This Is 2020’s Most Beautiful Woman – But Here’s Why Full-Time Modeling Will Have To Wait

Who’s the most gorgeous woman in the world? Well, you may have your own ranking, but there’s only one guy whose opinion counts: T.C. Candler. For a while now, Candler has been assessing women across the planet for his annual “100 Most Beautiful Faces of the Year” list. And in 2020 the winner pulled off quite the upset, beating out a whole host of famous names to the top spot. She must be a model, right? Well, sort of – but her double life makes posing for pictures a little tricky at the moment.

And you probably haven’t even heard of this woman. She’s not a star – at present, anyway. But that’s not a deal-breaker when it comes to the list. According to the Independent Critics website, which originally partnered up with Candler for this competition, fame isn’t taken into account when compiling the names.

So, could any woman on Earth make the cut? Well, yes, if she’s beautiful enough! But she also has to draw the attention of one of the 20 people responsible for helping draw up Candler’s list. These folks – recruited by Candler himself – are the ones tasked with looking for the most beautiful women on the planet. That doesn’t sound like much of an ordeal, although they still receive some help along the way.

You see, if they so choose, the 20 critics can also sift through nominations put forward by anyone around the world. Yes, you, too, can have your own small part to play. But if you do choose to nominate someone, bear this in mind: bodies aren’t judged, regardless of the flawlessness of a candidate’s physique. Only the face is the focus.

What are the judges looking for specifically? It’s all explained on the Independent Critics website, although it’s a long list. Basically, the perfect candidate will display “grace, elegance, originality, daring, passion, class, poise, joy, promise [and] hope.” And, yes, that’s just in their face. Not as easy as it sounds…

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The run-down itself is supposed to reflect “modern” takes on beauty and expand people’s horizons of attractiveness in the process. And although there are some women who will always be seen as beautiful, you can see how these ideals have changed since the list made its debut back in 1990.

Yep, this whole process has been going on for three decades now. And thanks to the rise of the internet, it’s now a hugely popular annual event online. The 2020 announcement was no different, either. When a video was posted on Candler’s YouTube channel towards the end of December that year, debate raged over the final rankings.

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But the woman who came out on top wasn’t someone that most folks would recognize. That’s in stark contrast to previous years, when household names took the prize. The inaugural winner was Michelle Pfeiffer, and since then, stars such as Meg Ryan, Nicole Kidman, Sophie Marceau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Keira Knightley and Marion Cotillard have all emerged triumphant.

Hey, just because fame isn’t a factor in the decision, that doesn’t mean celebrities can’t win it! Anyway, the 2019 victor wasn’t a Hollywood actress. Chou Tzu-yu earned the crown that year. Otherwise referred to as Tzuyu, she’s a K-pop artist from Taiwan – and she’d made the list four times before finally rising to first place.

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So, which famous names were included in the 2020 selection? Well, actress Kate Beckinsale kicked off the list in 100th place – 13 years after she had taken the top spot. Ariana Grande, Chloë Grace Moretz, Margot Robbie and Lupita Nyong’o – all women you may know – also came in at 86th, 72nd, 65th and 36th, respectively.

And the odd curveball was thrown in there for good measure. For instance, the video game character Ellie from the acclaimed Last of Us series was named in 82nd place. Yes, someone who doesn’t even exist. Talk about an unexpected choice! But you may now be wondering: which embodiments of gorgeousness made up 2020’s top five in the end?

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Well, coming in at number five was Denmark’s Emilie Nereng – a veritable Renaissance woman who works not only as a model, but also a writer, cook and television host. She also has her own podcast, titled Foodies. And if you want to get to know Nereng better, then find her Instagram page – which features plenty of tasty eats.

Ahead of Nereng in fourth place is a woman we’ve already mentioned: Tzuyu, who dropped down three spots after her win in 2019. We wonder if she was disappointed… But given how frequently the singer pops up in the annual list, it wouldn’t be in any way surprising to see her again in 2021’s lineup. Perhaps she’ll even reclaim her crown.

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Who’s next? Well, in third was Australia’s Meika Woollard. That marked the teenager’s highest position in the list at the fourth time of asking. And if you’re not familiar with Woollard – which, if you’re over 30 and not an Aussie, you probably won’t be – she’s a social media influencer and model who’s been working for several years now.

Woollard actually got her big break as a three-year-old by appearing in commercials Down Under. She looked set for further fame, too, when she was recruited by the famed management business IMG at just 12. And her popularity is certainly reflected in her social media stats. At time of writing, her Instagram page has roughly 509,000 followers.

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To say that Woollard is beloved would be an understatement, so who could’ve beaten her into second spot? Another model? Or perhaps an established name from Hollywood? After all, they’re no strangers to the upper rankings! Well, as it happens, neither. In 2020 the second most beautiful face in the world belonged to a musician from Thailand.

Lalisa Manoban was named as 2020’s runner-up. Better known as Lisa, she’s one-fourth of a band called Blackpink. And if that name sounds familiar, then you probably have a K-pop fan in your life! The group are hugely popular, you see – both inside and outside of their native South Korea. Lisa alone has over 45 million followers on Instagram.

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But now you’re probably eager to learn who topped the pile. Any guesses? Well, like several other women in the 2020 list, this hadn’t been her first rodeo. Not at all – with three previous appearances in the rankings, she was practically a veteran. And after nabbing the runner-up spot in 2019, she went one better 12 months later.

Her name is Yael Shelbia, and she’s a teenage actress and model from Israel. And according to the list’s tastemakers, the young woman completely fitted the criteria of what they were looking for in a winner. Mind you, while Shelbia is certainly beautiful, she had no idea that this would happen. No, she really didn’t!

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Speaking to British newspaper The Sun in January 2021, Shelbia said of her victory, “I was very surprised. I didn’t even know I was participating in this contest. It’s very exciting and flattering. [But] I don’t know why they chose me. I think beauty is so individual, and all women are beautiful.”

Shelbia’s journey up to that point was probably unusual compared to many of her peers on Candler’s list. For starters, she was raised in a devout Orthodox Jewish family. But she looked back on her childhood with plenty of fondness when speaking to The Sun.

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“I grew up in a very special way, and I’m very grateful for that,” Shelbia said to the newspaper. She added, “I grew up in a small city in the north of Israel in a religious family as one of five sisters and brothers. We’re very united and have a large family who are originally from Tunisia. At home, we eat traditional food, which is my favorite.”

Shelbia also revealed that she hadn’t actually been keen to start a modeling career. Instead, it had been up to a few other people in her life to make the opening moves. The teenager explained, “I started modeling when I was 16. It’s a funny story, actually. My friends decided I needed to open an Instagram account.”

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Shelbia continued, “I was really against having an account at the beginning, so [my friends] decided to open one on my behalf.” But fate soon intervened, as a local photographer then approached the teenager to ask if she’d be interested in doing a photoshoot. The list-topper added, “The rest is history. When I started working, I decided to move to Tel Aviv by myself.”

So, what kind of work has Shelbia been doing? Well, for one, she’s teamed up with Sirin Labs for the launch of its state-of-the-art Finney cell phone. In one commercial, she even appeared alongside soccer superstar Lionel Messi. And the young model has been keeping up with the Kardashians, as she’s also featured in ads for Kim’s line KKW Beauty and for Kylie Jenner’s beauty products. That’s a pretty good résumé!

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And Shelbia’s efforts have attracted plenty of fans across social media. Astonishingly, she currently boasts a whopping 1.3 million followers on Instagram alone. Incredible, right? It seems as though people just can’t get enough of her.

Given those impressive stats, it’s easy to forget that Shelbia isn’t a full-time model or actress at the moment. But there’s an intriguing reason why she can’t direct all of her energy into those two ventures. You see, the teenager has to complete a certain job for Israel first.

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Simply put, men and women from Israel have to all spend time as part of the country’s armed forces. Only Israeli Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, otherwise known as Haredi, are allowed to sit out the process. And in previous years, national service spanned between 24 and 32 months – so, close to three years.

But in the summer of 2020, the Israel Defense Forces cut back on the time that guys needed to serve. Now, they only had to spend 30 months as soldiers. As for the ladies? Well, their compulsory period stayed the same at 24 months – meaning Shelbia wasn’t affected.

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Then again, we have to wonder: what does Shelbia actually think of the military service? After all, it’s a complete departure from her acting and modeling career! She was in the thick of it, too, when the “100 Most Beautiful Faces” list went online in December 2020.

In truth, Shelbia’s answer may surprise a few of you. She told The Sun, “It is such an honor for me to serve my country, I have lots of responsibilities as an IDF soldier and public figure. It was really important for me to try and combine work and the service.”

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That’s an admirable approach to take, and it’s probably a great indication of Shelbia’s true character. But there was something else the Israeli had to battle while she was doing her bit for her homeland. Once the list was published, you see, some folks on social media were less than kind.

And Shelbia touched on this blowback during her conversation with The Sun. But the comments on her victory weren’t all bad. She had her fair share of admirers, too, with some love-struck users seemingly falling over themselves to get her attention.

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Shelbia said, “I’ve received a large amount of support and love – also suitor messages, I must admit – and messages that weren’t the nicest. They said the normal things that haters say, [so] nothing worth any attention.” And fans of hers leaped to her defense in the face of the social media trolls.

One Instagram user stood up for Shelbia by writing, “Please, let’s be respectful. Yael is beautiful. Why take it [so] seriously? We all want our favorites to win. This person is beautiful. She deserves [it].” And others seemed to agree, judging by the number of commenters on the social media site who were wowed by the young woman’s looks.

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In the meantime, Shelbia has been plotting her next career move. She’s slightly restricted at present, of course, because of her military commitments, but that hasn’t stopped her from making plans. And if they’re anything to go by, we should be seeing much more of the teenager going forward.

Shelbia informed The Sun, “These days I’m preparing for season two of a youth series that will be aired here in Israel. I have several big projects I’m working on, and once I finish here I’m planning to go back to LA, which is one of my favorite [places]. I also really like Europe and traveling around.”

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“I used to travel regularly and can’t wait to go back,” Shelbia continued. “The favorite thing I like about my job is being able to get to know other cultures [and] different people and see so many amazing views. I’m looking forward to conquering lots of destinations in my career. My goal is to work and create every day.”

Well, you certainly can’t fault Shelbia’s ambition! She clearly knows what she wants, and her physical attributes mean that her place in the “100 Most Beautiful Faces” list could be secure for some time yet. Yet while she’s clearly gorgeous on the outside, the 2020 winner claimed that what’s inside counts just as much – if not more.

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Shelbia explained to The Sun, “I think what makes a person beautiful is to be kind, humble and most of all positive. When you are good, it is really shown in your eyes, and eyes never lie.” And while beauty – inner or external – may well be in the eye of the beholder, it seems the judges who matter see it in her right now.

They may also see it in the Clements twins. And when snaps of the two young girls appeared on the internet, folks removed all doubt when they spelled out exactly why the pictures were an online hit. Basically, the duo were remarkably photogenic. Some may even say beautiful! But how have the pair’s looks changed in the years since they first shot to fame?

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Well, naturally the twins have grown up a little since their internet debut. And when California mom Jaqi Clements began posting pictures of her daughters to Instagram back in 2017, they didn’t exactly escape notice. In fact, Jaqi’s posts were soon being liked by thousands of fans. Why? The girls had the most beautiful faces in the world – or so some people claimed, anyway.

Originally, though, Jaqi had no clue that her daughters would grow up to be online stars. To begin with, she was just concerned with their safe delivery. On July 7, 2010, Jaqi and her husband, Kevin, unexpectedly found themselves at the hospital. This may have been a nervous time, as their babies weren’t actually due for another month. But as fate would have it, the girls didn’t plan on hanging around for any longer.

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Yes, identical twins Ava Marie and Leah Rose arrived into the world that very day. And their mother later explained that she understood why they had come ahead of schedule. “Knowing their personalities now, it makes total sense that they would show up early, unannounced and ready to take on anything,” Jaqi wrote in a blog post.

Then, not long after the girls were born, people took notice of their natural beauty. “For as long as I can remember, strangers would approach me… asking first if they were twins,” Jaqi wrote. “Their follow-up would always be, ‘Wow, they are so beautiful. You should really think about getting them into modeling.’”

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As it happens, Jaqi did more than think about getting them into modeling. Yep, she actually got her daughters signed to a Los Angeles-based agency. But the mom soon found it too difficult to attend castings with her infant twins and their two-year-old brother Chase in tow. “It was hard enough to get out of the door most days, so my attempt back then was short-lived,” she said.

In fact, it wouldn’t be until the girls turned seven on July 7, 2017, that Jaqi returned to the whole modeling idea. Inspired by the date of her daughters’ birthday, she felt that it was the right time to give the whole thing another shot. “So many sevens,” she wrote, “so many signs that this was their year to shine.”

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So, on that day, Jaqi posted a photo to Instagram through an account with the username @theclementstwins. That first image saw the girls wearing sunhats and lace dresses and was captioned “7 years side by side.” And the shot itself came from the girls’ first photoshoot, which according to their mom wasn’t as effortless as it appeared.

It all began when the Clements’ neighbor started her own boutique for children’s clothing. Then, when she began marketing for her new retail outpost, she needed some promotional material – and recruited the girls to star in ads. “My twins were, of course, more than up for the job,” Jaqi wrote.

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Jaqi had initially assumed that modeling would be second nature for the girls, who had always enjoyed the spotlight. “They loved to perform their dance routines in front of an audience, any audience,” she later recalled. “Neighbors, friends, strangers… it didn’t matter to them, they loved to be the center of attention.”

But that first shoot for the neighbor’s boutique wasn’t as effortless as the twins’ spontaneous dance performances. “Ava would look at the camera, while Leah would stare off into space,” Jaqi wrote. “Leah would accidentally bump into Ava, who, of course, thought it was on purpose and would shove her back.”

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Still, the shots were good enough for Jaqi to pass on to agencies. She posted the images on Instagram to boot. And the upshot was that Ava and Leah not only found modeling managers in Los Angeles and Orange County, but they also saw near-instant success on the social media app.

Jaqi played her own part, actively cultivating a strong internet following. In a July 2019 blog post on her daughters’ website, she explained how she had consulted with Instagram-savvy friends who had helped her gain followers. And these buddies had given the twins’ mom some good ideas – comment on other people’s photos and hashtag everything, for example.

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So, thanks to these tips, the girls’ Instagram account attracted 1,000 followers within two months. A matter of weeks later, that figure had tripled. But perhaps the turning point came when Jaqi finally received her first set of professional headshots of her daughters. When she posted these snaps to Instagram, the account really took off, going from 3,000 followers to 15,000 in the space of seven days.

A few more headshots from the same shoot pushed the follower count still further, from 15,000 to 25,000. And Jaqi later recalled the shock of this remarkable success. She wrote, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I remember thinking… is this normal? Is this a glitch? Am I going to wake up tomorrow and all of these followers will just be gone? It almost seemed too good to be true.”

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As the twins’ popularity grew online, Jaqi also realized what particularly struck a chord with Instagrammers the world over. She wrote, “I noticed the pictures with both of my girls together were getting way more likes than the ones I posted of them individually.” Plus, people seemed to like photos “that showed their similar features – especially those that accentuated their eyes.”

So, Jaqi began to create images of Ava and Leah with those factors in mind. Her photoshoots weren’t technically professional ones, mind you. Instead, she’d take her daughters around their neighborhood for an hour a week to snap new side-by-side pictures of the two of them together. A little help from her neighbor also came in handy.

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Through the pop-up boutique owner, Jaqi had plenty of clothes for the twins to wear. She’d also switch up the girls’ hairstyles in the middle of a session so that she had a variety of pictures in her Instagram arsenal. Writing on the twins’ website, she explained, “If I was lucky, I’d get three or four good shots that I could use to post to [Ava and Leah’s] account for the next week and that I could also give to my neighbor to promote her boutique.”

Other people reposted photos of Ava and Leah, too, boosting their Instagram exposure. And these shares showed Jaqi that folks most loved the photos of her girls in tandem. She explained, “Every picture that had been reposted was of my girls posing together rather than alone, so I realized it was the ‘twins factor’ that was contributing to their large following.”

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This so-called twins factor pushed Leah and Ava’s Instagram account far beyond its 25,000-person follower count. By the time Jaqi wrote her July 2019 blog, they had 380,000 followers on the platform. A year later, and that figure had more than tripled to a whopping 1.8 million people – and counting.

But as Instagrammers took notice of the Clements twins, so, too, did news outlets. BuzzFeed got in touch with Jaqi for an interview, for one. And in March 2019 the mom of three talked to the website about how her daughters had reacted to their budding popularity. She revealed, “This past year has been really fun and exciting for Ava and Leah.”

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Jaqi went on to describe all of the perks that came with her daughters’ budding modeling careers, saying, “Whether it be private shopping experiences, gifted merchandise from brands all over the world or taking pictures with fans, the girls have had an amazing ride so far. Of course, what’s most important to them is the friends they’ve made along the way.”

However, while it sounded as though the girls were in danger of becoming spoiled, Jaqi tried to keep them down to earth. Like any kids their age, Ava and Leah had to earn educations. Jaqi explained to BuzzFeed, “Any jobs that they book through Instagram, I schedule on weekends or right after school so that they don’t have to miss any class. If they book a job through their agency, there is a teacher on set to help them with their schoolwork.”

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The twins’ mom also said that, as of 2019, the bulk of their jobs took them to Los Angeles – a two-hour drive from their home. And working in the city gave the family a chance to have a little bit of fun between shoots. Jaqi planned group outings or meet-ups with the girls’ LA-based buddies to break up their days.

Otherwise, Ava and Leah had schedules similar to most other kids their age. Jaqi described the twins’ routines to BuzzFeed, saying, “On days they aren’t working, they go to school and then usually go to swim practice, dance class or play outside with their friends in the neighborhood.”

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Another way that Jaqi retained her daughters’ sense of normality was by keeping them away from their burgeoning Instagram account. Neither Ava nor Leah were able to get their hands on the app, although their mom sometimes gave them the chance to interact with fans second-hand. She said, “Sometimes I will allow them to come up with a question they want to ask their followers under their post for the day, and then I’ll let them read the responses from their followers.”

But even with Jaqi at the helm, fans interacted with Ava and Leah’s Instagram page on a regular basis. And many social media users left gushing comments on the images that the twins’ mom uploaded. The pair have been called “absolutely stunning” and “really truly gorgeous,” among other compliments. One follower was even moved to describe Ava and Leah as “the most beautiful girls in the world.”

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That seems to be a sentiment that casting scouts share. In any case, Leah and Ava have proved popular child models, being photographed for various magazines and clothing brands. At one point in December 2017, the girls completed half-a-dozen jobs in just seven days.

But even with all the love that the twins received online, Jaqi did have to field some backlash. In a January 2018 blog post, she wrote, “When you put your family out into the public eye, you open up the door for criticism. I guess, for me, what I don’t understand is why anyone would take the time and energy to leave the negative comments?”

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Among the most common concerns voiced by viewers, Jaqi said, were that people thought her daughters seemed upset, that they shouldn’t be in makeup or that they should be doing normal kid things instead of modeling. But to all of her naysayers, the mom had the perfect response.

“As parents, we all want the best for our kids,” Jaqi wrote. “We want them to find things they enjoy doing in life and support them on their journey. I didn’t decide that my girls were going to start modeling – they did. And if the day ever comes that they want to move onto something else, I will 100 percent support their decision to do that.”

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This didn’t mark the end of the blowback, though. More than a year later, criticism of Jaqi flared up again – this time via Reddit. Multiple commenters on the site accused Leah and Ava’s mom of using the girls to bolster her bank account, with one person writing scathingly, “Why do people do this? Is social media everything? Why take away their childhood?”

Another commenter agreed, comparing Leah and Ava to their own child of the same age. The Redditor wrote, “This is so gross. I have an eight-year-old. Couldn’t imagine exploiting her like this for money or Instagram likes. And all that makeup and Photoshop. Ew.” But Jaqi had already debunked many of these complaints on her blog.

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For one thing, Jaqi claimed, she didn’t make any money from her daughters’ modeling career. In fact, she actually had to spend plenty of her own cash on it. The twins’ mom wrote in 2017, “[One] not-so-amazing thing about this new life are all of the expenses associated with it! A lot of people assume parents are making money just because they see their kids working a lot. False!”

Jaqi continued, “I know in our case – and probably in most cases – the parents are putting out more money in order to support their kids.” But the mom of three saw this as an investment in her daughters’ prospects. She wrote, “I guess if you really put it all into perspective, the money we as parents put out now to support our kids in something they love doing will allow them to make their own money they can use towards college or a car or a house in the future.”

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As for the claims of exploitation? Well, Jaqi said that she “appreciated [the] concern,” but her girls were “just fine.” She went on, “They are happy! They have an amazing childhood with lots of friends that they get to play with every day! A single pose does not define their personality or their quality of life.”

And the Clements twins have gone on to build robust modeling careers in spite of this backlash. By early 2020, the then-nine-year-old girls had booked jobs with big-name brands including Skechers, Recess Kids, American Girl and Target. According to their website, they’ve also collaborated with the nail polish brand nail & bone and modeled a mommy-and-me slipper line for Muk Luks.

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And Ava and Leah have expanded their online presence beyond just Instagram. The girls – along with their parents and brother – now have a YouTube channel where they show glimpses of themselves behind the scenes. According to their “About Us” page on the site, the Clements wanted everyone to “get to know Ava, Leah and the rest of our family a little more.”

The clan continued on YouTube, “It’s really hard to truly understand the girls and our family dynamic only through the pictures we post on Instagram. This past year and a half since the girls… have started in the industry has been fun, crazy [and] all over the place but such an exciting adventure. And we want to share that with you!”

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These YouTube videos serve as further evidence that, as Jaqi claims, the girls are “lovin’ every minute” of their lives in front of the camera. And they’re likely even happier now that another family member is in the business. Yep, older brother Chase signed with the twins’ agencies and has started to build his own Instagram following, too.

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