Just Who Is Heidi Klum?
You've seen it in movies or on television -- the scene where a gorgeous model twists and turns effortlessly while the famous photographer shouts encouragingly: "Yes! Beautiful!" Today, in a West Hollywood studio, supermodel Heidi Klum is the one in front of the lens. As the photographer clicks away, 35-year-old Klum tosses her shoulder-length blond hair and flashes her high-beam smile. Then she walks over to a nearby computer screen, examines the just-taken digital shots and proclaims "ja!" to the ones she likes, "nein" to the ones she doesn't and "sehr schon!"(very pretty) to the ones she really, really likes.
It is just this display of decisive Teutonic crispness that has made Klum the successful star she is today. Perhaps her greatest credit is as executive producer of Project Runway, a hit reality series about unknown fashion designers competing for a chance to win $100,000. At press time the show's fate was in limbo. Season six is tied up in litigation as a result of Runway's move from one cable channel to another. But such hurdles are nothing new for Klum, whose TV show didn't exactly get off to an auspicious start almost five years ago. When it debuted Klum's catchphrase, "One day you're in, the next day you're out," and her brisk two-cheek goodbye kisses seemed cold and threatening to American audiences. "During the taping of season one -- I'll use the word -- she was just a little stiff," says Tim Gunn, on-air mentor to the designers. But once Klum was able to relax and show off her natural playfulness, she became Project Runway's heart and soul. "I mean, she owns the show, speaking literally and metaphorically, she really does," says Gunn.
In addition to Runway, Klum has her hands in many other ventures -- among them, a jeans line for Jordache, a makeup collection for Victoria's Secret, and her new skincare line, In an Instant. All this begs the question: Just who is Heidi Klum? Is she a madly multitasking mother, a savvy entrepreneur, a wannabe designer, or number 78 on Forbes' list of the 100 most powerful and highest-paid celebrities? Perhaps she's a little bit of everything. "Heidi runs her life as the CEO of Heidi Klum, Inc.," says her Runway costar, designer Michael Kors. "Everything is done with precision and elegance. And then when you think she has a husband and three children -- she is a supersonic, sexy android to be able to accomplish all she does in a normal day."
But Klum shrugs it off. "I don't have the hard everyday life that so many working mothers face," she says. In fact, she shot most of Runway's new season in Los Angeles, which meant she could go swimming or jump on the trampoline with Leni, 4, Henry, 3, and Johan, 2, before leaving in the morning. Klum also worked every other day, which gave her ample opportunity to sit down to dinner with her noisy, bilingual clan, clasp hands and say "guten appetit!" Klum also makes plenty of time for her husband of nearly four years, 46-year-old British singer songwriter Seal, whom she met in the lobby of a New York hotel. As she tells it, the 6-foot-3-inch singer had just returned from the gym in bicycle shorts when he caught her eye. Their love blossomed while Klum was pregnant with Leni (whose father is Italian businessman Flavio Briatore) and is still very much alive. Klum says they love to dance so much that Seal wanted them to try out for Dancing with the Stars. "I told him, 'But Schatzi [sweetheart], they won't let us dance together,'" she says. And while they keep their business lives separate most of the time, they know that the couple that dines, dances, and changes diapers together stays together. "I have the best husband in the world," she says. "He's very involved." The two drive their children to and from school together. "We talk about the kids on the way there. Then we talk with the kids on the way back," she says. Last fall Klum became an American citizen in time to vote for Barack Obama in the presidential election. "Having mixed-race children, I feel that when I tell them they can be anything, it now means they really can," she says.