Why Lexi Boling is Fashion's Favorite Bad Girl

Cheers to the "It" model who has the word "bad" tattooed on her ribcage.
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Maura Brannigan
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Cheers to the "It" model who has the word "bad" tattooed on her ribcage.

Because it's 2015, the first thing I tend to do when getting to know someone is to head straight to his or her Instagram. By this far into the millennium, we can all agree that social media can tell you much more about a person than an exhaustive Google sweep — or even a brief face-to-face meeting — ever could. When an up-and-coming model named Lexi Boling began making the Fashion Month rounds two years ago, I took notice for two reasons: 1) This person, like me, was raised in Chicago, and I like to keep gentle tabs on where my fellow Midwesterners end up, and 2) Her social media presence intimidated the shit out of me.

Two years later, it continues to do so — only now, Boling is a 22-year-old "It" model who just wrapped up a wildly successful Fashion Month, with catwalk appearances in almost every big-name show. From opening Alexander Wang's 10th anniversary show to sporting bleached eyebrows at Givenchy to an Anna Wintour-ready skirt suit at Chanel, Boling and her now-signature stare-down have become staples within the runway sphere. And yet, it's her Instagram feed that tells the most compelling story.

Here are some facts you can learn from doing mild dive into the @lexiboling handle. Her bio is comprised of just one word: "trouble." She likes to smoke cigarettes, and does so in a large number of her photos. She often uses the phrases "kickass," "badass" and "epic" as adjectives. Her favorite emojis appear to be a three-way tie between the beer stein, the bomb and the smirking devil. On a recent trip to Jamaica, she got cornrows, swam topless and took selfies with a leafy marijuana plant. She has the word "bad" tattooed on her ribcage.

Despite being highly representative of a stereotypical Bad Girl, none of these characteristics are particularly unique in the fashion industry. The '90s supermodel era is known for being rife with a medley of mischief-fueled antics with models like Kate Moss, Jaime King and Naomi Campbell leading the pack. When Cara Delevingne first exploded onto the scene in 2012, she was immediately labeled as a "wild child" who flipped off paparazzi, wore Bart Simpson-printed crop tops, had a bag of mysterious white powder fall out of her purse and slept through Vogue interviews.

Alas, designers have long gravitated towards these rabble-rousers, many of whom have maintained relationships with their Bad Girl muses for years (or in Moss's and Campbell's cases, decades). If only judging from her Instagram, Boling counts Alexander Wang — for whom she made her runway debut during the spring 2014 season — in her innermost circle. Wang clearly enjoys Boling's company (they even went to Coachella together), and that of her extended group of fashion friends, just as much. For his fall 2015 campaign, Wang tapped Boling, Binx Walton, Anna Ewers, Hanne Gaby Odiele and six others to assemble an angry, chain-mail-wearing model gang. It's exactly what I assume Boling's self-named "Bad Girls Club" does in its off hours, only in more pedestrian locations like a Brooklyn rooftop or a party bus.

Herein lies her professional appeal: Boling serves as a nearly perfect foil to the angelic Karlie Kloss types, as well as to Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and the rest of their privileged, Hollywood-friendly colleagues. While the Jenners and Hadids of the world have spent much of Fashion Week flitting around in lacy Balmain, Boling, Walton and Odiele partied with Heinekens and Pringles on their train from Milan to Paris. In February, this contrast landed Boling in hot water after she and Walton were found leaving harsh comments on an image of Jenner from Vogue Germany's Instagram feed. Boling later issued an apology, saying she "wasn't thinking and and made a silly comment" — but I wonder, would she have done so if she hadn't gotten caught?

Maintaining such a stringent Bad Girl brand has certainly worked in Boling's favor thus far — just look at the range of designers for whom she was able to walk this season. But this well-defined, specific aesthetic isn't always a good thing. At Diane von Furstenberg's spring 2016 show last month, she walked alongside beauty queens Karlie Kloss and Lily Aldridge in a floaty minidress embellished with gold butterflies. With sea foam eye makeup and giant, bouncy '70s hair, Boling was far out of her natural element, and it showed.

Something tells me, though, that for each of Boling's odd casting choices or quasi-bullying gaffes, her fame — both among designers and her legions of fans — will continue to grow. We all knew that one surly, cruelly beautiful Bad Girl in high school, right? As much as you wanted to watch her fall from grace and crumble into insignificance, admit it: you couldn't help but admire her boisterous confidence and devil-may-care attitude. These very traits would create a mess every now and again, but she'd charm her way out of dodge with a sly smile and a puff of cigarette smoke. They say nice girls finish first, but in fashion, Bad Girls do it well, too.