Born in the Rhineland town of Bergisch Gladbach in 1973, Klum had a normal, German upbringing from her hairdresser mother and cosmetics-boss dad. It wasn’t until 1992, when she won a television show not unlike Germany’s version of The Next Top Model franchise she now presents, that this began to change.
Klum wiped the floor with 25,000 other girls and was offered a modelling contract. Yet it was not until 1998 when her big break came. She was the first German to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition magazine.
This sparked the beginning of Klum’s world domination, and she went on to become one of the most sought after supermodels in the world and, like with Sports Illustrated, was the first German to become a Victoria’s Secret “Angel”. Almost every fashion magazine has featured her on its cover, from Vogue and Elle, to Marie Claire.
All this put the now mother-of-four into the top earning bracket of models, but for Klum, there was business beyond the catwalk and she soon branched into acting, television hosting and later, producing.
She has been hosting the prime time talent-scouting show Germany’s Next Top Model since 2006; Thursday coincidentally marked the end of this year’s season. Yet the ever-shrinking size of the (mostly teenage) contestants, who have to be able to fit into a US size two, has not escaped the country’s notice, and the audience is starting to diminish.
While filming the show, Die Welt newspaper reported a scene in which the girls all had to slide a finger into Klum’s birthday cake and lick the cream off their fingers for the camera, which when turned off caused “facial expressions that looked like Amnesty International had saved them from starvation at the last minute”, according to the reporter watching.
Klum lives in America, where the public largely love her. But to fall back into the arms of Germany it could be that she needs to cultivate a “nicer” outward imagine, the newspaper said.
This could mean taking a different attitude when the next series of Germany’s Next Top Model rolls around. After all, she said this week that she could imagine hosting it for ten years, giving her space to claw back some of her birth country’s audience.
Until then Klum, who was previously married to British singer Seal, will be celebrating her big 4-0 in LA with a party. Known for her love of fancy dress bashes (each year she throws one on Halloween) the theme will be “big hats”, an idea she said she got off a friend.
Newly loved-up and a doting mother to her children – once saving them from a rip tide herself – Klum is without a doubt one of the most famous Germans in the world today. She has, we think, steered stereotypes away from a beer-swilling, lederhosen-wearing Germany towards a more glamourous one.