Supermodels don’t get more super than Gisele Bündchen. After being randomly discovered by a modeling agent when she was 13, the Brazil-born beauty skyrocketed to the top of the fashion world. Early success in Rio de Janeiro led her to go international, continuing her meteoric rise after relocating to the US and eventually becoming a household name.
In addition to gracing the covers of countless fashion magazines and modeling for top designers, the woman that Rolling Stone once dubbed “the most beautiful girl in the world” made worldwide headlines in 2000 when she signed a mind-boggling $25-million contract with Victoria’s Secret (via Biography). Meanwhile, her personal life has garnered just as much attention as her modeling career thanks to her high-profile relationship with NFL superstar Tom Brady, whom she married in 2009.
Gisele Bündchen may have walked her last runway in 2015, yet she remains a fixture in the pop-culture firmament, a celebrity whose fame and achievements have far eclipsed mere modeling. Read on to learn even more about this fascinating female and discover the untold truth of Gisele Bündchen.
Gisele Bundchen owes her career to McDonald's
Gisele Bündchen was born and raised in Horizontina, a small town in southern Brazil. According to a 2004 profile in Vanity Fair, she was 13 when she attended a modeling course put together by one of the locals — not because she had ambitions of becoming a model, but because of a promised trip to São Paulo (a city to which she’d never before visited) at the course’s end.
While enjoying her first-ever meal at a McDonald’s, a modeling agent approached and asked if she had any interest in modeling. “I had never seen fashion magazines,” she admitted, “and I told my mom I didn’t want to be a model, and my mom wasn’t sure, either.”
Her reluctant mother eventually allowed her to compete in a modeling contest, which resulted in an offer to move to São Paulo and model professionally. “My mom was really cool about the whole thing,” she said, although her father “hated” the idea, equating models with “prostitutes and sl**s.” It wasn’t until she was able to show him a photo of herself in a magazine that “he realized I was not that kind of model.”
She once suffered crippling panic attacks
For anyone looking from the outside in during the early 2000s, Gisele Bündchen appeared to be living the charmed life of a stunningly gorgeous supermodel being paid tons of money to gallivant around the world while wearing expensive designer clothing. The reality, however, was far less glamorous. As she revealed in an interview with Porter, she’d been experiencing panic attacks that were increasing in their severity.
“When I was going through my panic attacks, I didn’t even feel like I could share with anyone,” she said. “I thought maybe I don’t have the right, everybody is going through so many difficult things in the world, and I don’t have the right to feel this way. So I’d suppress it, and the more I suppressed it, the bigger it became.”
Her panic attacks, Bündchen told People, were becoming something she could no longer ignore and push to the side. “I was like, ‘Okay, I really have to find help,” she said. “It made me realize that you cannot be too proud or too feeling like people are gonna judge you or whatever… You gotta ask for help.”
The reason she split up with Leonardo DiCaprio
Prior to getting together with husband Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen was in a high-profile, five-year relationship with movie star Leonardo DiCaprio that ended in 2005. In the years that passed, she didn’t say much about her ex or why they broke up — until 2019, with the publication of her memoir Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life.
According to an excerpt in USA Today, Bündchen wrote that she was pushing herself to the brink, living on a diet of wine and cigarettes while battling encroaching depression. She realized she needed to live a healthier lifestyle, so she cut back on work, quit smoking and drinking, and instead embraced yoga and meditation. While Bündchen welcomed her new wellness regime, DiCaprio’s head was apparently not in the same zone. Eventually, she couldn’t ignore that they weren’t simpatico.
“No longer numbing myself with smoking, drinking and too much work, I was becoming more and more aware of things that I’d chosen not to look at,” she wrote. “Was I alone in wanting to do some serious soul-searching while he stayed the same? In the end, unfortunately, the answer was yes.”
She's a serious devotee of meditation
After turning her lifestyle around, Gisele Bündchen took up transcendental meditation. According to a profile in Vogue, Bündchen has meditated almost every day of her life since then, beginning when she was in her early 20s. “Meditation has been a great tool for me in my life. It helps to quiet my mind and helps me see things more clearly. It brings a sense of peace to my day,” she told People.
“I feel a big difference in my mood when I practice regularly. Meditation brings so much clarity for me. I love it!” she added, describing the practice as “a trip you take inward.”
Meditation, Bündchen explained in a different interview with People, gave her the kind of clarity and perspective she’d been lacking before then. “It made me realize that I got into this hamster wheel. My life was playing in front of me like a movie,” she explained. “I couldn’t go back to that same life. I didn’t want to. My life changed completely that was like one Gisele before age 23 and one after.”
She had no interest in Tom Brady when they first met
In 2009, Gisele Bündchen said “I do” to gridiron legend Tom Brady. When the two first laid eyes on each other, Bündchen told Vanity Fair, she was instantly attracted. “I knew right way — the first time I saw him,” she confessed.
However, there was one pretty significant obstacle standing in the way: Brady was dating actress Bridget Moynahan at the time, and Bündchen had no intention of splitting up their relationship. As she told the Boston Herald, she may have been intrigued by Brady, “but if he has a girlfriend, he’s gay to me. There are too many men in the world to go after a man who has a woman. Life is too short.”
When Brady and Moynahan ultimately split, a path was cleared for Bündchen and Brady to get together. Just as their relationship was blossoming, however, Moynahan popped back into the picture with some unexpected news: she was pregnant, and Brady was the poppa. “It was definitely a surprise for both of us,” Bündchen told Vanity Fair, admitting “it was a very challenging situation. Obviously, in the beginning, it’s not the ideal thing.”
Gisele Bundchen prefers a different term instead of stepmom
Finding out your boyfriend of a couple of months was about to become a daddy after impregnating his ex shortly before their breakup would be enough to send most women packing. Gisele Bündchen, however, made the difficult decision to stick it out. Over the years, she’s come to see the situation as “a blessing,” telling Vanity Fair it ultimately made their relationship “so much stronger, and I think I wouldn’t be as certain as I am today if it weren’t for that.”
The result of that unplanned pregnancy is Brady’s son, Jack, whom he shares with ex-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan. As Moynahan told People, they’ve been able to co-parent successfully, and she credits her husband, Andrew Frankel, and Bündchen for having “not only supported us in raising that child, but also loved our child as if he was their own.”
However, don’t call Bündchen a stepmom. “I don’t like the word ‘stepmom.’ I like the word ‘bonus mom’ because I feel like it’s a blessing in my life,” she explained during an Instagram Live Q&A (via People). “I feel so lucky that I got to have an extra wonderful little angel in my life.”
The inspiring reason she created her own skincare line
In a 2010 interview with Vogue, Gisele Bündchen explained the origin of her skin-care line, Sejaa, made with eco-friendly ingredients. Bundchen’s goals for Sejaa — which means “to be” in Portuguese — go far beyond great-looking skin.
As she explained, she’d spent some time working with girls from troubled backgrounds, who were overcoming abuse. In trying to help them, she “ended up realizing that you cannot save anybody. I forced it, and it didn’t quite go through.” Instead, she wanted to develop something that would “teach girls to love themselves and take care of their bodies. What is the first thing you see every morning? Your face! What do you put every day on your face? Cream! I have made the simplest, purest cream — an everyday cream — but it comes with an affirmation.”
In addition to cream, the Sejaa line also includes a mud mask — using actual mud. “When I was a teenager, I had pimples — oh, God, every time someone looked at my face I thought they were looking at my pimples,” she explained. “I put mud on my face to dry them out, and it worked.”
Gisele Bundchen considered 'running away' from the fashion show that made her a star
Back in 1998, Gisele Bündchen stepped on the runway of fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer show as a little-known, 18-year-old model, and stepped off as a star. However, as she wrote in her memoir Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, she almost refused to go on stage for that life-changing show. According to an excerpt from the book published in the Daily Mail, she was mortified when she realized the outfit she’d be wearing on the runway had no top.
Bündchen, then “barely 18” and only able to speak “limited” English, admitted she “began to cry” at the thought of how “disappointed and embarrassed” her parents would be if they saw photos of their bare-breasted daughter. She was seriously considering “running away” rather than go topless.
Thankfully, a makeup artist backstage, named Val, devised a genius solution, telling Bündchen “she would paint a top on me using white makeup.” According to Bündchen, “Val told me how beautiful it looked and said that the runway was so dark nobody would know. If Val hadn’t shown up then, I seriously doubt I could have walked the runway.”
The reason she and husband Tom Brady rarely eat tomatoes
Gisele Bündchen and husband Tom Brady have made plenty of headlines thanks to their well-publicized — and wildly restrictive — diet. As the supermodel wrote in her book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, she and her family stick to “a whole-food, plant-based diet that ideally emphasizes organic and local ingredients,” consisting primarily of fruits, whole grains, steamed veggies, and other healthy fare.
One of the many foods that she and her hubby rarely eat is a surprising one: tomatoes. In an interview with B, the couple’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, said he avoids serving the family any foods that are inflammatory in order to keep Brady in the kind of peak physical condition that’s led him to win multiple Super Bowls. “So no tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants.”
When it comes to tomatoes, however, Campbell admitted there’s a little bit of wiggle room. “Tomatoes trickle in every now and then, but just maybe once a month,” he explained. “I’m very cautious about tomatoes. They cause inflammation.”
She's not afraid to speak her mind to keep her marriage on track
In April 2020, Tom Brady gave an extensive interview to Howard Stern on his SiriusXM radio show and offered a big revelation about wife Gisele Bündchen. As B reported, Brady told Stern that Bündchen once left him a letter to express her dissatisfaction with their marriage at that point.
“At different times, like any married couple, things need to be changed,” Brady explained. “A couple years ago, she didn’t feel like I was doing my part for the family. She felt like I would play football all season and she would take care of the house and all of a sudden when the season would end, I would be like, ‘Great, let me get into all my other business activities. Let me get into my football training,’ and she’s sitting there going, ‘Well, when are you going to do things for the house? When are you going to take the kids to school?’ And that was a big part of our marriage.”
Brady ultimately realized what he was doing was wrong. “She wasn’t satisfied with our marriage,” he added. “So I needed to make a change in that.”
She shared the secrets of perfecting her famous 'horse walk'
In the modeling world, Gisele Bündchen came to be known as the originator of the “horse walk,” a high-stepping runway gait that Glamour described as “that sexy supermodel crossed-leg stomp.”
Any aspiring models looking to perfect their own distinctive runway walks can avail themselves of the pro tips that Bündchen supplied to ABC News. Among these is her recommendation to scrape the bottom of new shoes to prevent slipping and taking an onstage tumble, which can be both dangerous and embarrassing. She suggested grabbing a pair of scissors and scratching “a crisscross pattern any part of the sole that makes contact with the ground.”
She also shared her advice on how to improve posture — by simply pushing one’s shoulders back. ABC News cited her motto: “Hold your shoulders back and your heart will lead the way.” In addition, when walking the runway, Bündchen recommended putting all one’s weight onto the balls of the feet. This, ABC News pointed out, “allows you to strike the right balance between your head and your toes,” which also makes one appear more slim.
Gisele Bundchen claimed to have experienced a painless childbirth
Ask most women about the experience of giving birth and expect to hear descriptions of excruciating pain, lasting for hours upon tortuous hours. Gisele Bündchen, however, apparently had a very different experience when welcoming her offspring.
In an interview with Brazilian TV show Fantástico, Bündchen described the birth of her first child — son Benjamin — as being “very tranquil.” The birth, she revealed, took place in a bathtub, assisted by husband Tom Brady, her mother, and a midwife. As the Daily Mail reported, she told the show that the eight-hour birth was also completely devoid of pain.
“It didn’t hurt in the slightest,” she said. “The whole time my mind was focused in each contraction on the thought, ‘My baby is closer to coming out.'” Thanks to all the pregnancy preparation she had done prior to going into labor — including meditation and yoga — she also insisted on avoiding any painkilling medication in order to remain “very aware and present” throughout the experience. “It wasn’t like, ‘This is so painful.’ So I transformed that intense feeling into a hope of seeing him,” she added.
She played a sexy role at the Olympics
Given that Gisele Bündchen is arguably Brazil’s best-known export, it’s understandable that the nation of her birth would approach her about playing some role when the summer Olympic Games were held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
According to The Washington Post, Bündchen was tapped to participate in the opening ceremony, boasting a “futuristic gateway” theme. As the Daily Mail revealed, the plan was for Bündchen to become “the embodiment of the famous [song] ‘Girl From Ipanema.'” When the big night finally arrived, millions watched the televised broadcast as she strutted through Rio’s Maracanã Stadium, the entire crowd of 80,000 singing along as Brazilian musician Daniel Jobim performed the song composed by his late grandfather, Antonio Jobim.
After the ceremony, Bündchen told Access Hollywood she was still feeling overwhelmed by the experience. “I don’t even know how to describe what I felt,” she explained. “The whole thing, the whole energy surrounding this, just walking and hearing everyone singing … I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I can’t cry,’ and I just kept trying to breathe as much as I could … I just wanted to make the Brazilians proud.”
Gisele Bundchen's jaw-dropping net worth
Gisele Bündchen has done pretty well for herself since being discovered by a modeling agent at a São Paulo McDonald’s at age 13. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the Brazilian supermodel is worth an estimated $400 million. That, the site pointed out, is completely “separate and independent” from the fortune of husband Tom Brady, who’s only worth a measly $200 million.
So how did she wind up amassing so much wealth? As Forbes reported in 2016, Bündchen was that year’s highest-paid model in the world, a title she’d held each year since 2002. According to W, she ultimately relinquished the title in 2017, when she was overtaken by Kendall Jenner.
As Reuters reported, 2014 was a particularly good year for Bündchen. During that year alone, she raked in $47 million from “lucrative contracts and other business ventures.” Reuters also pointed out that she earned $16 million more than her husband during that year — all without having to win a single Super Bowl.
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