How Gisele Bunchen Became the Richest Supermodel in the World

When she was just starting out, nobody would have predicted that Gisele Bundchen would go on to become the highest paid and the richest supermodel in the world for eleven years in a row. How rich? According to Forbes, she could very well be on her way to becoming not only the first billionaire in her field, but also the first self-made female billionaire from Brazil. As of this writing, her estimated net worth is at a whooping $360 million and still rising. Her last year’s remuneration totaled to a reported $47 million, representing a daily paycheck of over $128,000. Her story, while not entirely from rugs to riches, is still a humble one. Here is how Gisele Bundchen became the richest supermodel in the world.

Background

In order to understand Bundchen’s story, we have to travel back two decades ago, to 1997. Raised by a bank cashier and a real estate agent in Brazil, Gisele Bundchen was born just a few minutes before her twin and grew up with a family six sisters. She lived in a mid-sized municipality in Brazil and, surprisingly, was never really into fashion growing up. That is, until she was urged by her mother to join a modeling school in the hope that she would improve her posture. It was then, during one of her outing with classmates, that she was discovered in a mall food court. Like a scene from a Disney movie, a guy came up to her and simply asked if she wanted to be a model. Looking back now, Bundchen recalls that they had planned to go to a popular Brazilian amusement park known as Playcenter that particular day, and so she naturally resisted the idea. The guy, insisting, promised that he would take her to the amusement park if she agreed to go to the modeling agency in Sao Paulo. As it turned out, they never actually got the time to go to the Playcenter.

After borrowing $50 from her father, Gisele Bundchen took off to Sao Paulo on a solo 28 hour bus ride, the biggest journey of her life. She was just fourteen years old then and determined to succeed, even willing to put up with any soul-destroying insults hauled at her face or uncomfortable settings she would be forced to work with. In 1997, Bundchen moved to London. After auditioning for a staggering 42 shows, she was finally chosen for Alexander McQueen’s ready-to-wear show in 1998, particularly due her ability to walk on a slippery runway in towering heels. She was so impressive that, in fact, McQueen dubbed her “the Body,” subsequently improving her bookings. That same year, she scored her very first British Vogue cover. Four years later, her stats included a record ten covers (even more than Kate Moss’s in the same period), making her the most in-demand cover girl from her generation. During that time, she had posed for Versace, Ralph Lauren, Gainfranco Ferre, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Chloe, and Missoni. By 2000, Gisele Bundchen was ranked as the hottest model in the world.

Making it Big and On-screen Debut

In 2000, Gisele Bundchen made a record breaking contract with Victoria’s Secret that helped solidify her position as the top model. She went on to become the fourth model to appear on the cover of the Rolling Stone, where she gained the status of “the most beautiful girl in the world”. During the spring fashion week of that year, she opened for Valentino, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, and Marc Jacobs shows in Paris, Milan, and New York. Between 1998 and 2003, Bundchen was in all 11 Dolce & Gabbana fashion campaigns, and returned from 2006 to 2009 as the face of the company’s fragrance. Also in 2000, she wore Victoria’s Secret’s most expensive Fantasy bra of all-time. Dubbed the “Red Hot Fantasy Bra,” the garment was valued at an estimated $15 million, making it into the Guinness World Records as history’s most expensive lingerie.

In 2003, the hot Brazilian was invited to host her country’s version of “America’s Next Top Model” but actually turned down the offer. Part of her plan was to create a business and extend her brand into Hollywood. As fate would have it, she was given a role in a remake of the popular film Taxi, where she co-starred along Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon. Back then, she was dating Leonardo DiCaprio, but he did not have any influence in her getting the role. In the end, she nailed the part so successfully that the director (Tim Story) was left mesmerized.

In 2006, she landed another role in “The Devil Wears Prada,” this time playing a minor character called Serena. In 2007, Bundchen graced the Milan runway again, opening and closing the Dolce and Gabbana show. She was also recognized by Time Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. When Vanity Fair chose her for their style issue cover in 2007, it became one of the bestsellers that year.

More Success

In 2008, Bundchen was listed as the fourth most powerful individual in the fashion world by the New York Daily News. The following year, she was branded the biggest star of all time in the history of fashion by The Independent. She also made it into the top twenty six greatest models of all time, by Harper’s Bazaar. Models.com rank her first in the Money Girls list while The Sexiest Models rank her second.

In 2003, the hot Brazilian was invited to host her country’s version of “America’s Next Top Model” but actually turned down the offer. Part of her plan was to create a business and extend her brand into Hollywood. As fate would have it, she was given a role in a remake of the popular film Taxi, where she co-starred along Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon. Back then, she was dating Leonardo DiCaprio, but he did not have any influence in her getting the role. In the end, she nailed the part so successfully that the director (Tim Story) was left mesmerized.

In 2006, she landed another role in “The Devil Wears Prada,” this time playing a minor character called Serena. In 2007, Bundchen graced the Milan runway again, opening and closing the Dolce and Gabbana show. She was also recognized by Time Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. When Vanity Fair chose her for their style issue cover in 2007, it became one of the bestsellers that year.

In August 2011, Gisele Bundchen became the third youngest power woman at age 31, while Forbes recognized her and Brady as the highest paid celebrity couple. This essentially meant that she had surpassed Beyonce and Jay-Z, as well as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Once again in 2012, she became the only model to appear on the world’s most powerful women list by Forbes at number 83, as well as the top ten highest paid women in the entertainment industry. Of course, she was already the highest earning model by 2004, the only difference over the years being an increase in her earnings on an yearly basis. In 2013, she was recognized by Forbes as the third most successful female entrepreneur.

Bundchen began dating Tom Brady (a quarterback in the New England Patriots) in 2006, after a mutual friend set them up on a blind date. They went on to marry in 2009 in a private ceremony in California, followed by a second one in Costa Rica the same year. They currently have two children, one (a son) who was born in 2009, and another (a daughter) who was born in 2012. Their Los Angeles home uses waste recycling and reduction programs, a rainwater recovery system, lighting systems that minimize energy consumption, a gray water system, and solar energy.

Photo via Instagram

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