Why supermodel Gisele Bundchen swapped runway for motherhood

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 May, 2015, 2:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 May, 2015, 2:07pm

"I think the most important thing in someone's life is their health," says Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen when we meet among a crowd of admirers at Chanel's Cruise 2016 show in Seoul this month.

We are talking about the continuing controversy surrounding the bodies of high-fashion models, leading to the French government backing an ultra-thin size zero ban in March.

"I eat everything I want, but I exercise daily," says the genetically blessed 34-year-old mother of three. "It's really a lifestyle - listen, you can buy everything else in your life but you can't buy your health."

Bundchen retired from the catwalk last month, saying emotional goodbyes from her last runway show at Sao Paolo fashion week, her native country's most high-profile fashion event. She says she couldn't have done it anywhere else, "It's my country, it's where I come from. It was important to get closure where I started."

Her final walk was extremely emotional, "everyone was crying. It was like a movie playing in my head. All the challenges in the beginning, how difficult it was and overcoming those and being here 20 years later."

"I'm not quitting, because I'm not a quitter," she says. "I'm just permanently stopping." She still looks every inch the tan, statuesque Amazonian beauty we've grown to love in a world dominated by fragile, young waifs. Honey-tinged, 183 cm tall, and impossibly beautiful in person, as much as in the many campaigns she's headlined over her 20-year modelling career, Bundchen has managed to charm the industry with her cool, easy attitude and that infectious Brazilian warmth. The self-confessed "jeans girl" is a powerful champion of the sunny, relaxed nature of Brazilian fashion and lifestyle.

I don't think it's worth sacrificing health for anything. When you are very young maybe you don't know that yet
Gisele Bundchen

"I don't think it's worth sacrificing health for anything. When you are very young maybe you don't know that yet," adds Bundchen, who stops at firmly agreeing about whether there should be stricter rules enforced in the industry.

But as a mother of three and wife to leading sportsman Tom Brady you'd imagine that health hits home. She's also one of the more philanthropic celebrities, donating millions of US dollars over the years and acting as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

And Bundchen's clout might not even wane as she retires from the runway, since she remains one of Brazil's most famous exports.

So how did it feel to be on the other end of the runway for a change; for once, just an audience member?

"It felt wonderful," she beams. "I always felt a little bit nervous on the runway. It's a very different energy; I'm so much more relaxed being in the audience. I can just look and say 'Wow that's a beautiful dress.'"

Bundchen was one of the world's highest paid models when she retired. Although there is that "sense of accomplishment", now that chapter is closing "to make space for other things".

Demanding schedules and its impact on her body and ties with family were cited as her main reasons for the decision.

"My kids are my priority now," she says. "This is the biggest job I'm ever going to do. I don't get a second shot at it."