The Rise of Ella Emhoff, Newly Minted Style Star
The allure of New York City is the promise of transforming one’s anonymous mortal life into a life of, at best, notoriety and, at even better, infamy. Andy Warhol burst that bubble when he said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” And yet, every young person who moves to New York today over Omaha, Charlotte, or Austin has chosen fantasy over a potentially more comforting reality.
That fantasy, as it intersects with our reality, is what makes Ella Emhoff, stepdaughter of Vice President Kamala Harris, such a singularly interesting figure in a new New York where dreams, like many of the city’s most cherished residents, spent the last year in hibernation. Emhoff’s newfound fame, rooted in our country’s need for some light after the darkness of the past 12 months, has cast her, for better or worse, as America’s Daughter.
The sense that Emhoff has somehow been cast by powers, not only of the state, but also in the world of “liberal media,” is obvious to anyone with an internet connection. The light, lightness, and generosity that many of us felt on the day of the inauguration—as a young Black woman read a poem, a pop star proclaimed “Let’s get loud!” and a masked woman with curly hair from Bushwick smized behind her glasses in a Miu Miu coat—could not last forever. Or even that long. Light can only fend off the darkness for but a little while.
Yet Emhoff, who has continued to lead her life as a young fashion student at Parsons, seems unfazed by perceptions. Rather, on social media, she seems to continue to walk, whether in the dark or the light, toward that youthful fantasy of a life in New York where one is rarely in control of how the city casts you, so long as you’re cast.
I often wonder as I look at her modeling her snug-fitting knits on Instagram how I would navigate the unprecedented role she’s been tasked to play. It is a part that inspires both envy and terror for reasons too numerous to name, chief among them the fact that the anonymity the city promises was ripped away the minute her stepmother’s name was placed next to our country’s current president.
In a moment when our politics, and those with whom we share a lineage, are constantly critiqued, to be proudly aligned with any political figure is an invitation for vitriol. To witness a young woman access the bravery to confront that vitriol, to not divert from her path, is captivating. If only because it’s still too early to know if the role she is playing will lead to passing notoriety or true infamy, and, moreover, if Ella Emhoff even cares.
Model: Ella Emhoff at IMG
Hair: Tsuki using Redken at Streeters
Makeup: Dick Page at Statement Artists
Set Design: Eric Mestman
Location: Florian Krewer’s Eyes on Fire Exhibition at Tramps NYC
Production: Spencer Morgan Taylor at SN37 Agency
Manicure: Honey at Exposure NY
Photography Assistant: Matchull Summers and Donna Viering
Assistants: Caroline Gillen and Gregory Miller
Set Design Assistant: Beau Bourgeois
Production Coordinator: Benjamin Gutierrez
Special Thanks: Lizzi Bougatsos