WRITER: Maya Khoury PHOTOGRAPHERS: Mark Seelen, Brett Doonan, Paulo Vainer
Estimated to be worth over 400 million USD, Gisele Bündchen is by far the most successful model to have ever lived. Widely credited with having put an end to the grunge-waif era in the 1990s, the once introverted Brazilian country girl has now brought the curtain down on a glittering 20-year career in the fashion spotlight and, as a final adieu, she created this 536-page tome with Taschen.
She may have helped make curves fashionable again but intriguingly, Gisele Bündchen says she didn’t get where she is today because of her appearance. While growing up, she says she saw herself as the most awkward girl in the world. In a CBS interview with Charlie Rose she was asked, “Are you the best because of the look that you had?”
“Not at all,” she replied, “I don’t think so. I think it’s because of my personality. I never complained, you know? If they said, ‘Gisele, go there, it’s below zero, in a bathing suit, and start jumping!’ I’m like, ‘That’s what I do.’”
It’s a telling insight for though she began modelling at 14, her breakthrough moment came four years later in 1998, when she was picked by Alexander McQueen (to walk in his spring/summer show, Rain) for her poise and ability to walk in treacherously high heels, even on a highly slippery runway. Since then, ‘The Body’ has appeared in more than 450 fashion shows, on the cover of over 1,000 magazines around the world and in multinational campaigns for the biggest fashion and beauty brands.
Last year alone Forbes estimated that she brought in more than 40 million USD, which is five times more than the second-highest earning models, Cara Delevingne and Adriana Lima. So why stop now? Apart from the obvious reasons of being married (to one of the world’s most famous athletes, Tom Brady) and the mother of two kids, Bündchen explained that she’s no longer physically up for it. “Automatically my body tells me if what I do is worth it, and it asked to stop. I respect my body, it’s a privilege to be able to stop.”
Only 1,000 copies will be made of the book and each has been autographed.
As the ultimate commemoration to those twenty years in the industry, she decided to co-curate a book with Taschen that showcases her most memorable images taken by some of the world’s most famous photographers, like Juergen Teller, Corinne Day, Inez & Vinoodh, Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, and David LaChapelle, accompanied by tributes from fashion luminaries as well as her closest friends and family. “When looking at all these pictures,” she said in the foreword to her book, “I remember every feeling I had back then: from my first modelling test picture with Tarcisco de Lima – little did I know how much more was ahead – to building up the courage to shoot a nude with Mr. Penn; shooting a commercial on top of an iceberg in Iceland wearing a slip dress; sizzling in a ring of fire with Gui Paganini; lying on the floor of an abandoned hospital wearing only a wig with Mert & Marcus; the sexy after-hours shoot with Mario Testino; being immersed in a box full of foam bubbles for days with Nick Knight; jumping all day in impossibly high heels with David Sims; holding a baby crocodile with Juergen Teller; having Patrick Demarchelier photograph me while I was expecting my first child; being wrapped in packing tape by David LaChapelle; or eating dust during a wrestling story with Steven Meisel. In the end, amidst all the dancing, freezing, jumping sizzling, singing, crying, laughing, it was always an incredible experience.”
The book, named simply ‘Gisele’, is now available in an exclusive run of just 1,000 signed copies. The first 100, known as the Art Editions, retail for 2,000 USD and are the most special, as they come with a W magazine print of Bündchen from 2005, signed by Juergen Teller. The other 900 copies, the Collector’s Editions, are available for a more reasonable price of 1,000 USD.
Should you buy one? Well, if you’re not already sold on the most beautiful images of the world’s most beautiful woman then perhaps we should mention that purchasing one of these books is probably a fine investment. “People are looking for a safe place to put their money,” says Benedikt Taschen, “and the success of our limited editions have shown time and again that prices are often doubled, tripled or, in the case of Sumo [by Helmut Newton], multiplied by 10.” There you have it then, it’s a no-brainer.