We know Gisele Bündchen as the supermodel who has walked 500 runways and appeared on 2,000 magazine covers (true statistic!) but the world’s most famous supermodel doesn’t actually call herself a model.
“I’m not a model,” she told Vogue in her new cover interview for the July issue. “Modeling is a job that I do, a career that I’ve had. It allowed me to see the world, and I was well paid for it. But it never defined me.”
She regarded each job during her heyday as just that — a job. “I’m a Cancer, the little crab. Loves the home, her sanctuary, all the cozy things. So I was a fish out of water in fashion. I was always like, ‘Let me go to the job and go home.'”
She recalls her early days living in a model apartment in N.Y.C. and seeing partying and drugs around her, but never being interested. “I was watching all the chaos but never getting that close,” she said. “Drugs. Girls coming and going, some making it, some heading down a bad path and going home. I was never a party girl. You can’t be reading Lao Tzu and partying. The environment I was living in wasn’t matching the things I was interested in. I was wondering, ‘How is it that we’re all floating on this blue dot in space?’ I’ve always been a curious person, and I’ve always asked the big questions. ‘What else? What more? This can’t be all there is.'”
The moment that changed her mindset though came in 2002 at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in New York City when protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) interrupted the show protesting her then recent modeling contract with the furrier Blackglama and carried signs that read “Gisele: Fur Scum.”
“Suddenly it dawned on me,” she said. “I was in the hamster wheel: I’m just going to go out there and be a good girl and do what my agent tells me to do. What do I know? It wasn’t until that shock—it stopped me in my tracks. They sent me all these videos. I wasn’t aware of what was happening, and I was devastated.”
Ever since she put herself “in the driver’s seat” and stopped all of her fur campaign deals. “The universe comes to you and says, ‘Hello, maybe you should notice this.’ You need to be responsible for the choices you make.”
So it comes as no surprise that her mission in life is all about environmental conservancy and sustainability. She’s worked as a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Environment Program since 2009 and takes her responsibilities seriously.
“There are enough signs that we can’t keep going in this direction,” she said. “People forget that without a healthy environment, there are no healthy humans, because last time I checked, our life depends on the health of our planet, period. At the end of the day, the Earth will be fine. If we are gone, she’s going to regenerate herself. So we have to think about how we’re going to survive on it. How can we have the least impact?”
She explained how she instills positive practices in her home (through recycling and gardening with her kids), focusing more on real life and less on her digital presence. “If it was me, it would only be pictures of sunsets,” she said about her Instagram account, which her sister made for her. “It’s not my generation—I have to be honest about that. I’m older, wiser. If I had to promote myself in the way girls modeling now have to do, forget it. I wouldn’t do it.”
Vogue‘s July 2018 issue is available on newsstands in N.Y.C. and L.A. on June 15th, and nationwide on June 26th.