Gisele Bündchen

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5 mins read

Gisele Caroline Bündchen was born 20 July 1980 and is a Brazilian model, activist, and businesswoman.

She is a sixth-generation German Brazilian. Born to Vânia (née Nonnenmacher), a bank clerk pensioner, and Valdir Bündchen, a sociologist and writer, in Horizontina, Rio Grande do Sul, Southern Brazil, she grew up with five sisters, Raquel, Graziela, Gabriela, Rafaela and her fraternal twin, Patrícia. Bündchen learned German in school, but said she forgot the language after being out of touch with it. In addition to Portuguese and English, Bündchen speaks Spanish and some French. 

Bündchen aspired to be a volleyball player but joined a modeling course with her sisters Patrícia and Gabriela at their mother’s insistence in 1993, in hopes to correct her bad posture. The following year, she was discovered by Elite Model Management at a shopping mall in São Paulo. Bündchen was selected for a national contest, Elite Model Look (then known as Look of the Year), in which she placed second. In early 1995, at age 14, Bündchen moved to São Paulo to launch her modeling career. She had her first break in 1996, at New York Fashion Week. 

Bündchen traveled to London in 1997, where she auditioned for 43 shows, but took part in only two international shows. Alexander McQueen chose her for his Spring 1998 ready-to-wear show, “Rain!”, because of her ability to walk in towering heels on a slippery runway. In 1998, Bündchen posed for Missoni, Chloé, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Gianfranco Ferré, Ralph Lauren, and Versace campaigns. She appeared on the cover of Vogue Paris, her first cover of British Vogue, and i-D, which featured her on its cover, profiling “A Girl Called Gisele”. In 1999, Bündchen left Elite Model Management to switch to IMG Models, dissatisfied with Elite’s work environment.

In addition to her first American Vogue cover in July 1999, dubbed “the return of the sexy model”, she appeared on her first group Vogue cover with fellow supermodels Kate Moss, Amber Valletta, Christy Turlington, Iman, Lauren Hutton, Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, Claudia Schiffer, Lisa Taylor, Paulina Porizkova, Carolyn Murphy, and Patti Hansen. In December of that year, she once again appeared on a solo American Vogue cover.

Noting Bündchen was shooting five major campaigns at the age of 18, New York magazine editor Sally Singer said Bündchen was so successful in the industry that she deemed her an “über- (not super-) model”. She became the fourth model to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine when she was named “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” in 2000.

Vogue has credited Bündchen with ending the heroin chic era of modeling in 1999; instead ushering in a sexy, healthy look with curves and a golden tan. Bündchen was a Victoria’s Secret Angel from 2000 until mid-2007 and had signed Victoria’s Secret’s biggest contract to date. She is credited with pioneering and popularizing the “horse walk”, a stomping movement created by a model lifting her knees high and kicking her feet to step. In 2007, Claudia Schiffer called Bündchen the only remaining supermodel. Bündchen has appeared on more than 1,200 magazine covers. 

In acting roles, Bündchen co-starred with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon in the 2004 remake of Taxi and in 2006, Bündchen played Serena in The Devil Wears Prada. Bündchen was chosen by

In May 2007, Bündchen had ended her contract with Victoria’s Secret; she described this decision as closing that chapter of her career. She would later reveal in her 2018 memoir that she also left on account of feeling “less at ease” being photographed walking the runway in just a bikini or thong.  

In 2011 Bündchen launched eco-friendly Sejaa Pure Skincare, a skin care product line using all-natural ingredients. 

Since the 2000s, Bündchen’s main focus has been social and environmental causes. She has also supported the Breast Cancer Campaign to educate women on how to perform a breast self-exam. 

Bündchen donated $150,000 to Brazil’s Zero Hunger program. She designed a limited necklace edition for Harper’s Bazaar, crafted by jewelers Gumuchian Fils, which were sold to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

An iPod autographed by Bündchen and loaded with her personal playlist was auctioned, and proceeds were donated to Music Rising, a campaign founded in 2005, to replace lost or destroyed instruments of musicians in the Gulf Coast Region after hurricane disasters. 

Bündchen became the face of American Express’s Product Red-affiliated card in 2006. A portion of earnings from the credit card are donated to HIV/AIDS victims in Africa. In the same year she took part in the I am African fundraising campaign to make AIDS treatment accessible to all of Africa. In 2009, she appeared on 30 covers of the international issues of Elle wearing Product Red clothing and posing with products from companies that support its mission.

Bündchen started The Luz Foundation in 2007, a project to empower girls and help them deal with self-esteem issues. 

In 2008, Bündchen auctioned a collection of diamonds to benefit the Diamond Empowerment Fund, a nonprofit organization to education initiatives in countries where diamonds are a natural resource. The collection featured the Ponahalo Diamonds which were valued at $2 million to $4 million, a 6-carat diamond ring worth $120,000–$150,000 and a 3.35-carat Sabbadini diamond ring worth $15,000–$20,000. In 2010, she donated $1.5 million to the Red Cross to aid the relief effort in Haiti after seeing the devastation done by the earthquake. The donation put Bündchen tied for 14th on The Giving Back Fund’s list of 30 celebrities who made the largest donations to charity in 2011.

In 2010, together with former president Bill Clinton, Bündchen joined the event that partnered Pantene and the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program to provide clean water to people in need. Bündchen and Indonesian singer-songwriter Anggun announced the kick-off of the Healthy Hair for Healthy Water program at P&G’s reception that was held in conjunction with the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. Bündchen also attended the Brazil Foundation’s 8th Annual Gala to raise funds for fighting challenges faced by poor communities in Brazil. Bündchen created an exclusive design for SIGG water bottles, with proceeds going to WaterCan NGO, a humanitarian organization in Canada that provides the poorest people in the world access to clean water, toilets, and information on hygiene.

In 2020, Bündchen formed the Luz Alliance fund in partnership with the Brazil Foundation with a donation of 1,000,000 reals. The fund supports the purchase of hygiene kits, food, and financial assistance to families in Brazil through eight different charitable organizations and emergency-response efforts to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bündchen, along with her husband Brady, partnered with Wheels Up to donate 10 million meals to Feeding America for their “Meals Up” initiative and helped fund thousands of meals for Feeding Tampa Bay and The Greater Boston Food Bank to alleviate food insecurity. Bündchen also partnered with the “All in Challenge” by donated an experience with her at a photo shoot in New York, with all proceeds going to Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, World Central Kitchen and No Kid Hungry.

Bündchen’s charitable endeavors include Save the Children, Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. She has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program since 2009.