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Gisele Bundchen Biography

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Birth Name: Gisele Bundchen
Born: 07/20/1980
Birth Place: Horizontina, Rio Grande do Sul, BR

Bundchen and her fraternal twin sister Patricia were born on July 20, 1980, and raised in Horizontina, Brazil, a small town in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. As a girl, the future model was teased by schoolmates for her height - she reached 5'11" at an early age - and her thin physique, which earned her the nickname "Olivia Palito," or Olive Oyl. At 14, Bundchen was spotted by an agent from the Elite Modeling Agency while out with friends in the city São Paulo, but she rebuffed their interest in her. The following year, after giving the idea of modeling money some serious thought, she entered the Elite Look Modeling Competition and finished in second place. Over the objections of her father, Bundchen moved to São Paulo at 14, and lived in an apartment with other models while both finishing her second year of high school and looking for modeling work. Her agent, Monica Monteiro, personally attended to Bundchen, giving her rides to school and letting her stay at her home when the need arose. In return, Bundchen answered phones and filed papers at Monteiro's office.

Bundchen made her first trip to New York in 1996, and hit the runway for Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani and Alexander McQueen in Milan and Paris the same year. After moving to New York fulltime, fashion photographers Mario Testino and Steven Meisel championed her potential and got more designers to feature the new teen in town. At age 18, Bundchen landed on the covers of I-D and British Vogue magazine. The following year, she became an overnight sensation on international runways for Carolina Herrera, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Prada and Valentino, while gracing the covers of W, Harper's Bazaar, and the ultimate achievement: the cover of Vogue, who hailed Bundchen as "the return of the sexy model." For breaking the reign of the emaciated, sickly "heroin chic" look, shapely, athletic Bundchen was named "Model of the Year" at the Vogue Fashion Awards and appeared alongside supermodel contemporaries Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer on the cover of the millennium edition of Vogue.

In 2000, Bundchen made a splash on New York and Paris runways for John Galliano, Valentino and Anna Sui, and signed a contract with lingerie company Victoria's Secret. She also co-hosted the "VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards" with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and was named "the most beautiful girl in the world" by rock rag, Rolling Stone. In keeping with her high-profile life was her high-profile boyfriend, Leonardo DiCaprio, with whom she would have an on-again/off-again relationship over the next several years. Continually jet-setting between Paris, Milan and New York to model lines for top designers, Bundchen secured her position as one of an elite and dying breed of international "supermodels." Meanwhile she began to parlay her face and name recognition into savvy business deals, teaming with the Ipanema flip-flop company in Brazil to create her own line of beach sandals. The local hero's brightly colored sandals were top sellers with the nation's beachgoers, and for years to come, the partnership steadily brought in millions of dollars of income for Bundchen.

But Bundchen's deal with fur company Blackglama earned the model some backlash from the animal rights community in 2002, when representatives of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) disrupted Bundchen's Fashion Week runway show for Victoria's by following her down the catwalk with protest signs labeling her "fur scum." In a later interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Bundchen said that she regretted her decision to model with the company, and was a devout animal lover who did not wear fur and was sympathetic with PETA's cause. The run-in failed to have any real negative impact on Bundchen's career, and in short order, she became the face of Christian Dior, modeled for several Marc Jacobs shows, and appeared in a commercial for Nivea face cream. Bundchen made her acting debut in 2004 in the film "Taxi" (2004), an action-comedy in which she starred as one of a gang of beautiful Brazilian bank robbers pursued by detectives Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah.

DiCaprio and Bundchen were named People magazine's "Most Beautiful Couple" in 2005, but later that year, they called it quits and Bundchen was briefly linked to pro surfer Kelly Slater. After becoming the face of Louis Vuitton in 2006, Bundchen signed a multi-million dollar deal to appear in ads for computer company Apple. She also donated her services as the face of the American Express Red Card - a credit card generating money to help combat AIDS in Africa. In 2007, Bundchen opted not to renew her contract with Victoria's Secret, commenting that at age 26, she was ready to begin focusing on other areas of her life besides modeling. She delivered on her promise to expand her range and appeared on the movie screen as a fashion magazine editor in the popular chick-lit adaptation of "The Devil Wears Prada" (2007). By that time, the model was now being seen on the arm of New England Patriots' star quarterback, Tom Brady, who was hot on the heels of his breakup with actress Bridget Moynahan. A few months after the pair met, Moynahan announced she was pregnant with her ex's baby, and following the baby's birth Bundchen's comment that the boy was "her's as much as he was Moynahan's" raised more than a few disapproving eyebrows toward the supermodel.

In 2007, Forbes magazine named Bundchen the highest paid model in the world, with earnings of over $30 million a year. Amid her increasing business and philanthropic efforts, she maintained a busy modeling schedule, designated as the new face of Versace and appearing on the covers of Vanity Fair, French Vogue, GQ and British Harper's Bazaar. As part of Bundchen's increased efforts to raise awareness about environmental issues, she donated a portion of the sales of her nature-inspired 2008 and 2009 Ipanema sandal lines to charities including the World Wildlife Federation and Forests of the Future, an organization promoting protection of the Brazilian rain forests. In another philanthropic effort, Bundchen auctioned off her jewelry collection and donated the proceeds to a non-profit dedicated to improving life in diamond mining areas of Africa. Bundchen was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme in 2009. Meanwhile, Bundchen married New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and gave birth to their son in December of 2009.