Gisele Bündchen talks about modeling, her family and ‘Gisele & the Green Team’

Special to the Los Angeles Times

Supermodel Gisele Bündchen has been canonized in British newspaper the Independent as “the biggest star in fashion history.” So, since Bündchen (at age 30) already has the making-history thing nailed, she’s focused on adding the future to her résumé — specifically, the future of the environment. If you were to ask this 6-foot wonder what her favorite color is, without a doubt, she’d say green.

Partnering with AOL and A Squared Entertainment, Bündchen has gone digital. She’s appearing in cartoon form in the new animated Web series “Gisele & the Green Team,” which debuted Dec. 7 at The 26 brief webisodes and interactive website create a groovy destination that’s educational and entertaining.

The premise of the Web series is fun: Bündchen and a group of teenage girls lead double lives as supermodels and environmental heroes who use superpowers such as “Earth memory” and “foresight.”

The “Girl Power” section of the website offers tips for building character and self-esteem. Bündchen believes that if you respect yourself, you’ll respect the world around you too.

We had the opportunity to chat with this Amazonian beauty about modeling, “Gisele & the Green Team,” her family and her zeal for the planet. (“Amazonian beauty” is appropriate — the Brazilian native’s family foundation Agua Limpa was founded in 2008 to plant trees along the river’s beds and work to safeguard the water from pollution.)


“Gisele & the Green Team” puts you in the position of supermodel and role model. How do you feel about this duality?

Being a supermodel, well, it’s a funny term, because it’s my job. “Gisele the supermodel” is now about being “Gisele the super-role-model.” For me, it goes back to self-esteem. How can you care for and protect the planet if you don’t do the same for yourself? It all starts with self-love and embracing who you are, which is No. 1 for everyone, not just kids. But in truth, you can talk to someone until you are blue in the face. People have to be open and be willing to take responsibility. I can advise them, but cannot do it for them.

You talk about self-esteem as a huge key to success. How do you remain so strong with your sense of self?

Truthfully, people are going to judge you no matter what. I feel like when people judge me they’re not judging me, because they don’t know who I am. I’ve had a million things that happened in my life that were hurtful. Since I was tall and skinny so young, everyone called me Olive Oyl. I was just 14 years old when I started modeling, and people were like, “Hey, you’re never gonna make it because you have a big nose, small eyes …" I mean everything was a problem with me. So I remember calling my dad, and he’d say, “Don’t worry about it. You have a big nose, that’s fine, because that comes with a big personality — so that’s what you say to them next time.” The funny thing is I still have the same nose! And it made me successful because I worked harder. I had to learn about lighting and angles because I couldn’t just stand in front of a camera or the picture wouldn’t look good. So, at the end of the day, something that could have broken me helped me. No one looks like me because they don’t have my nose and it made me stand out.

You’ve had so many spectacular moments during the 15 years you’ve been a model, it might be tough to pinpoint just one. Can you try to pick a story that still resonates with you today? Was it gracing your first cover? A particular shoot? Becoming a Victoria’s Secret angel?

One of the favorite moments in my career was the first time I shot with Irving Penn in 1998. It was a beautiful artistic nude for American Vogue. It was my first nude shoot and I was petrified. That image became one of the most memorable and important pictures of my career.

So, who is the “Gisele” on the magazine covers and runways, and who is the “Gisele” off the catwalk?

The “Gisele” on the covers is working. Modeling is my job and luckily it’s a job that has afforded me a lot of opportunities. When I walk down the runway my main goal is to not think about the people watching. The idea of all eyes on me would make me too uncomfortable. As I step on the runway, I take a deep breath, focus on a point in the distance, and go! I begin thinking about getting back to my boys once I’m nearing the exit. When not at work I’m a wife [to husband Tom Brady], mother [to son Benjamin, 1, and stepson Jack, 3], daughter, sister and friend. I’m a woman trying to balance family, work and friends like so many others out there.

Being goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environmental Programme must be an honor but also a major responsibility.

I feel privileged to be a U.N. ambassador. It gives me an opportunity to use my voice to help raise awareness about important social and environmental issues. I believe in order for us to make significant changes, educating people is key. My role as a U.N. ambassador will give me a platform to educate others, and we’ll all be able to make conscious decisions about how we choose to live in the world.

Has it been a struggle to turn your family “green,” or have they always been environmentally inclined?

My family already had many green habits, but we’re always looking to learn more. We live by the mantra “Reduce — Reuse — Recycle.”

Fame comes with a price, but it also allows you the rare opportunity to have a platform from which to speak. What have been the pros and cons of fame? Did you ever imagine you’d be this famous?

Living in Boston makes it easier to have a semi-normal life. People are very respectful of my privacy. But fame is not something that you prepare for. I have a supportive family and that has anchored me all these years. If everything was gone tomorrow, I would still be happy because my family and my close friends would still be in my life. I am grateful every day for fame giving me an opportunity to share my voice.

I’m sure everyone would like to know: Do you ever look in the mirror and feel “bleccchhh!” If so, what do you do to make yourself feel better?

Everyone has those days. I just stop for a minute and think about all the things I’m grateful for and the feeling goes right away. Other days a little mascara and some lip balm can do the trick.

Your skin-care line, Sejaa, is based on the idea that taking care of yourself means you’ll also take care of the world around you. What other products do you recommend using along with Sejaa that are “green” and that you wear yourself?

I love Young Living Essential Oils and Edgar Cayce Rose Petal and Lavender aromatherapy sprays. My favorite lip balm is Dr. Hauschka lip care stick. We also use Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products in my home.

You have a blog and website ( that gives so much information about your life, as well as guidance for social awareness. Where do you get your ideas and energy?

I’m so passionate about everything I do. I go to bed at night and sleep and dream about this. I sometimes ask myself, “Why me?” I come from a small village in the south of Brazil. I have five sisters. So why me? I think I have a bigger idea with a huge vision of what I want to accomplish. Because I’m doing something that’s my passion, it gives you energy since the more I accomplish, the more effective I am. Modeling has been a wonderful outlet for me to be who I am today — to have the voice I have today. But it’s not all I am. I want to spend the rest of my life focusing on what I truly believe in. Modeling has been the step to get me here.