She’s part Grace Kelly, part Monroe, with a twist of Garbo. Shake well and you get a 25-year-old Swedish supermodel who insists, “I just want to be Vendela.” Only 13 when spotted by modeling empressario Eileen Ford in a Stockholm restaurant, Vendela Kirsebom had grown up “really skinny and not very popular with the guys. “But on signing with Ford in 1986, she found her “camera-proof face” likened to—you guessed it—Kelly’s. Elizabeth Arden agreed, closing a multimillion-dollar deal for her to be its symbol of the ’90s.
This year her cheeky debut in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S swimsuit issue revealed, underneath an open-mesh number, a 5’8″ body as rounded as—you guessed it—Monroe’s; syndicated talk show host Dennis Miller was moved to tell her, “You’ve done more for fishnet than anyone since Hemingway.” Vendela, who speaks five languages, also has other talents: She recently guest-starred on the NBC sitcom Blossom. “With acting,” she says, “you peel off the outside, and you’re just another human being.” Her idols are Ingrid Bergman and—you guessed it—Garbo. “I just love being in front of the camera,” explains Vendela, who lives the single life in Manhattan. “Whenever there’s a camera around, that’s when I’m happy.”