In the fashion business, careers are made overnight, ready or not. Take, for example, strapping young Travis Fimmel. The Australian newcomer and oh-so-reluctant rising star arrived in Los Angeles little more than a year ago with a mere 60 bucks in his pocket and landed the big-money, big-fame Calvin Klein underwear campaign two months later--or so the story goes. "That's one of the only true stories they tell," he says. The other big Travis story, of course, is that his briefs were stuffed for the Calvin shoot. On that subject, only Travis himself knows for sure.
But while Fimmel blew up almost overnight, the explosion was nothing compared with what happened when the G-bomb dropped. It was five years ago when Gisele Bündchen hit her stride—an exaggerated, hip-swaying prance, at the time—and the fashion world went wild for her smoldering new-school brand of sexiness. Not only did she light up runways and magazine covers by the hundreds, but the paparazzi flipped for her as well, and before long her glamorous image was everywhere. Behind the scenes, the curvy Brazilian—a typically goofy 17-year-old—may have babbled away in broken English, bounded like a colt and pulled more silly faces than Mike Myers, but the public saw only a high-spirited, junior-sophisticate bombshell. Meanwhile, a flock of flashy boyfriends—Josh Hartnett, Brazilian industrialist Joao-Paulo Diniz and, ahem, Leonardo DiCaprio—only fueled the fire.
When, eager for a vacation from the spotlight, Gisele went low-profile for a while, her star burned twice as bright. The public simply couldn't get enough of her vivacious body, her quirky/beautiful face and her bubbly personality.
Today, Gisele isn't quite the same girl we fell for back when. Yes, she still zips around, brimming with energy, and she's still a little goofy. But now a young woman, Gisele has finally grown into those gorgeous looks.
So what happened on the day these two statuesque stars were brought together to generate some heat? Well, not much. It seemed like a match made in heaven: He lives in L.A.; she lives in L.A. He's into surfing; she's into surfing. They're both 22. They're both single. But you know what they say about boys maturing more slowly.
After a night of carousing, Travis arrived at the studio at 9 a.m.,toppled onto a sofa and promptly fell asleep, until hairdresser Guido gave the handsome devil a little advice: Wakeup, buddy. You've got serious competition in this shot.
"I was really hungover," Travis says later, during a phone conversation from his home in Los Angeles. Besides, Gisele's not his type. "The kind of girls I like certainly wouldn't know I did Calvin, and I certainly wouldn't tell them," he explains. "I'd just say that I'm working in a bar."
While Gisele pursued modeling with a passion, leaving home at 14 to follow the dream, Travis finds the fashion world a major drag. "It's embarrassing standing in front of the camera and getting your picture taken," he says. The upside? "I can pay for my acting classes without working at a bar. I want a job where I work for eight months, then do nothing for four."
But from his distracted picking and strumming—yes, an audible twang starts up mid interview—it sounds as if Travis could use a few guitar lessons as well. "Oh, you can hear that?" he asks. "I'm teaching myself 'Space Cowboy.'"
No wonder it didn't work out with Gisele. She may have been a space cowgirl herself once upon a time, but she certainly isn't now.
A few weeks after the shoot, Gisele is riding in a sleek black Mercedes through the streets of Milan toward the Prada headquarters, trailing a long, tanned arm in the breeze and contemplating her life in the modeling game. After two years of self-imposed semi-exile from the runway, she's back. "I've learned a lot and I've changed a lot," she says. "For a long time all I did was work and work. When I moved to Los Angeles I slowed down for a bit, but then I woke up and I wanted a change. Life is about change."
The life Gisele has created in L.A., cozily tucked away with her dogs, her horse and a close posse of girlfriends, is a long way from the swirl of parties and jet-setting photo ops that make up the daily grind of a supermodel—especially one dating Leonardo DiCaprio. Their two-year romance ended last summer, but Gisele doesn't talk about the big breakup; she talks around it. "Boys," she says with a sigh, "are cute. No time for boys. Theres nothing else to say."
With that, Gisele sweeps into Prada, looking every inch the sun-kissed California girl in a David Bowie concert T-shirt, jeans and dark sunglasses. "I took the Concorde last night but I couldn't sleep," she says. "My legs are too long for the seats." In fact, Gisele took the Concorde from New York to Paris, hopped another plane for Milan and endured fittings until 3 a.m. And there's still a spring in her step. "I love my job," she says. "I wouldn't do it if I weren't having fun." She makes a big entrance, bursting into the backstage area and rushing from hairdresser to makeup artist, greeting one and all.
"Finally!" says one Prada flack, sighing.
"What?" asks Gisele with a smile. "Darling, you know I'm never late." Never too late, that is.
A makeup artist quickly gets down to work. Gisele is one of the best-known models walking in the show, and odds are she'll be the one whose photos turn up in magazines and newspapers around the world.
Another model sidles up and looks at Gisele's reflection in the mirror. "What are you spending so much time on her?" she asks with a hint of sarcasm. "She's so pretty already."
Compared with the cattiness Gisele endured as the new girl on the block, this reception feels warm. When she first hit the scene, TV crews trampled anyone in sight—glamazon supermodels included—for a little face time with the bouncy Brazilian. "Everybody's nice now, but in the beginning it was really hard," she says. "I was away for a few years, so now we're happy to see each other."
Gisele never wanted to be the kind of model who views another's success as a personal insult. She's serious about her job but takes care to keep it separate from her life. "The only time I'm working is when I'm working," she says. "Some girls wake up and they're a model all day long. But you can't let all of this affect you, because in the end you will be the most unhappy of all, living in a fake world."
Fate and genetics have given Gisele extraordinary opportunities for which she's grateful, yet she has somehow managed to stay, well, real. In fact, jaded types might think she sounds too good to be true. But if she is a fake, the girl may well be Oscar material. She seems as normal as can be.
"I never let anyone give me a weird haircut, because I want to be normal," she says. That means eating pizza, throwing karaoke parties or barbecues at home, walking the dogs on the beach, playing volleyball.
"My idea of happiness has changed," Gisele explains. "I left home at 14, and now my dream is to have a base, a farm with horses in Brazil, and only travel to work once a month.
"I'm trying to be open to everything that's out there, but I live in the now," she continues. "I don't worry about what's next. I already have the best life."
And in case you're curious, being single suits Gisele just fine—so there, Travis. But when someday her prince does come, he'll be a sweet guy with a good sense of humor. "I want to be with someone who can be a real friend," Gisele says. "But not now."
Indeed, for the moment, believe it or not, even she finds the singles scene daunting. "When I was 17, tons of guys would come up to me and ask my name. Now--no one. It's like 'Hello?'" she calls out, waving her thin arms in the air. "Hello?"
Just like Travis, she yearns to meet someone who has no idea what she does for a living. Of course, the guy would probably have to be a shut-in to qualify—what with thousands upon thousands of Gisele images wallpapering the world.
Of all the pictures she's appeared in—everything from magazine spreads and print ads to TV commercials and Internet sites—Gisele likes one photo, a snapshot, best. "I have this picture of me and my friends out in the waves," she says. "I had just stood up on my surfboard for the first time, and you should see the huge smile on my face."
She plans to keep on smiling, too. "Twenty-two is a really good age," she says. "But even when I'm 50, I'm gonna be 20 in the way I feel."
Hair by Guido; makeup by Diane Kendal for Calvin Klein Colour; manicure by Sheril Bailey/Jed Root. Fashion assistant: Suzanne Karotkin.