Given her glossy Instagram profile with nearly 10 million followers—think selfies featuring pouty red lips and strategically shot bikini pics—it’s a welcome surprise to see Hailey Baldwin sans makeup, with slicked-back, soaking wet hair, when the budding model and actress meets Maxim to discuss her landing the coveted number one spot on the Hot 100.
“I know, it’s really underwhelming,” jokes the 20-year-old with the famous last name. (She’s Stephen’s daughter and Alec’s niece, for the record.) “I came straight out of the shower.”
But underwhelming isn’t exactly the right word. Even though Baldwin is hiding her dangerous curves in an oversize tracksuit during our date at the Arlo Hotel in Soho, the first word that comes to my mind upon meeting her is babe.
That’s the kind of impression you make when you have wispy blonde hair, big brown doe eyes, and those pillowy lips. But simply being pretty isn’t the only requirement to cracking Maxim‘s legendary Hot 100: You’ve also got to be a badass. And Baldwin is. She’s a provocateur in the best sense, titillating the public with relationships with Justin Bieber and baiting gossip rags with comments like “Yes, I’m pregnant and @KendallJenner is the baby mama.”
Come to think of it, Baldwin’s attitude might be her greatest asset. When she says, “At the end of the day, I don’t need people’s approval,” you believe her. That said, plenty of people do approve. In fact, the last year has seen Baldwin, who began modeling at age 17, transcend her last name, making her mark on the fashion world while gracing the pages of Vogue, Elle, and V.
Now the rising star is preparing for a transition to television as a host of James Corden’s upcoming reality comedy series, Drop the Mic, which pits celebrities against each other in rap battles (it debuts on TBS this fall). To Baldwin, following in her family’s footsteps was a natural progression.
“I honestly always feel like it was a little bit inevitable for me,” she says. “I was always the entertainer in my family. Everyone said, ‘That’s the one you got to watch out for.'”
Unlike her celebutante friends (Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Willow Smith, to name a few), Baldwin, though primed for the spotlight, wasn’t tethered to it, which makes her seem…well, normal. She grew up 30 minutes outside Manhattan, and was raised as a born again Christian, which is a grounding source for her still. “I’m quite spiritual; I go to church,” she says while picking out raisins from her chia seed pudding. “Last night, I was at my pastor’s house with his wife and kids having family dinner and playing Bananagrams and board games.”
That’s not to say Baldwin isn’t partly Hollywood. Consider her rumored romantic flames, including Drake and Los Angeles Laker Jordan Clarkson. “It’s definitely easier,” she says of celebrity relationships. “You’re never worried, ‘Are they only hanging out with me because they want to get attention or be seen?’ It can be weird for somebody who’s never been in this world before to be sucked into it.” But when I ask about her current relationship status, she just smiles naughtily and says, “Dating is weird, but it’s so fun.”
By PRIYA RAO