she made her New York Fashion Week runway debut for Tommy Hilfiger, and the designers haven't stopped calling since.

But as Baldwin has admitted herself, sharing snippets of her life with her fans has been key to her success.

"I love Instagram. It's become a part of my job now obviously," she explained to Teen Vogue in 2016. "I honestly like for people to just have a look into my life. Not just work-related stuff, but kind of how I am personally and get a peek at my personality too."

Asked what it was she was aspiring to, Baldwin's answer may have surprised some people.

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"My biggest goal in life will be achieved when I have a family, when I have my own kids that I can raise myself and bring up based on what I know," she said. "I always think it's the wildest idea—raising a whole, entire human is insane to me, and I've always wanted kids. I've always been very good with kids, and always been kind of eager to have my own family, but obviously I want to do it at the right time. The right pace, you know? I'm still in my teens, so I have a while."

She added, knowing not everyone would agree with that perspective, "I just think that when you're in this industry, people's goals are based on their careers most of the time. So they say, 'I want to be on the cover of Vogue,' or 'I want to get a Versace campaign.' As amazing as all those things are, and of course those would be goals of mine, I look at my future goals as something more meaningful to me."

None of which has stopped her, however, from getting Guess, French Connection, Topshop, Ralph Lauren and L'Oreal campaigns.

But Baldwin has further distinguished herself throughout her rise to fame so far with her commitment to the faith she was raised with and which has proved to be a major shared value for her and Bieber. (That and tattoos—Hailey has at least 19 to go with Justin's increasingly inky look.)

Elder Ordonez / SplashNews.com

"It's a big part of my life," she told Teen Vogue. "A lot of my closest friends, people that I trust the most, people that have been there for me the most are all people that are in my church and people that are kind of trying to guide me from the outside perspective. I think that's so big for me, because if you have everybody in the same industry as you doing the same thing as you, it's easy to get a little bit wrapped up and…lost.

"My family and people that I have around me personally are the reasons why I think I'm able to stay very true to myself and very grounded."

Dad Stephen Baldwin has been open about finding his faith later in life after years of bad-boy escapades, perhaps putting him at odds with certain members of his family—but not his children.

"Jesus or no Jesus, if my kid started working in a strip club, I'd beat her ass," he joked to The Guardian in 2010, but otherwise Stephen didn't put any actual limitations on his daughters' aspirations. When Hailey was 13 she got to do cool things like introduce the Jonas Brothers on Saturday Night Live, when uncle Alec Baldwin was hosting in 2009,

Hailey's older sister, Alaia Baldwin, is also a model; she tied the knot last summer in New York, with her little sis as maid of honor and cousin Ireland Baldwin among the bridesmaids.

"With modeling, [Hailey and I] won't be competitive because we look so different," Alaia told Page Six in 2016. "And it's nice to have someone to talk to about the industry."

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Asked in October 2016 what her career highlight had been so far, Hailey told Elle UK, "I think honestly one of the most amazing things for me was getting to shoot with Karl Largerfeld because he is so great—but I think the most surreal moment was, and still is, seeing all the Guess billboards and seeing when they went up on Sunset [Boulevard] and I had people texting me photos and stuff, which is crazy. It's just your face being so gigantic! It was such a humbling experience; I was so grateful for it. It's on the buses in London and the stands in Paris—I am literally astonished. It's just insane."

Desiree Navarro/WireImage

And if anyone thinks she's rushing into this engagement business, Baldwin's fans can rest assured that she looks at it as a major step toward achieving her ultimate goal.

"I always think about the day when I can just buy a house, be married and have kids and start that time," she told Elle UK. "For someone like me, and others, in the industry we're doing everything so fast so the normal stuff like settling down and children is a whole new experience for us and we'll have to learn it as we go.

"I'm grateful because I'm familiar with that type of stuff coming from a really big family. I grew up in a suburban town and my parents are still married—it's all I know. It's what I'm used to. I'm excited to have that. I'm very grateful for these years I'm having now though, it's been so much fun. I've got to travel and experience things that, by the time I do settle down, I don't think I'll feel I've missed out on anything."

And when she does have kids, she told ES Magazine, "they will not grow up around all this. It is easy to become spoiled and pretentious and to have the wrong attitude."

Every Time Religion Inspired Celebrity Fashion

So the professional success hasn't changed her domestic end game—and it hasn't changed her personal values, either, even though there's no apparent evidence of compromise in the finished glossy photos.

"I never show my nipples," Baldwin told the U.K.'s Times Magazine last year. "I never want to have a photo with my boobs pushed up next to a Bible verse, but my job is my job."

Acknowledging that she does show plenty of skin in her pics, she added, "There are times when I put something up and I'm like, 'Please don't think this is me. This is work.'"

Baldwin insists her faith is very personal to her and, while she isn't shy about talking about it or sharing inspirational messages on social media, she isn't trying to convince anyone of anything.

"It's not the hand-on-the-head, you pass out, weird kind of stuff," she said. "I believe in prayer and deliverance in a very intense way...There's a Bible verse my mom always made me repeat. I can do all through Christ as he strengthens me,' Philippians IV, 13. When I used to perform, I got really nervous, so I'd say it in the wings before I went on. I still say it in my head before I walk a show."

More recently, Baldwin, who also now co-hosts TBS' Drop the Mic, parlayed her up-close experience with the pleasures and pains of social media as a participant in the documentary The American Meme.

"Why I did it is," she explained on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in April, "I just wanted to sit down and be able to be candid about the highs of social media and the lows of social media, and how it's impacted my career and my job and how it impacts everybody's life. And also how it's affected me in a negative way, that it actually is hurtful to read a lot of the things, and it does affect somebody, and you can get so sucked in to what people are saying—and I just wanted people to understand that it's not this like amazing fantasy life that people think it is from the outside, there's actually—we're human beings and we have feelings, and they can be really affected by it."

Count that among the things that she and Justin Bieber, who took his Instagram account down temporarily in August 2016 after "fans" started going after Sofia Richie while they were dating, can endlessly bond over.

Splash News

Two years ago, when he told GQ that Hailey was someone he really loved, Bieber also said, "I don't want to put anyone in a position where they feel like I'm only theirs, only to be hurt in the end. Right now in my life, I don't want to be held down by anything. I already have a lot that I have to commit to. A lot of responsibilities. I don't want to feel like the girl I love is an added responsibility."

But a lot can change in two years (or six months...or two months). 

Stephen Baldwin reacted to news of his daughter's engagement by tweeting "#blessed" and quoting the Bible. He then added, "Sweet smile on my face ! me&wife (Kennya) Always pray 4 Gods will !! He is moving in the hearts of JB&HB Let's all pray for His will to be done...Love you 2 so much !!! #Godstiming #bestisyettocome Congrats ❤️ @JeremyBieber @pattiemallette #PraiseJesus."

Perhaps that was a little too much for the betrothed couple, who have not yet commented themselves, however, because he has since deleted the second tweet.

Also seemingly in response to the news, Bieber's father, Jeremy Bieber, shared on Instagram, ""@justinbieber Proud is an understatement! Excited for the next chapter!" And his mom, Patti Mallette, tweeted, "Love Love Love Love Love Love Love." 

Splash News / BACKGRID

"My family has known Justin for a long time. In my head, he is always 12," Alaia Baldwin told Page Six back in January 2016.

Stephen Baldwin, caught on arrival at the airport one night, told TMZ around at the time that he "absolutely" approved of Bieber dating his daughter, but there was "no label" on their relationship to speak of. "Just friends," he assured. "Mr. Bieber is a wonderful young man, hugely talented, got a whole lot more success ahead of him."

Asked if Bieber would be expected to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage, in traditional fashion, Stephen started laughing. "We're far away from that," he said.

He wouldn't have been the wiser two months ago, either, though. Hailey, fresh from dating Shawn Mendes, told The Times UK at the end of May that she was single.

"Justin and I were friends for a long time," Baldwin said. "I met him when I was really young and he was one of my best friends. Everybody knows that at a certain point in time that turned into something else, but that just happens when you're 18, 19. It was what it was. We went through a long period of time when we weren't friends. We didn't speak for quite some time and there was a lot of weirdness that went on. We've moved past that."

Finally becoming platonic again, actually, "brought both of us to the realization that we just work much better as friends. He's somebody I really cherish. Now it's a very mature situation. It's good."

She also noted, however, "The dating pool is small. It's rare to find somebody that has the same ideas and morals as me. I have found people like that before, though, which is refreshing."

It appears she was once again talking about Justin Bieber.