If you flick on a TV or open a newspaper in Germany these days it's hard not to bump into Heidi. With a fierce PR machine pushing the latest season of her series Germany's Next Top Model, the leggy Klum is omnipresent in the media. Of course, as one of the country's leading cultural exports, there are few Teutons as well-known around the world as the pretty lass from Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne.
There's no doubt she's famous, but how'd she get her big break?
Heidi has defined Germanic beauty since taking over as Germany's buxom blonde du jour from Claudia Schiffer in the 1990s. But apart from being a top supermodel, she is also a television host, an occasional actress, a producer, a designer and of course an extremely successful businesswoman selling one very important product – Heidi herself. She even registered for the trademark Heidi Klum GmbH way back in 1996!
She got into modelling by beating out 25,000 other girls in 1992 to win a contest where Heidi and other wannabe models went on a Thomas Gottschalk TV show and subjected themselves to a celebrity jury. Sound familiar? Yes, her start was not unlike her current hit TV show.
Her big break internationally came in 1998 when she became the first German model to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
So she's more than the average catwalk model on a cocaine diet?
Oh yes indeed! Instead of spending her free time away from the fashion world knocking back the champagne on a yacht in the Caribbean, Heidi has developed her career into global media enterprise. She has her own clothing line, cosmetic series and several TV shows including Germany's next Top Model – by Heidi Klum.
A quality product ‘Made in Germany,' eh? Sounds too good to be true. She must have skeletons in the closet.
Well, there is definitely one. Heidi doesn't beat her assistants with telephones like Naomi Campbell or get photographed snorting drugs like Kate Moss, but she does have an illegitimate lovechild with an Italian businessman. Formula One bigwig Flavio Briatore – a notorious womaniser in his day – knocked Klum up and then promptly ditched her. Perhaps not wanting to ruin his playboy image Flavio still denies that Heidi's four-year-old daughter Leni is his spawn.
In fact, the day she announced that she was pregnant with his baby, Briatore was pictured kissing Austrian crystal heiress Fiona Swarovski.
So, lucky in life, but unlucky in love?
Before Flavio, there was one failed marriage and a series of high-profile flings including the likes of Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so it might seem that way. But plucky Heidi eventually found her prince charming too! After all her romantic disasters she met and fell head-over-heels in love with the British pop singer Seal – while still heavily pregnant with Leni.
A decent English gentleman to the rescue. I suppose they lived happily ever after?
Indeed. They married in 2005 and have since had two more children together: Henry Günther Ademola Dashtu Samuel (3) and Johan Riley Fyodor Taiwo Samuel (2).
Good gracious, that's a mouthful. I take it Heidi didn't become a full-time mother and housewife?
Certainly not! Those nappies don't buy themselves!
What's that supposed to mean?
It means that Heidi advertises pretty much everything you can imagine. Whenever you decide not to go to the loo during a television advert break during her show, you'll probably still see her smiling at you. She might have jelly sweets stuck between her toes for Katjes, be hawking perfume for Douglas, or even shilling for McDonald's fast food. She's even rocked out for the Guitar Hero video game in her panties.
Fair enough. A girl's got to eat. But getting back to the sexy models on the catwalk…
Sure! Despite squeezing out three kids, Heidi still does some runway shows like the annual Victoria's Secret underwear show – if that's the kind of thing that floats your boat. But the latest season of Germany's next Top Model has also garnered her some unflattering publicity.
Oh no! Are the newcomers prettier than she is?
Well, they're certainly younger than the now 35-year-old Heidi! But according to the contestants on the show, Klum is far from being as nice as her public persona would seem. She supposedly is hardly ever present on set (which makes sense since she has lived in Manhattan since 1993), but when she does turn up, Heidi is reportedly quite cold and harsh with the girls.
So much for the wholesome girl from next door routine.
Certainly that's the case if you believe this year's contestants. Some of the failed model hopefuls have gabbed to more than one gossip magazine, claiming that everything is staged and the winner was already apparent from the beginning.
Aren't they just being catty? Models are always so rational when it comes to how pretty other girls are, right? Just ask my boyfriend…
Well, if the rumours are true, this is more than just a case of sour grapes from some underfed failed clothes-hangers. It would also certainly cast a rather dark shadow across Heidi's squeaky-clean image.
Then again, it's only a TV show about pretty girls fighting for attention. What did you expect? Masterpiece Theatre? Now pass me the chocolates, this week's episode is about to start…