The annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is just days away, and one of the brand’s OG Angels, Gisele Bündchen, recently reflected on the ups and downs of being a Victoria’s Secret model in her revealing new memoir, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life (out now).
At just 19-years-old, Bündchen pulled a feat not many other high-fashion models did at the time, by landing a commercial contract with lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret. “In those days I was a fashion model, and Victoria’s Secret was a catalog company. In 1999, there was a strong division between the two,” she explains in her book.
At the beginning of her tenure, she was “so happy” to have financial security. She revealed that her yearly paycheck from the brand made up 80 percent of her annual income, and she happily signed on to extend her contract for another two years. But the glamorous life of a Victoria’s Secret model soon started to dwindle for Bündchen.
“For the first five years, I felt comfortable modeling in lingerie, but as time went on, I felt less and less at ease being photographed walking the runway wearing just a bikini or a thong,” she said. “Give me a tail, a cape, wings — please, anything to cover me up a little!”
So when it was time to renew her contract in 2006, she was hesitant. “I was certainly grateful for the opportunity and the financial security the company had given me, but I was at a different place in my life, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue working there.”
The demands of attending store openings, doing television and print commercials and constantly traveling for photo shoots weighed on her, and after months of praying and meditating, she left her fate in the odds of a teacup.
“I crumpled up two small pieces of paper and placed them inside an empty teacup,” she said, explaining that she wrote the words “yes” and “no” on each.
“I closed my eyes and set an intention: whatever piece of paper I chose would be for my highest and best self and be the right decision.”
As history has it, she chose “no” and parted ways with the company. “No was the answer I unconsciously wanted to hear,” she wrote. “It was also the answer my body wanted to hear and, I believe, had been trying to tell me for days.”
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She says she was “at peace” with the decision and still believes it was right for her. But all those years working with the company not only redefined her career — but majorly shaped her future too.
Her good friend, Chief Creative Officer at Victoria’s Secret Ed Razek, ended up setting her up her blind date with now-husband Tom Brady. They married in 2009 and share daughter Vivian Lake, 5½, son Benjamin Rein, 8½ and son John “Jack” Edward Thomas, 11, who is Brady’s first child with Bridget Moynahan.
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