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Harpers Bazaar US April 2009

The leggy beauty channels her iconic predecessors and opens up about Tom Brady, marriage, and how she stays super. See Gisele’s pictures and read the latest on Gisele exclusively on BAZAAR.

Gisele Bündchen whirls through her West Village brownstone — a tornado in skinny black jeans, tank top, filmy cardigan, and hausfrau slippers. Devoid of makeup, her mane of tawny hair slightly mussed, she speaks in a rapid-fire, throaty Brazilian accent. “I’m a very hyper person,” she says, rummaging through imaginary piles of clutter in her sparely decorated home away from home. (She splits her time among New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, where she lives with Tom Brady.) Indeed, while the 28-year-old could easily rest on her laurels given her enormous supermodular success, stillness just isn’t part of her repertoire.

Though Gisele clocks in at nearly six feet and has a bod that stops traffic (but is a mere size 4), it’s the one-two punch of her significant physical assets and her wham-bam personality that has not only catapulted her to the top of the modeling world but also kept her firmly at its apex for a decade and counting. “She is even better in the flesh,” says Dior designer John Galliano. “I think it was her first season in Paris when she came to do a fitting. I had heard about Gisele, but when she walked in the room I felt like my fingers had been put into the electrical socket, like, pwoah! Pure electricity.”

What I love about her is her sensuality and energy,” seconds designer Donatella Versace. “Gisele is one of a kind.”

In her ascendancy after the waif era, Gisele recalled the supermodels of the early ’90s: Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Tatjana Patitz. Of course, Gisele doesn’t think of herself as a supermodel at all. “I really don’t feel like that word. It doesn’t resonate for me. It doesn’t define me,” she says, hands flapping about as she reclines on a linen-covered overstuffed sofa. “As long as I’m a good person and I do things from the heart, that’s all that matters.”

“The great thing about her is that she grew up from the ‘supermodel Gisele’ into this responsible, amazing woman with an extraordinary and positive energy, ready to help anyone who needs it,” says Peter Lindbergh. At Bazaar’s shoot, she is friendly to everyone (down to the last production assistant), raids the cookie plate herself, and chats nonstop. She manages to keep it real despite the maelstrom of press reports chronicling her engagement and nuptials to Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback and her beau of two years. “Gossip is poison,” she says bluntly.

“Tom is a good guy,” she continues tentatively. “He has a very pure heart. He’s very naive, almost like a child. That is my favorite quality about him. One thing that I thought was so amazing when I first met him is that he is innocent. He sees the world with colored glasses.” (While Gisele speaks several languages, occasionally some charming malapropisms escape her.) “It’s beautiful, but I think that is rare. I love that about him. No one else sees that. He’s very strong and focused in his job, but he’s so sensitive, it’s amazing.”

Gisele’s earnest approach harkens back to what she proudly admits are her humble beginnings and close-knit family. Raised in Horizontina, Brazil, then a town of about 10,000, she’s one of six girls (one of whom is her fraternal twin).

“There were no traffic lights in my city, no movie theater — one hotel, and one bank,” she says affectionately of her hometown. Her father and mother raised their six daughters while working, respectively, as a teacher and a bank cashier. “We didn’t have a housekeeper, so we all cleaned the house.”

The prematurely willowy Gisele was tapped at just 13 by an Elite agent at a shopping mall. “I looked like a mosquito then,” she says, laughing and bugging her eyes, but by the following year she was living on her own and making a living as a model. “Maybe if my family had been wealthy, I wouldn’t have done it, but because they weren’t, I decided to go,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave my whole family, but my parents were working and I had five sisters, so things were challenging. I figured I could be independent and work. I thought I could take care of myself and it would be one less child for them to worry about.”

It took her several years to make her mark, and she endured the typical gasp-inducing criticisms that plague most modeling careers. “I’ll never forget the day when a woman came up to me and said, ‘No, you could never be on a magazine cover. Your face features don’t work; your eyes are small, you have a small face but a big nose.’ I was only 14 and I had never noticed any of that stuff, you know?” Luckily, Gisele’s father supplied a snappy comeback for her. “He said to me, ‘Next time that happens, you tell the person that you have a big nose and a big personality to match.’ Ha!”

But such tales of woe were, all told, relatively short-lived. Gisele was shot for Bazaar by Patrick Demarchelier in 1998 and was landing covers in the ensuing months. And what a heady string of years it’s been since. She stars in the current Dior and Versace ad campaigns, but she’s also added contemporary brands like True Religion and Rampage to her résumé and is being touted by industry advertisers as a brand savior. “She devours the camera,” says Galliano. “Gisele is very much a part of the creative process and always pushes herself and us to create a strong, sexy icon. She has really helped redefine who the Dior character is and taken it to the next level.”

She also recently took her love life to the next level. Gisele and Brady reportedly walked down the aisle in February in Santa Monica. Designers and close pals Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana designed a strapless ivory confection for her replete with a scalloped hem and a sweeping train.

The bombshell confesses to Bazaar, prior to the media circus, that she’s ready to move into the role of wife and mother. “I want to have a big family,” she says. “My parents have been together for 36 years, and that is what I want. I am in that place. It’s all good in that part of my life. It’s one part of my life that I’m learning about every day. I’ve been challenged a lot by it, but it’s the most rewarding part.”

The challenges presumably date back to the drama surrounding the inception of her relationship with Brady. Just weeks after news of their courtship broke, it was revealed that Brady’s very recent ex, actress Bridget Moynahan, was pregnant with his child. Naturally, Brady and Gisele were trounced by the tabloids, which charted every change in Moynahan’s bump. But Gisele is said to have neutralized the situation by sending a peace-offering gift basket to Moynahan, and she is mad about Brady’s one-year-old son, John Edward. “I love kids,” she says, smiling, her eyes lighting up. “It’s amazing that I have the opportunity to hang out with my stepson all the time.”

She picks up a recent picture of the tot from her shelf, which is lined with photos of family and friends all crowded together in mismatched frames. “He is so kind. He loves blueberries, and every now and then my dog, Vida, tries to get some food from him. He is so nice that he will give her the blueberries first. He is so cute and has such a sweet demeanor.”

There was a time, however, about five or six years ago, when Gisele wasn’t ready for love and marriage and babies. The pace of her career, her lifestyle, and her one-name fame were getting the best of her.

“I was drinking a lot of red wine, smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day, and eating cheeseburgers all day. I was treating my body, which is my temple and my best friend, as my worst enemy,” she says. “I was almost punishing myself. I was so tired. I was working so much, and I was numb.” She saved herself from being yet another washed-up model by taking half a year off, during which she went home to Brazil and then traveled through Africa.

She also became an avid reader of self-help books, and their truisms are part of her everyday vernacular. “If you are happy, you can give happiness,” she says with all sincerity. “If you don’t love yourself and if you are unhappy with yourself, you can’t give anything else but that.”

For Bazaar, Gisele interpreted a host of famous muses through the ages. She clearly relates to those models who share her physicality and strong sexuality. Of Veruschka, she says, “She knew how to move and had a really strong face. Not too perfect, but gorgeous, and she made it look effortless.” So too did Gisele, who transformed herself, with the help of a power hair-and-makeup team led by Jimmy Paul and Pati Dubroff, into Veruschka, Lauren Hutton, Jerry Hall, Penelope Tree, Brooke Shields  — and, of course, herself. She did everything from primping her hair (“This looks great,” she said of her cover look, “but it’s too glamorous, too chic. It needs to be more bitchy!”) to moving the heavy industrial lights around the set, Bionic Woman–style.

Of Lauren Hutton, Gisele says, “She’s one of my favorite people in the industry. I don’t know anyone who is more authentic than her. She’s not just beautiful, she’s got a soul.” And Jerry Hall? “I always think of her as Jessica Rabbit. She’s sexy, she’s beautiful, but very doll-like — very perfect features but with big hair like Rapunzel.”

The androgyny central to Penelope Tree’s persona is more difficult for her. “She looked like she was hiding, like she was shy. She gave the minimum and didn’t open herself up. There was a distance, but maybe that was the era; maybe that’s how women felt.” As for Shields, she observes that the 1981 Calvin Klein ad (shot by Richard Avedon the year after Gisele was born) is one of her favorite pictures ever. “She looks so innocent, but she is doing sexy poses. Her face says one thing, but her body says something else.”

In front of the camera, Gisele is something else too. “She brought sexy back way before Justin Timberlake,” says Galliano. Gabbana and Dolce, ever fond of a power femme, add, “We love her attitude. She’s self-confident, conscious of her beauty, independent. She is what a woman should be.”

After a long day of shooting, Gisele was also a woman who was ready to go. She stood at the mirror scraping the layers of makeup off her face, tearing off fake lashes, patting down her teased-up hair, and lamenting her irritated skin, worked over for the multiple transformations. “I haven’t seen Tom in 10 days and now I’m going to show up like this?” she wailed. But of course Gisele, red face and all, is still Gisele.


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