Supermodel Gisele Bündchen has been canonized in British newspaper the Independent as "the biggest star in fashion history." So, since Bündchen (at age 30) already has the making-history thing nailed, she's focused on adding the future to her résumé — specifically, the future of the environment. If you were to ask this 6-foot wonder what her favorite color is, without a doubt, she'd say green.
Partnering with AOL and A Squared Entertainment, Bündchen has gone digital. She's appearing in cartoon form in the new AolKids.com animated Web series "Gisele & the Green Team," which debuted Dec. 7 at http://www.giseleandthegreenteam.com. The 26 brief webisodes and interactive website create a groovy destination that's educational and entertaining.
The premise of the Web series is fun: Bündchen and a group of teenage girls lead double lives as supermodels and environmental heroes who use superpowers such as "Earth memory" and "foresight."
The "Girl Power" section of the website offers tips for building character and self-esteem. Bündchen believes that if you respect yourself, you'll respect the world around you too.
We had the opportunity to chat with this Amazonian beauty about modeling, "Gisele & the Green Team," her family and her zeal for the planet. ("Amazonian beauty" is appropriate — the Brazilian native's family foundation Agua Limpa was founded in 2008 to plant trees along the river's beds and work to safeguard the water from pollution.)
"Gisele & the Green Team" puts you in the position of supermodel and role model. How do you feel about this duality?
Being a supermodel, well, it's a funny term, because it's my job. "Gisele the supermodel" is now about being "Gisele the super-role-model." For me, it goes back to self-esteem. How can you care for and protect the planet if you don't do the same for yourself? It all starts with self-love and embracing who you are, which is No. 1 for everyone, not just kids. But in truth, you can talk to someone until you are blue in the face. People have to be open and be willing to take responsibility. I can advise them, but cannot do it for them.
You talk about self-esteem as a huge key to success. How do you remain so strong with your sense of self?
Truthfully, people are going to judge you no matter what. I feel like when people judge me they're not judging me, because they don't know who I am. I've had a million things that happened in my life that were hurtful. Since I was tall and skinny so young, everyone called me Olive Oyl. I was just 14 years old when I started modeling, and people were like, "Hey, you're never gonna make it because you have a big nose, small eyes …" I mean everything was a problem with me. So I remember calling my dad, and he'd say, "Don't worry about it. You have a big nose, that's fine, because that comes with a big personality — so that's what you say to them next time." The funny thing is I still have the same nose! And it made me successful because I worked harder. I had to learn about lighting and angles because I couldn't just stand in front of a camera or the picture wouldn't look good. So, at the end of the day, something that could have broken me helped me. No one looks like me because they don't have my nose and it made me stand out.
You've had so many spectacular moments during the 15 years you've been a model, it might be tough to pinpoint just one. Can you try to pick a story that still resonates with you today? Was it gracing your first cover? A particular shoot? Becoming a Victoria's Secret angel?
One of the favorite moments in my career was the first time I shot with Irving Penn in 1998. It was a beautiful artistic nude for American Vogue. It was my first nude shoot and I was petrified. That image became one of the most memorable and important pictures of my career.
So, who is the "Gisele" on the magazine covers and runways, and who is the "Gisele" off the catwalk?
The "Gisele" on the covers is working. Modeling is my job and luckily it's a job that has afforded me a lot of opportunities. When I walk down the runway my main goal is to not think about the people watching. The idea of all eyes on me would make me too uncomfortable. As I step on the runway, I take a deep breath, focus on a point in the distance, and go! I begin thinking about getting back to my boys once I'm nearing the exit. When not at work I'm a wife [to husband Tom Brady], mother [to son Benjamin, 1, and stepson Jack, 3], daughter, sister and friend. I'm a woman trying to balance family, work and friends like so many others out there.
Being goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environmental Programme must be an honor but also a major responsibility.