Gisele Bundchen, the Brazilian bombshell who is one of the last to earn the supermodel title, has the luxury of picking and choosing her assignments now.
That privilege didn't come quite overnight, even if she's only 28 years old: She has been in the United States for 11 of those years and in front of the camera the whole time.
Bundchen has walked the world's fashion runways and has been the face of Victoria's Secret as well as Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana and Apple. Her newest job is the spokesmodel of Procter & Gamble's Max Factor cosmetics brand, which is approaching its 100th birthday and planning a big ad campaign to celebrate.
“I thought it was really cool to be a part of something so old,” Bundchen says. “I can't believe something can exist for that long. For a business to stay alive for that long, it must be really good.”
She adds: “Imagine what I'd look at 100 years old?!”
At a time when cosmetics companies typically turn to movie and music stars to get their products noticed, Max Factor felt Bundchen had sufficient star power. The brand has a legitimate connection to Hollywood; its namesake makeup artist began working on films in 1909 and is credited with designing Clara Bow's cupid-bow mouth and making Jean Harlow a platinum blond.
But Bruce Katsman, associate marketing director, called choosing Bundchen “a no-brainer.”
“She's the image of our high fashion consumer,” he says. “It's not so much about her look, per se. She's rocked the runway so she's perceived as a great canvas. We think she does the same thing for makeup.”
Bundchen acknowledges her chameleonlike quality and she thinks it's been part of her success. “There's been the androgynous look and the classical pretty girls. I'm not one and I'm not the other, but I can look androgynous or I can look pretty — but I'll never look too much one way or the other,” she says in a telephone interview.
When Bundchen emerged on the American modeling scene in 1997, it was the twilight of the supermodel era. She says she got in at the right time.
“I think I had the timing and the hard work. ... People had been tired of the supermodels — the things you hear about the models not coming to work. I came along right from Brazil. I was having a good time, excited to have a job — it was refreshing. It's what people thought they needed at the time. I'm respectful of people and people's time.”
Luck, she adds, also played its part. “Sometimes I ask, 'Why me?' I'm from a village of 10,000 people in the south of Brazil. I'm very grateful for my opportunities.”
It's harder for models, even hardworking ones, to break out nowadays and make a name for themselves, Bundchen says. There's competition from celebrities and reality stars, and the en vogue look just keeps changing. Plus the older supers — Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and the rest of that gang — all are still beautiful women and getting their fair share of work.
On her own days off, which are numerous by her own choosing, Bundchen says she doesn't pay much attention to fashion. She hasn't walked a runway in a long time, and won't be glued to the coverage of the shows at New York Fashion Week, which kicks off Friday.
“I've never been one of those girls who was a fashion girl. I didn't have to have the bag or belt of the season,” she says. “I like fashion, I like clothes, I enjoy when I look nice, but my main concern is how comfortable I'm going to be all day.”