March 27, 1989 12:00 PM

Vendela Kirsebom’s face is like many others in her native Sweden—soft, fair and astonishingly beautiful. But the 22-year-old model is blessed with something extra—she bears a haunting resemblance to Princess Grace in her flawless prime. In the modeling world that kind of look can kill, and Vendela’s making a killing. Late last year she signed a multimillion-dollar contract with Elizabeth Arden to become the cosmetics firm’s symbol of the ’90s. “Not since the enigmatic beauty of Grace Kelly illuminated the screen has there been such a camera-proof face,” says Eileen Ford of her modeling agency’s hottest star.

For Ford the decision last summer to add Kirsebom to her glamorous roster was hardly agonizing. “I would have been a mule not to pick her,” she says. Since then Vendela, as she is now known, has done magazine covers for New York, Self, Glamour and French Vogue and claims up to $10,000 a day for her work.

Her new earning power is amazing to Vendela, the second youngest of four children born to Ienge (pronounced ING-a), a graphic designer, and Lenart Kirsebom, a printing company executive, who are also part-time potato farmers outside Stockholm. “If I went home and told people how much I made,” says Vendela, “they would die.”

She hadn’t even wanted to model when Ford, who thought she looked four years older, first approached her when she was 12. Her parents preferred that she finish gymnasium, the Swedish equivalent of high school At 18, soon after her first modeling test in Stockholm, she landed assignments in Paris and Germany. She worked in Milan for two years before coming to New York in 1987.

She has settled into a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and dutifully checks in with her parents every Saturday morning. “I tell them what happened during the week, and they tell me how the potato plants are doing,” says the 5’8″ Swede, who also speaks Italian, German and English fluently. She dates a 30-year-old New York businessman As for the inevitable comparisons with the late Princess of Monaco, Vendela just shakes her head. “She was an enormously beautiful lady, and at certain angles, I can see it But from other angles, I can’t see it at all.” Vendela flashes her classiest smile and ever so politely adds, “It’s a nice compliment though.”

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