She is the highest paid model in the world, and has been credited for bringing a salubrious look back to the fashion runways of the world. Now Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen is hanging up her heels at age 34.
She's been called a "goddess" by John Galliano and the "ultimate supermodel," as famous for her good nature as she is for her figure. Now, after dominating the catwalks for almost two decades, the Brazilian beauty is retiring from the runway, saying she had learned to listen to her body.
"Automatically my body tells me if what I do is worth it, and it asked to stop," Bündchen said in an interview with the "Folha de Sao Paulo" newspaper. "I respect my body, it's a privilege to be able to stop."
Born in Três de Maio in 1980 to parents of mixed German and Brazilian heritage, Bündchen was spotted by an Elite model talent scout in 1994 and soon after made her catwalk debut for global heavyweights Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani and Alexander McQueen in 1996.
Bündchen is credited for the aesthetical shift away from the waif-like models and heroin chic of the early 1990s, in what US "Vogue" in 1999 called "the return of the sexy model." Her rise was as startling as her natural beauty, and by 2000 - the year "Rolling Stone" magazine declared her the most beautiful woman in the world - she was one of the highest paid models in history. "Forbes" magazine has listed Bündchen as the world's top earning model for the past eight years running, earning $47 million in the last year alone.
Having worked with the likes of Chanel, Valentino, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, and Carolina Herrera, so potent is Bündchen's brand power that economist Fred Fuld founded the Gisele Bündchen Stock Index, charting her influence on the financial performance of the companies she works and associates with - from Volkswagen to Apple. When she appeared in clothing chain C&A adverts in Brazil sales reportedly increased by 30 percent.
Bündchen was romantically linked to actor Leonardo DiCaprio - who shares German ancestry - from 2000-05, later dating US surfer Kelly Slater and marrying New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in 2006. The couple has two children, Benjamin and Vivian.
The supermodel with former Spanish international Carles Puyol presenting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which Germany won
Outside of modeling, Bündchen has been a keen environmental campaigner and occasional actress, and in 2009 was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environment Program. She is also on the board of directors of the Rainforest Alliance.
Bündchen hasn't revealed what she plans for her post-catwalk career, but will likely remain a strong presence in the fashion world off the runway. Her runway career will end somewhat fittingly at the Sao Paulo Fashion Week, a major fixture throughout her career, which runs from April 13-17.
jft/kbm (AFP, dpa)