The 21-year-old daughter of second gentleman Douglas Emhoff has signed with IMG Models, the top agency confirmed to the New York Times, thanks in part to her head-turning style at the Jan. 21 ceremony. Emhoff was declared a “style icon” after wearing a plaid Miu Miu coat with embellished shoulders, paired with a garnet-hued dress by Batsheva.
“What she wore and who she was that day was in line with the person I met,” Ivan Bart, the president of IMG Models, told the Times of her D.C. look, noting that talks to put her on the IMG books began this summer, long before the election. “That’s why everyone noticed her.”
Bart also added that Emhoff has an authentic appeal. “It’s not really about shape, size or gender any more,” he explained. “Ella communicates this moment in time. There’s a cheekiness and a joy she exudes.”
Versatility also appears to be a strong suit. After sporting bangs and a layered fringe cut in a video backing her “Momala” Harris during the Democratic National Convention in August, Emhoff switched things up on Inauguration Day by going with eyeglasses and curls held in place by a demure headband.
Her Instagram feed, meanwhile, showcases her quirky knitwear designs, colorful tattoos (around 18, by her count) and body hair.
This isn’t Emhoff’s first brush with the fashion industry. She’s currently in her senior year at New York City’s Parsons School of Design — famed one-time home to Project Runway — and is studying fine arts with an emphasis in textiles while designing her own knitwear pieces. She’s also done some minor modeling work in the past. But she told the Times that she’s “pretty surprised” to now be in the modeling big leagues.
“When I was younger, I never saw that as being part of my timeline,” admitted Emhoff, the only daughter of the second gentleman and his ex-wife, Kerstin. She added that she hopes her unique look — citing her “really weird tattoos and kind of a funky haircut” — will “bring a bit of Bushwick into the high-fashion realm” and help be “part of that change” in redefining traditional beauty standards.
“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,” she said. “I pick and choose the times I want to show my style,” she added.
Emhoff also shared that she’s “excited” about the possibility of using her new role to amplify projects and causes close to her heart. But she admits it took a while to convince her famous family to warm to the idea.
“Modeling can be a pretty intense industry — they were a little protective of me,” she explained. She added that they changed their minds “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.”
She’ll be in good company. IMG has also signed National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, who made her own waves at the Biden-Harris inauguration.