Gisele Bündchen’s path to supermodel stardom is a bumpy one, to say the least. In the beginning stages of her career as a teenage model, she was often criticized for her appearance.
“I remember some people telling me my nose was too big or my eyes were too small, that I could never be on a magazine cover,” she said in an interview with PEOPLE that is scheduled to hit stands on Friday, April 29. “It wasn’t easy to be 14 and hear that kind of criticism. It made me feel insecure.”
Bündchen got her start in the fashion industry in her native country, Brazil, and has since surpassed all expectations placed upon her by critics. For one: longevity.
“It’s still hard to believe that it’s been that long. Time does fly,” she said, after withstanding 2 decades in the fashion industry.
It’s a long way from her small, rural hometown of Horizontina in Brazil.
A young Bündchen was discovered in public when a scout approached her mother and said, “Your daughter has the physique to be a model” and advised her to go to an agency. The opportunity that Gisele almost didn’t take turned out okay for the mother-of-two.
“I already felt weird because I was taller and looked more mature than most girls my age,” said Bündchen. She took 26-hour bus rides into São Paulo for modeling gigs. “I just knew that I wanted to do my best and see if I could make it.”
Bündchen moved to New York City at age 16, looking for her major break—which didn’t happen overnight.
“I was going to castings daily, but work was still very slow,” said the 35-year-old. Finally, after more than 40 ‘no’s’, Bündchen landed a major runway show for Alexander McQueen in 1998. This led to an iconic Irving Penn shoot celebrating her as the “return of the curve.”
“I felt like I was in the right place at the right time,” she said in reference to her newfound success. “I didn’t really know anything about fashion. I saw jobs as opportunities to travel the world and make some money so I could also help my family back home.”
As Bündchen’s fame rose, so did the attention—something she still isn’t quite used to.
“It brought a lot more attention to me, which is something I didn’t feel very comfortable with,” said Bündchen referring to her 2000 relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio. “To this day I still haven’t gotten very used to it [fame].”
Gisele Bündchen is married to NFL athlete Tom Brady.
Now that the model has hung up her Victoria’s Secret Angel wings, she is focused on motherhood.
“I’m really focusing on being the best mom I can be and my family and just kind of taking this year as a sabbatical to see where my life will take me, just kind of see what the next 20 years are going to look like,” she said on an appearance on “The Late Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on April 27. “I’m just waiting to be inspired.”
But don’t call it a full retirement.
“I love learning and I love creating and I feel that will always be a part of my life,” said the author. “I am just emptying my glass, so I can fill it with things that are more aligned with who I am today.”