It would appear that you need more than a pretty face to make it in the ultra-competitive world of modelling. Gisele Bündchen last week topped the Forbes list of 15 richest supermodels, earning an unprecedented $33 million over the past 12 months. She also holds the Guinness World Record as the world's richest supermodel, with an estimated fortune of $150 million. What is it about this German-Brazilian supermodel that has made her so successful?
A self-proclaimed workaholic, Gisele (which should be pronounced Jizelli) currently endorses over 20 products worldwide and has modelled for all the major fashion houses such as Chloe and Ralph Lauren. As the top earner on the Forbes list, she is catwalks ahead of Kate Moss ($9 million) and Heidi Klum ($8 million), who are ranked a distant second and third on the list of top-earning models. As such, the 27-year-old has redefined the term supermodel.
In 1990, the Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista made the most famous quote in modelling history — “we don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day” — in reference to how models were calling the shots in the fashion world.
Evangelista and her colleagues Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell are regarded as the true supermodels who changed the face of fashion in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Linda Evangelista is considered the founder of the supermodel ‘union' as she, along with Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington in what became dubbed The Trinity, campaigned for better wages for models. With Gisele raking in $33 million a year, it can be safely said that The Trinity succeeded in their aim.
The voluptuous curves of Gisele are worshipped throughout the world, and make a nice change to the anorexic-looking models who have gained such prominence in the fashion world of late. She denies that any of her perfectly sculpted features are the work of surgery, despite many suggestions that she has had implants.
While supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss are renowned for being divas or taking cocaine, Gisele has managed to steer clear of scandal throughout her career, demonstrating an impressive professionalism. That's not to say she is adverse to controversy — she made headlines this June when she condemned the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to condoms and abortion.
Born in 1980 in a small town in the extreme south of Brazil, Gisele Caroline Bündchen was discovered at the age of 14. Though she originally wanted to be a volleyball player, fate had different plans for the small-town girl, when she was talentspotted by Elite Modeling Agency at a McDonalds in Sao Paulo. (Another story claims that she had previously been enrolled in a modeling course by her mother and had been taken to Sao Paulo to be evaluated by the Elite agents, which somewhat detracts from the ‘casual discovery' claim).
After a tough beginning in Sao Paulo and a failed attempt in 1996 to break into the American market, she gave New York a second chance in 1997. Despite being told her nose was too big and her body was too skinny, Gisele was not deterred. She says: “I wouldn't let this bunch of people let me down. I wouldn't get five ‘no's and give up. I'm not that kind of person. I go after what I want, no matter what.”
In 1998, she got her big break when she appeared on the cover of American Vogue, and shortly afterwards, all doors were open to Gisele.
The five-year, million-dollar contract with Victoria's Secret in 2000 confirmed her status as a supermodel. The ever-versatile model has also tried her hand at acting, featuring in the 2004 comedy Taxi and she is tipped to play Vittoria Vetra in the upcoming Angels and Demons, a film adaptation of Dan Brown's best seller.
Such is her status that she is able to pick and choose her contracts.
Rumour has it that when denied a pay rise in May, the blonde bombshell decided against renewing her record-breaking $5million contract. Linda Evangelista's demand of $10,000 as a runway fee was too modest.