As one of the world’s most in-demand fashion stars, Karlie Kloss has appeared in dozens of ad campaigns and walked countless runways. But in her free time, the supermodel is more likely to obsess over code than clothes. "I like knowing how apps and hardware work and why," says Kloss, who is pursuing a degree at NYU. That interest in technology inspired her to found Kode With Klossy, a summer computing camp and scholarship program with a mission to empower young women. Along the way, Kloss has learned three techniques that can further any passion project.
Kloss didn’t set out to learn about coding, but as she got more interested in business and tech, she realized it would be an essential tool. "As a model, I was meeting all these entrepreneurs and was fascinated by the things they were building. But I couldn’t understand how [these products] worked. What did they know that I didn’t? What secret language was this code thing? I follow my nerdy passions, even if they are kind of unexpected. Being true to yourself, as cheesy as that sounds, is important. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing—if you’re pretending to be something you’re not—then it’s not sustainable."
Part of what Kloss loves about programming is the challenge of applying her brain to sticky problems: "Creative problem solving," as she calls it. "It takes a while to get something to work. It takes a while before you can build an app or even write your first line of code. But these skills—seeing a problem and finding the solution using code—are so important. [They] help you understand how to think about things. It’s a valuable skill set even if you don’t become an engineer."
In addition to everything else, Kloss is a committed baker who has created a popular line of dessert products with Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi. Juggling all of those obligations can be exhausting, but it’s a big part of what keeps her engaged. "I am the daughter of an emergency-room physician, and I’ve watched my dad work 12-hour night shifts for as long as I can remember. It’s inspired me and is definitely a part of who I am and the way I live."
A version of this article appeared in the February 2017 issue of Fast Company magazine.