In an interview with People, the 18-year-old model acknowledged that she "got a lift into" the modelling world due to famous parents Klum and R&B singer, Seal. "It’s just a fact. My parents are famous," Leni told the outlet on Thursday.
But when she was asked about the infamous “nepotism baby” label given to the children of celebrities, Leni said it’s her own work ethic that has helped build her career thus far. “I did get help starting off, and I know that people would dream to start off with what I had,” the college freshman explained.
“I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to take what was gifted to me by my mom. But I am doing the work and putting in the time. Now I’m working on my own, travelling alone, going to school. My mom and I just have the same love for the same thing.”
While Leni believes it’s her own ambition that has led to her early success, she still credited her parents for instilling a strong work ethic in her at a young age.
“They have both taught me to be myself, and to do what makes me feel comfortable,” she explained. “You can tell if you’re not comfortable and then the best of you isn’t brought out. I just think you should be open and honest with what makes you comfortable, be yourself, do what you love. And if you do all those three things then you’re golden.”
Leni was born in May 2004, right after her supermodel mother split from Leni’s biological father, Italian businessman Flavio Briatore. In December 2009, Leni was adopted by Klum’s now-ex-husband Seal. Klum and Seal went on to have three more children: sons Henry, 17, and Johan, 15; and daughter Lou, 13. In July 2019, the Project Runway alum married her current husband, musician Tom Kaulitz.
Klum’s eldest daughter landed her first modelling job with Vogue Germany when she was just 16 years old. But, according to Leni, her interest in becoming a model began years prior, when she was shopping at a Brandy Melville store.
“I was stopped in a Brandy Melville when I was 12 and they asked me to model for their clothes,” the interior design student recalled. “I was freaking out because Brandy Melville was my favourite at the time. It was the only place I went shopping.”
However, her mother wouldn’t let her work as a model at the time, considering she was still so young. “I was really sad about it, but in the end she was right,” Leni said, reflecting on her mother’s decision to turn down the job. “And I feel like that’s what sparked me to want to model more.”
Earlier this month, Klum was criticised for participating in a lingerie shoot for Intimissimi with her 18-year-old daughter. The lingerie brand shared pictures from the photoshoot to its Instagram, writing in the caption: “A story of self-confidence, joy of life and love between a mother and a daughter. Together @heidiklum and @leniklum celebrate The Art of Italian Lingerie.”
At the time, some social media users suggested a lingerie shoot with a mother and daughter was a “bit ick” and “really weird,” while others defended the shoot, calling it “beautiful and very classy”.