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Gisele Bündchen : story of an iconic and eco-conscious model


An international beauty icon, Brazilian top model Gisele Bündchen, whose nickname is “the body,” does not lack for internal loveliness either. Since accepting the role in 2009, she has proved herself a worthy U.N. goodwill ambassador, working to advance a cause she holds dear: the protection of the environment. With 15 million Instagram followers, this adept of authenticity and wellbeing uses her health-conscious image to promote her values the world over. On the eve of her 40th birthday, Bündchen has just become the new face of Capture Totale, lending her natural beauty to Dior’s high-performance skincare line.

Arresting, fascinating, sculptural, she’s more than just the undisputed queen of the catwalk. Since she first came to public attention in the early 2000s, Gisele Bündchen has become a fashion-world muse, rising to the top thanks to her ravishing physical attributes: insolent vital statistics, a never-ending ash-blonde mane, sculptural cheek bones and deliciously sensual, athletic curves. But this Amazonian Jaguar, whose beauty has earned her never-ending praise from fashion professionals, also possesses a strong temperament that has allowed her to maintain a healthy and dynamic lifestyle that is in complete harmony with the natural world around us. “I grew up very close to nature, and it’s ex-tremely important to me, as well as to those I’m close to,” explains the 39-year-old. “I also believe that nature is fundamental to all of us, because it offers us everything we need to survive, allowing us to find balance and internal peace. The natural world is our most precious gift, we must take care of it.” And these are not just pretty words, since, as of 2009, she has been putting her convictions into action through her role as a U.N. goodwill ambassador, tirelessly working for the protection of the planet under the aegis of the U.N. Environment Programme. 



“The natural world is our most precious gift, we must take care of it.”



Bündchen’s sincerity, idealism and activism chime with the values of Dior, whose Capture Totale skincare line she is now representing. “I’m in favour of a sustainable industry, both with respect to cosmetics and fashion. I admire those brands that make an effort to evaluate the impact they have on the environ- ment. In Dior’s case, they try to limit the waste from packaging, use nat- ural products and respect our skin as an organ that must be cared for with non-toxic ingredients that pose no danger to the environment.” In the Dior campaign images, this icon of wellbeing incarnates a happy, balanced woman, with her shoulders half uncovered, her intense blue gaze and her confident smile. She has always held Dior in high regard since her beginnings, she explains. “Our relationship has always been marked by mutual sympathy and re- spect. I’m both touched and grateful to be given the chance to write a new chapter in our story thanks to this collaboration. Dior is an influential brand, and I appreciate its ambition to make sure that women the world over feel beautiful and respected for their worth. Just like Dior, I celebrate authenticity and integration. We are convinced that beauty comes from inside, that you need to know and appreciate yourself.”



“We are convinced that beauty comes from inside, that you need to know and appreciate yourself.”



Absolutely nothing predestined Bündchen for such a prestigious career. Born in the small town of Horizontina in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, she grew up with her parents and five sisters: Graziela, Raquel, Gabriela, Rafaela and Gisele’s twin Patrícia. Her father, Valdir Bündchen, was a university professor, while her mother, Vânia Nonnenmacher, who worked in a bank, is the woman she feels has had the most influence in her life. “She taught me to be independent and to take my fate into my own hands,” explains the model. As a teenager in the 90s, Gisele, who dreamed of becoming a vet or a professional volleyball player, was teased mercilessly at school for her gangly figure – her classmates even nicknamed her “Olive”, after Popeye’s gawky girlfriend.

Gisele Bündchen est mise en beauté par DIOR avec Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy Sérum et Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy Crème fermeté et correction rides. Photo : Nino Muñoz pour Christian Dior Parfums.

It was a school trip to São Paulo that changed her life: at the age of 13 she was spotted by a talent scout and asked to compete in the 1994 international Elite Model Look, making it to the final 15. So began what initially was rather an up-and-down career, since her stunning physique did not always convince everyone: after moving to New York in 1996 to launch her career, the hoped-for contracts failed to materialize. A jaw that was too square, eyes that were too small, a nose that was too big and an overly healthy look failed to match up with the grunge aesthetic prevalent at the time. It was the British fashion enfant terrible Alexander McQueen who set the Bündchen tornado on its course by hiring her for one of his most extravagant runway shows, the 1998 unveiling of his spring/summer collection in Paris, which took place in the rain. The young woman he baptized “the body” handled the challenge with aplomb: the audience had eyes only for her, and Bündchen’s career moved on to a whole other level.



“Nothing is more important to me than my family.”



Courted by the greatest designers and magazines the world over, she did photo shoot after photo shoot, as well as TV adverts, campaigns for luxury labels and all the most prestigious runway shows (Dior, Chanel, Versace, etc.). “The body” became the most successful model of her generation. In 2000, Rolling Stone magazine named her the “most beautiful woman in the world” at the beginning of what was a decade full of opportunities. Bünchen, who defines herself as “hardworking and optimistic,” spent seven years as one of the dream team of Victoria’s Secret Angels, her feline grace turning everything she wore into gold. Her aura became ever more radiant, and her career more cinematic as she starred in publicity campaigns that were tailor made for her persona: a fiery femme fatale for Dolce & Gabbana’s The One fragrance (2006) in a frenetic film that showed fast-cut backstage scenes in black and white; free and elusive in wild nature far from the asphyxiating city for Lanvin’s per- fume Oxygène (2007); not to mention a wild lioness in the video for Cacharel’s fragrance Liberté (2007). She was everywhere, including in the 2006 Pirelli calendar, shot by fashion photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott in a series that has now become cult. That same year she tried out a comedy role as Serena in The Devil Wears Prada, and was praised for her performance in a blockbuster that dissected the ruthless conduct of the fashion world. Never far from the big events in her country of birth, she was pres- ent at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, creating a sensation at the mythic Maracaña stadium in a long, golden, tailor-made dress by Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch: 75,000 people at the stadium and over three billion watching televisions around the globe ad- mired the voluptuous curves of her muscled legs glimpsed through the daring slit in the dress’s skirt.

Gisele Bündchen est mise en beauté par DIOR avec Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy Sérum et Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy Crème fermeté et correction rides et est habillée en DIOR. Photo : Nino Muñoz pour Christian Dior Parfums.

But neither the limelight nor success have distanced Bündchen from what have always been her priorities: her family and her ideals. “Nothing is more important to me than my family,” she declares. “I’ve always based my life in quality relationships, in particular with those I’m close to.” So it was that, in 2015, she decided to retire from the catwalk in order to direct her energy towards causes that were important to her, among them the protection of na- ture. It is on her Instagram account, which has 15 million followers, that the goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Environment Programme – a role she has embodied for over a decade now – posts her ecological mantras, her messages of hope and wellbeing, as well as moments of plenitude with her husband, American footballer Tom Brady, and their two children. The activist, who believes the body is a “temple,” loses no opportunity to share her daily life: yogi poses, barefoot meditation in paradisiac landscapes, and encoun- ters with animals of all kinds. “To adopt a sustainable lifestyle and favour ecological practices, it’s important to start with small gestures,” she explains. “Reducing the waste you produce, recycling it and being mindful about it is an excellent start. For example, when we go shopping we bring our own bags, reducing the use of paper and plastic. We have a chicken coop, a beehive and a kitchen garden so that our children can discover the gifts that nature offers us when we consume locally. Our diet principally comprises vegetables, which are sourced from local producers, and we use our own compost every day. The point is to understand that nature and humanity are inextricably linked, and that we must respect that link by consciously working to protect what the Earth gives us.”



“Beauty comes from inside. It’s an energy that radiates from all of us.”



This serene lifestyle is set forth in her first book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, which she published in 2018 and whose profits she has donated to a project in Água Limpa, Brazil, which aims to ensure that water sources there will remain uncontaminated for future generations. A personal-development guide, it includes both anecdotes and the principles that helped her through the good and bad times. “For me, it’s important to show young women that they really are more beautiful when they’re them- selves. Beauty comes from inside. It’s an energy that radiates from all of us. Each of us is unique and blessed with a particular gift. If you try to concentrate on the positive, a new world will open up for you.” These are messages she also ad- dresses to her own daughter. “I’d like my daughter to learn to love herself and to feel good in her own body. The best teaching I can give her is to remain as simple as possible: the less you do, the better.”