Sofia Richie — model, aspiring designer and singer, and 17-year-old daughter of Lionel — is 36 hours away from adulthood. “Freedom!” she exclaims. To celebrate, there will be a birthday party at a club and she will be embarking on a romantic trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with Justin Bieber.
Post-festivities, she’s moving out of her dad’s Beverly Hills home — “It’s time to go!” She has plenty of ideas about the direction she is headed, though that hasn’t stopped her dad from slyly trying to help steer. “One night he intercoms me, like, ‘Come have dinner in the studio,’ ” recalls Sofia, whose mother is Diane Alexander, a former dancer and fashion designer (she and Richie divorced in 2004). “So I go down and it’s my dad and Pharrell Williams. I’m like, ‘I can’t just sit here and casually have a dinner with you two! I’m so sorry, I’ve got to go back upstairs.’ ”
Curled up in a Rolls-Royce on a steamy day in Los Angeles, Sofia looks more like a laid-back teen than budding multihyphenate. But as a quick scan of the youngest Richie’s résumé reveals, her father needn’t worry about her career drive. As a model, Sofia already has appeared in the pages of Elle, Vogue China and Vanity Fair Italy, and in 2015 she was the face of Madonna’s teen line, Material Girl. Sofia dreams of debuting her own collection of ready-to-wear, an extension of “my personal style: trenches, high-waisted pants, pantsuits, silks,” she says. “I love modeling because I get to see everything that inspires me. Then I go home and sketch.”
Growing up in the Richie household, creativity was a way of life: Her dad began teaching her to sing at 5 and play piano at 7 (“We both play by ear,” says Sofia), even bringing her onstage for the occasional duet. At 14, she started daily lessons with Beyoncé vocal coach Tim Carter and logged studio time with her brother-in-law, Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden. “It was the best I could have asked for, but there was too much pressure,” she says. “Everyone had their own idea of what my music should sound like, and I just wanted to be an individual. I stepped back and said, ‘I need to re-evaluate this.’ ”
That’s a perspective Richie can appreciate. “Sofia is an old soul,” says Lionel. “When she starts talking about her life, her music, her style, it’s definite she has been here before. She is very clear about who she is and what she wants.” That confidence, and older sister Nicole’s example, has helped her navigate the less glamorous aspects of fame, like the online bullying that recently drove Bieber to close his Instagram account. “I remember the paparazzi and the shit people would say to Nicole, and she wouldn’t respond,” says Sofia. “I’m going to be real with you: It. Doesn’t. Bother. Me. As long as I’m happy.”
At the moment, she is. Richie is elated that she’s gracing the pages of Billboard like her pops has (“I look up to him, so that means a lot”). Of Bieber, she says, “We have a special relationship. Justin is very easy to talk to, and that’s hard to find with people in Los Angeles.” Meanwhile, her expertise is needed at home. “My dad can leave the house looking a little crazy,” she says with a laugh. “I have to tell him to change.”
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 17 issue of Billboard. Along with Rae Sremmurd and Sofia Richie, St. Vincent and Marc Jacobs are featured on a separate Billboard Style Issue cover for the Sept. 17 issue.