Fans of the Poway punk band Unwritten Law might recognize Cailin Russo’s name from the late 1990s, when her dad, singer Scott Russo, immortalized his then-toddler daughter in a hit song. But to legions of younger followers, the 20-year-old Westview High School grad is best known as the lucky lady who got to make out with Justin Bieber in not one, but two, of his music videos—”Confident” and “All That Matters,” which have 145 million YouTube hits between them.
“He was really normal,” says the younger Russo of the pop star, who cast her based on an audition tape. “I was like, ‘Ohmygosh, you eat food too? You drink water too?’”
But locking lips with the world’s most wanted teen idol has its drawbacks: Jealous Beliebers took to Twitter to bash Russo, and she even got death threats. Cailin got the last laugh, though, converting the attention into nearly 400,000 Twitter and Instagram followers and adding momentum to a modeling career that now includes editorials in Japanese Vogue and campaigns for American Apparel and Aeropostale, among others.
Before she was discovered at an Action Sports Retailer convention, modeling wasn’t on her radar. “I was filling out applications to go to the Art Academy in North Hollywood to study interior decorating,” says Cailin, who recently moved up to L.A.
While still in elementary school, she joined her rock-star dad on tour; her pops would ask his bashful daughter to come up on stage when the band played her song. A decade later, the experience seems to have rubbed off: Cailin’s currently wrapping up her debut album, which she describes as “a little of Rihanna’s dark scandalousness, Amy Winehouse’s jazzy funky vibe, and some tribal Santigold/M.I.A. beats.”
One highlight? “An awesome song about chocolate” that Cailin wrote herself, featuring influences ranging from dubstep to 1920s swing-dancing, and a guest appearance from dear old dad.
Photo by Trevor Hoehne