She is the world’s pre-eminent model—and a passionate Brazilian. On the eve of the World Cup in Rio, Gisele Bündchen opens up about her 20-year career.
the eternal golden girl.
By Virginie Dolata
IT’S THE DAY AFTER THE OSCARS. We’re standing in a photo studio in Los Angeles, and Gisele Bündchen is almost a film unto herself: a larger-than-life knockout in faded grey jeans and her signature mop of hair. She’s chatting enthusiastically about her one-year-old daughter, who is already showing signs of being “dramatic.”
At 33 years old, Bündchen is celebrating 20 years as a model. It has been a faultless journey for the girl from Horizontina, a small town in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, who dreamed of being a professional volleyball player for the national team. That was before Gisele Caroline Nonnenmacher Bündchen was discovered by an Elite Model Look contest and Alexander McQueen.
You need only glance at the varied shots on her Instagram page (which has over 1.6 million followers) to fully appreciate the breadth of her career. Voted the “world’s most powerful supermodel” by Forbes, Bündchen is the face of brands from Chanel to Pantene, has her own lingerie line and is an active philanthropist. She earns roughly US$40 million a year, which, coupled with the success of her husband, Tom Brady, the handsome quarterback of Boston’s New England Patriots, means that at least a few generations of little BündchenBradys (starting with Benjamin Rein, four, and Vivian Lake, one) will likely be quite comfortable.
Now, Bündchen emerges from the changing room in a bikini and steps in front of the camera, striking her poses efficiently, like a well-oiled machine, while watching her reflection in a mirror. She later shoots a quick glance at the monitor and says she loves the photos—particularly the one in which she’s draped in the Brazilian flag. “Viva o Brasil,” she cries. “We’re going to win!”
Are you excited that this year’s World Cup is in Brazil?
“Soccer has always been a huge part of the culture of Brazil. People here are all geared up!” Are you going to attend the matches? “Well, I would like to score a goal myself. [Laughs] I’m very proud that I was born in Brazil. I love the spirit of the Brazilian people. There’s something magical about it. There’s a viva— there is joy. There is warmth—a sense of welcome. When I first came to America, I was hugging and kissing everyone and people were shocked. Soccer supporters will come from different parts of the world, and they will experience that side of Brazilian life—all that beauty and energy.” Are you passionate about sports? “I’ve been athletic since I was little. I was the captain of my volleyball team. I used to jog—even almost naked in winter. I’m Sporty Spice!” What is your relationship with your body? “The body is a temple. I enjoy moving. I don’t play much volleyball h
anymore, but I ride horses, surf and play beach tennis. I play wherever I am. Kung fu, boxing, yoga, Pilates.... It makes me feel alive. If I don’t move my body, I don’t feel good.” How do you feed that body? “I rarely eat meat, but I’m from the south of Brazil—I was raised on meat. I’m not an extremist, but I need to know where my food comes from. If my food has been injected with antibiotics and a whole lot of other stuff, I [unfortunately] end up eating that as well. I keep chickens at home.” Where does that awareness come from? “My grandparents were farmers. I used to watch my grandmother milk cows. It was amazing. That’s the biggest gift my parents ever gave me and my five sisters. I remember they used to swap produce with neighbours. There was a wonderful sense of community. That’s why I shop at farmers’ markets. There are co-operatives in Boston where you pay monthly and get what’s in season. Sometimes it’s zucchini for months at a time!”
Are you trying to pass that awareness on to your children?
“We plant a lot of vegetables and fruit together. They understand the cycle of the seasons and why there are no strawberries in winter. Our health depends on the health of our planet. If we pollute our waters, kill our trees and destroy our oceans, the earth will recycle itself and chuck us out.” How do you deal with juggling your family and career? “It’s a constant balance. Sometimes when I go to bed, I’m happy that I did a good job that day. And sometimes, I wish I’d done things differently. Now, it’s getting harder for me to travel for my job. I have a son whom I take to school, and I come back quickly to see my baby. I never feel 100-percent complete. I just want to stay at home now. Luckily, I’m able to choose more because I have been doing this job for 20 years.” How do you keep your enthusiasm after so long? “I come from a small town with only 10,000 people. When I started modelling, I thought this was a unique opportunity. I feel the same way today. There are lots of sacrifices, but it is a blessing to be able to do this job.” Why do you think your career has lasted? “People trust me when they book me for a job. The minimum I give them is 100 percent. I’ve never been late for a job, I respect people and I want to be at my best every time: to show up and deliver. When I lose that, I’ll stop. I’ve done a million photos in my life, and my excitement for it remains intact.” What’s on your mind these days? “I want to learn more about myself. I can be a mom, a wife, a friend, a model, but at the end of the day, the most important relationship I have is with myself. I have to live with myself for the rest of my life!” How do you see the future? “I’m so excited about the future, but I’m a person who really focuses on the present. Tomorrow is another day. I no longer worry about age.... Every situation is a special moment. Look, I’m really here, with you! It’s an exceptional moment that may never happen again!”