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  • In almost every way, Hilary Rhoda picked the wrong moment to go into modeling. At 16, when she was getting started, it was 2003, the era of the Brazilian and Eastern European supermodels, when the names and physiques of the moment were Gisele Bündchen, Alessandra Ambrosio and Natalia Vodianova.

    Rhoda, meanwhile, hails from suburban Chevy Chase, Maryland. From the age of 10, people had compared her wholesome looks to Brooke Shields. "When I first started modeling, people said, 'Oh, she's too American-looking'," says Rhoda. "I was going to castings and not getting anywhere." It wasn't until her agent took her to Paris in 2005 that her career truly took off. Nicolas Ghesquière cast her on sight to walk in the Balenciaga show, identifying something eternal in her all-American elegance. By the end of the week, she was opening for Valentino.

    Soon, Estée Lauder came knocking, and Rhoda won her first major beauty-advertising contract. Shortly thereafter, the New York Times announced it was time to

    "throw away the tweezers". Rhoda and her brows – "as furry as tufted caterpillars" – had just ushered in a new look, well before anyone had heard of Cara Delevingne.

    Flash forward eight years, and at 26, Rhoda is one of the highest-earning models in the business (Forbes ranked her at number six in 2013 – just behind Kate Moss). But unlike some of her peers, she has never felt the need to make much noise about what she does or why she does it.

    Sitting in a café in her home neighborhood of Soho, New York, her dark hair newly cropped in a shaggy bob, with only a swipe of lipgloss and a flick of mascara as her makeup, it is immediately apparent what photographers from Steven Meisel to Bruce Weber find so irresistible. First, there is the jaw; long and defined, the

    “When I first STARTED modeling, PEOPLE said, ‘Oh, she’s too AMERICAN-looking’”

    Jacket by Erdem; bikini top (part of set) by T by Alexander Wang; shorts by Rag & Bone

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