Above all, being a mother defines her more than anything else. Whether on screen or outside it, Heidi Klum is an absolute Queen. Here’s a look at the many events that made her the success she is.
Heidi Klum Stumbles Into Modelling
Heidi Klum was born in 1973 in Bergisch Gladbach – a small city near Cologne. Her mother worked as a hairdresser, while her father was a cosmetics company executive. Klum was always a good-looking child, but a modeling career had never been on the cards until fate intervened in 1992.
Heidi’s first steps into the fashion industry began when, on a lark, she entered a German beauty competition called “Model 92.” A 19-year-old Klum beat out 25,000 contests and won the top prize — a $30,000 contract with Metropolitan Models.
She Takes the Plunge and Moves to America
Klum had planned to graduate from school and study fashion design in Düsseldorf. But after entering a modeling competition on a whim and winning, Klum knew an international modeling career was her calling. She took the job with Metropolitan, first learning the ropes in Paris, Milan, and Hamburg before moving to the United States in 1993.
The budding young model lived in South Beach, Florida, for a while before shifting base to New York.
The Talk of the Town
The move to New York launched Klum’s professional modeling career. She started with small modeling gigs before landing her big break. In 1994, Klum appeared on the cover of Mirabella magazine, and the industry was obsessed with the new beauty in town.
Klum received more visibility after the campaign. Everyone wanted her. She was featured on the cover of Marie Claire, Vogue, and Elle magazines, to name a few. But her best projects were still to come.
Her First Marriage
The mid-90s marked the start of Klum’s career. It was also a season of romance as she found love with Ric Pipino. The twenty-something model fell head over heels for the stylist, and the two married in 1997.
The couple seemed deep in love and made numerous appearances together – from music awards and red-carpet events to enjoying night outs in the city. Sadly, the marriage did not last. The couple divorced in 2002.
She Lands the Cover of Sports Illustrated
In 1998, Klum bagged the holy grail of modeling gigs for Sports Illustrated. A Sports Illustrated cover is a highly-coveted honor in the fashion world. An iconic photograph that signals a model’s arrival, launching her career to dizzying heights.
It’s almost a given that Sports Illustrated cover girls have successful careers as models, actors, or businesswomen. Heidi Klum joined this illustrious circle of awe-inspiring supermodels in the ‘90s.
Klum Takes Up Her Angel Wings
Klum shot to global fame in 1999 with her debut as an “Angel” for Victoria’s Secret. Angels have come and gone over the years. But Heidi Klum was one of the OGs — the first group of celebrated lingerie models who appeared in televised runway shows and events.
The Angels took the fashion world by storm, setting impossibly high standards for models at the time. Klum continued modeling for Victoria’s Secret for 13 years.
The Rise of Heidi Klum
With several prestigious campaigns under her belt, Heidi Klum became one of the biggest names in fashion. Her successful modeling career paved the way for more opportunities. Soon, the German supermodel realized she had a good head for business.
She developed her very own lines of clothing, perfume, and jewelry. Klum even put her name on a specific line of Birkenstock shoes. The multi-faceted Klum was unstoppable, and the world was taking notice.
Among the World’s Highest Paid Models
Klum continued her reign as one of the world’s highest-paid models throughout the early 2000s. She was a force to be reckoned with. Klum’s many business ventures proved immensely lucrative, strengthening her already-enviable reputation. She appeared on shows, on the cover issues of the best magazines, and worked with the most elite fashion houses everywhere.
Klum launched a series of Millennium swimsuit calendars in the United States, followed by one for Europe in 2022.
Heidi Klum, the Talented Visual Artist
Heidi Klum may have shot to international stardom as a model, but did you know that she is also an accomplished visual artist? Klum’s passion for art began young. The model kept at it despite her busy career and home life. Many art magazines across the U.S. have featured her work.
In 2002, she dedicated a sculpture titled “Dog With Butterflies” to the rescue dogs instrumental in saving lives after 9/11.
Heidi Klum’s New Avatar
In 2003, Klum took on a remarkably different role than fans were accustomed to seeing her — she starred in a video game. An unsurprising move for someone who liked to change things up in her career. The former Victoria's Secret model played Dr. Katya Nadanova, a villain in the video game “James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.”
She starred alongside big names such as Sir Pierce Brosnan, Willem Dafoe, and Dame Judy Dench.
Her Forays Into Film
On top of her successful fashion and entrepreneurial career, Heidi Klum pivoted naturally to films and television. She appeared as herself in shows such as "Sex and the City" (2001), "Yes, Dear" (2002), "How I Met Your Mother" (2007), and "Desperate Housewives" (2010).
She also appeared in 1999's "Spin City." Klum not only looked great — her charisma and on-screen presence were undeniable. She also hosted an adventure program for the Discovery Channel and landed several spots in video games.
A New Man in Klum’s Life
Close to a year after her divorce from Pipino, Klum began dating F1 manager Flavio Briatore. In March 2003, the happy couple went public with their relationship. A few months later in December, Klum shared the news that she was pregnant.
While the couple appeared happy and ready for the changing seasons in their life, the relationship did not last. Not even sharing a child could fix things. Soon, Klum and Briatore went their separate ways.
Heidi Klum Serves Advice and Industry Tips in Her New Book
To help aspiring models navigate the cutthroat world of fashion, Klum released a book titled “Heidi Klum's Body of Knowledge: 8 Rules of Model Behavior” in 2004. The book explored the industry’s good, bad, and ugly realities as well as everything a model needs to succeed.
Heidi’s “rules” included the power of persuasion and making people see you the way you want to be seen. She also championed broadening horizons through travel, among many other things.
She Got Her Legs Insured
We know Heidi Klum’s legs look like a million bucks. But did you know they are worth that much in real life? In 2004, the model insured her long legs. Her right leg is worth $1.2 million, while the left is $ 1 million. The left leg had a scar from when she fell on glass, which is why the right is more expensive.
$2.2 million might seem a lot to ordinary folks. But the amount is virtually negligible in the world of expensive celebrity body parts. David Beckham’s legs are worth a whopping $70 million!
Project Runway Kicks Off to a Fabulous Start
Her natural flair for television led Klum to one of her biggest passion projects. In 2004, she became the host and executive producer for a reality program named “Project Runway” (2004-2017). The show featured up-and-coming fashion designers who competed to show their designs at New York Fashion Week and win a cash prize to help launch their fashion line.
Klum co-hosted the show with fashion stalwarts like Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, along with Tim Gunn as the contestants’ mentor. Project Runway was one of the few reality shows with substance. The show and Klum earned massive critical acclaim.
The Story of How She Met Seal
In 2004, Klum was in a hotel lobby in New York City. That's when she first met Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel, or as the world better knows him, Seal. In an interview with Oprah, Klum described Seal walking out of the gym in bicycle shorts, and she just went, “wow.”
The chemistry was instant. They started dating and quickly became one of the most celebrated couples in the entertainment industry.
Seal popped the question in December 2004. Less than a year later, the ecstatic couple married. The wedding took place in May 2005 on a beautiful beach in Mexico. The couple had three more children together — sons Henry Günther Ademola Dashtu Samuel and Johan Fyodor Taiwo Samuel, and a daughter named Lou Sulola Samuel.
When fans saw Heidi Klum and Seal together, it appeared to be endgame — a love story for the ages.
Who Is Leni’s Real Dad?
Leni might be Briatore’s biological daughter, but the businessman was hardly involved in his daughter’s life. He wasn’t even around when his daughter was born because the couple had broken up then. Who was it that stayed by Klum’s side when Leni was born? Her then-boyfriend Seal.
Since then, Klum has always considered Seal to be Leni’s real dad, and Leni felt the same way. When Leni turned 5, Seal made it official and adopted her.
A TV Show Back in the Homeland
In January 2006, Klum appeared as a judge and hostess for “Germany’s Next Top Model.” The show aired on Germany’s ProSieben TV Network, but the German version of Tyra Banks’s hit show did not do as well as the original. Critics and fans called out the show for being hugely problematic. They kicked a model out of the competition for being too heavy.
Despite the controversies, “Germany’s Next Top Model” entered its seventeenth season in 2022. Klum has been the only permanent judge on the show since it aired.
She Turns Her Attention to Jewelry Design
In 2006, Klum launched her QVC jewelry line, which became an instant runaway hit. Out of the 16 designs of her Mouawad jewelry collection, 14 sold out in under 36 minutes after debuting on the cable shopping network.
Klum found inspiration for her stunning designs on the floor of the Duomo in Milan. The collection featured versatile pieces in 14 k gold, 18 k gold-clad sterling, and sterling silver. Among the crowd favorites was the signature Heidi Klum clover hoop earrings.
Klum’s Views on Objectification
Klum became a global sensation when she appeared on TV during the 2006 World Cup draw. Polls showed that 90% of men watching from over 150 countries wanted to date her on the spot. Was it flattery or insulting? And where do models draw the line? Klum has always insisted it doesn’t bother her.
Objectification is an occupational hazard, and she knows playing roles is part of being a model. Klum believes the key to remaining unaffected is knowing who you are outside these roles.
Collaborations With Victoria’s Secret
The supermodel had an excellent association with Victoria’s Secret, steadily becoming the most recognizable face of the brand. She partnered with the lingerie brand several times over the years. In 2007, she helped the iconic brand design a new lingerie line called “The Body.”
The name was an homage to the nickname given to her after walking at her first Victoria’s Secret fashion show. For fans who wanted to smell like success, Klum also came up with two signature fragrances, “Me” and “Heidi Klum.”
2008 — A Year of Brilliant Firsts
The first four seasons of "Project Runway" have long been considered some of the show’s best. With Klum and Gunn as creative forces, the show gave viewers glimpses into the creative process. The show had a stellar format that meaningfully engaged, enlightened, and entertained viewers — rare for reality TV. For her efforts, Klum received a Peabody Award in 2008.
It was the first time a reality show had won this prestigious award. That same year, Klum received an Emmy nomination for "outstanding host of a reality or reality-competition show."
Famous Detractors and Haters
Despite her enormous success, even Heidi "The Body" Klum faced her fair share of rejection. Karl Lagerfeld famously dissed Klum. His dislike for her was well-known. After Klum posed nude for German GQ in 2009, Lagerfeld said neither he nor Claudia Schiffer had ever heard of her.
He dismissed her as “more bling than current fashion.” “It may be Victoria’s secret, but it is not my secret,” Lagerfeld famously quipped.
Heidi Gets the Last Laugh
It turns out that Karl Lagerfeld was not the only big name in fashion who rejected Klum. When she first started her modeling career, fashion designer Michael Kors didn’t think much of her either.
Reports say the designer saw a 20-year-old Klum in some of his creations and said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Life would come full circle when Klum and Kors became fellow judges on Project Runway.
A Real-Life Barbie
In 2009, Heidi Klum became the official brand ambassador for Barbie on the doll’s 50th birthday. Her association with Barbie had begun a year prior when the Heidi Klum doll was born as part of Barbie’s “Blonde Ambition Collection.” The doll recreated Klum’s look at the 2007 Victoria’s Secret fashion show – from a replica of her wedding band to the sequined mini skirt.
While Klum is obsessed with being a princess, she believes in keeping things real. She’s not a fan of outrageous re-touching and will get upset if people go overboard.
The Birth of a Project Runway Spin-Off
"Project Runway" was such an enormous success that they made a spin-off in 2009. "Project Runway, Models of the Runway," profiled the models who wore the clothes made by Project Runway designers — once again with Klum as host.
The program aimed to show numerous behind-the-scenes impressions that viewers weren't privy to on "Project Runway." Sadly, the show had no takers. The dismal ratings led to the show getting canned after just one year in 2010.
Klum Bids Farewell to Victoria’s Secret
After a 13-year association with Victoria’s Secret, Klum decided to hang up her angel wings in 2010. She announced to disappointed fans that she would not be part of the annual show in November of that year. As one of the original “Angels,” Klum was almost synonymous with the upmarket lingerie brand.
Just a year earlier, she had wowed audiences by walking the Victoria's Secret Runway five weeks after giving birth. She was stunning and fabulous as ever. The departure from Victoria’s Secret would usher in a new era for Klum as a mega-successful businesswoman.
Her Lucky Charm Is a Bag of Teeth
Klum reportedly carries a bag of her baby teeth around as a lucky charm! During a 2010 interview on “The Tonight Show,” a bemused Jay Leno asked the supermodel about her alleged strange habit, which turned out to be true.
She explained, "We don't have a tooth fairy [in Germany], so I put them in a little bag." Leno hilariously responded, "Any fantasy I had is pretty much over now."
A Marriage on the Rocks
Heidi Klum and Seal redefined celebrity couple goals. They reaffirmed their love and commitment by renewing their vows at least eight times throughout the marriage. It was a veritable love fest and helped the couple consistently work on their marriage.
But this, too, was a love doomed to fail. In April 2012, the couple announced that they had separated. Klum filed for divorce that month and two years later, in October 2014, the couple finalized their divorce.
In the Arms of Somebody Else
Almost immediately after her split from Seal, Klum had a brief relationship with her bodyguard, Martin Kristen. Klum was still navigating divorce proceedings and custody battles for her four kids. As a result, the two kept a relatively low profile.
This wasn’t exactly a relationship marked by red-carpet appearances or public displays of attention. As for Seal, he seemed upset and hit back "I would have thought that Heidi would have shown a little more class and at least waited until we separated first before deciding to fornicate with the help, as it were," he said.
She Wins an Emmy
As one of the show’s anchors, Klum’s passion for "Project Runway" and the fashion world was evident. She was insightful and dedicated as a host, and her feedback was invaluable to budding designers. Apart from Klum’s star power, the show’s originality found a dedicated fan following. "Project Runway" was a smashing success.
In 2013, Klum and Gunn won an Emmy in the category "Outstanding Hosts for a Reality or Reality Competition Program." The show would receive more awards and nominations in the years to come.
She Joins America’s Got Talent
In 2013, she joined NBC’s long-running reality show “America’s Got Talent” (AGT) as one of the judges – alongside Simon Cowell, Howard Stern, Mel B, and Howie Mandel. NBC believed contestants would benefit from her discerning eye and vast experience in the global entertainment industry.
With Klum as a jury member, the show also hoped to transcend U.S. borders and appeal to an international audience. Klum appeared on the show from seasons 8 to 13.
She Begins Dating Vito Schnabel
After the relationship with Martin ended, Klum began dating art dealer Vito Schnabel in 2014. The smitten couple made several public appearances and celebrated their third anniversary in 2017.
But early that year, a source told PEOPLE that the pair had decided to take time apart. Things had been rough since they lived on opposite coasts. Klum also wanted to spend more time with the kids who had started a new school year.
Donald Trump Had Something to Say About Heidi
Donald Trump famously decided to share his opinions on Heidi Klum, even though nobody asked. In a 2015 interview for the New York Times, Trump declared she was “no longer a 10.” Klum posted an amusing Twitter video in response.
The video had a friend disguised as Trump rip off a “10” label from her t-shirt, revealing a “9.99” underneath. Klum said reacting to her supposed downgrade was the most fun they had had in a long while.
Her Statement on the Treatment of Women in Hollywood
In 2017, Klum joined other celebrities in condemning the treatment that women receive in Hollywood. She recognized that it was far from just a Hollywood problem. Klum praised the women for having the courage to bring these issues to light.
She admitted she was no stranger to harassment by powerful men throughout her career. Seeing and hearing Klum speak about these issues was definitely a step in the right direction.
Her Time With Project Runway Comes to an End
In 2018, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn announced they were leaving Project Runway to create a new design competition together. The new project was the Amazon reality show “Making the Cut.” How was the show different? Whereas “Project Runway” profiled designers just starting in the industry, the new show featured more established fashion designers.
Leaving “Project Runway” was no easy decision. Klum later opened up about it, citing budget concerns and feeling like she no longer had creative freedom.
She Falls in Love With Tom Kaulitz
In May 2018, social media buzzed with news about Heidi Klum’s romance with a new beau – Tokio Hotel guitarist Tom Kaulitz. The whispering and rumors had been making the rounds since March of that year. When the couple went public with their relationship, it ended months of speculation about whether the two were a hot new item.
The visibly beaming Klum and Kaulitz appeared together on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Fans were obsessed with their cutesy, lovey-dovey couple pics on Instagram.
On Dating Someone So Much Younger
It wasn’t long before the mom of four began receiving hate for dating Kaulitz, who was 17 years her junior. Some trolls were downright nasty. Although Klum remained unaffected, she did speak out on the situation during an interview for InStyle in 2018.
"My boyfriend is many years younger than me, and lots of people are questioning that and asking about it." She said she's happy with where she is in life and doesn't worry about what others think of her.
Kaulitz and Heidi’s Kids: A Family Affair
Sources close to Kaulitz revealed that he was deeply in love with Klum. Although they had been dating for only a few months, the musician had big plans to pop the question. But there was one thing he had to do first — get her four children’s blessings!
The family traveled to Mexico, where Kaulitz secretly revealed his plans to the kids, who were over the moon for their mother and him.
A Breakfast-in-Bed Proposal
It was important for Kaulitz to include the four kids in his plans. On 2018 Christmas eve morning, he went to them first to ask for their mother’s hand in marriage. They said Yes. Then they put together a breakfast tray with flowers, coffee, and the piece de resistance — a ring box.
All five of them brought the tray upstairs to a very-surprised Heidi, and the rest is history! She put up a sweet photo on Instagram that said, “I SAID YES.” The couple secretly tied the knot in February 2019.
Her Kids Are a Priority
Klum’s kids are everything to her. She once told the Times that she’s a complete “worrywart” when it comes to her kids. Her children had been in the news since the day they were born. She constantly worried about the paparazzi or other people who may be following them around.
Unsurprisingly, any man of Heidi’s needed to be kid-approved. Thankfully, paternal love and affection seem to come naturally to Kaulitz.
She Ghosted Drake!
During a 2018 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Heidi Klum engaged in a game of "Who'd You Rather?" She repeatedly chose Drake over every other top celebrity. Sure enough, the segment caught Drake’s attention and he decided to reach out to her.
When Klum returned to the show a few months later, she shared that Drake had texted and asked her out after that episode. But she never texted him back! The model explained to a shocked audience that she had met the future love of her life, Tom Kaulitz, for the first time that very same day!
Heidi Klum Isn’t Afraid of Simon Cowell
Heidi Klum decided to leave “America’s Got Talent” in February 2019. But not before the model-turned-tv star expressed strong opinions about music mogul Simon Cowell’s look. She told Elle Magazine that since the time she joined the show, she noticed how everyone was terrified of Cowell.
Folks would be beside themselves at the sight of the man. As for Klum, she once walked up to him and said, “So, Simon. When are we going to do a makeover?”
When She Was Tone Deaf
In 2020, Klum got trolled for defending "America’s Got Talent" after the show axed Gabrielle Union despite receiving rave audience reviews for her guest-judge stint. Union pushed NBC producers to address an incident during the taping of Jay Leno’s guest appearance. The comedian reportedly joked about a painting of dogs owned by Simon Cowell, saying they looked like something ‘on the menu at a Korean restaurant.’
Klum chimed in on the ongoing controversy, saying she could not speak for others, but her experience on the show was “amazing.” The model was subsequently labeled tone-deaf for not understanding what was wrong with the joke.
Critics Accuse Her of Bullying
Klum’s disturbing reputation for fat-shaming turned uglier when she abruptly hit the buzzer on a plus-size dancer on AGT. Nineteen-year-old Amanda LaCount had always been told she was “too big to dance.” Despite the trolling, she amassed over 200,000 followers on Instagram.
The dancer had even appeared in music videos for artists like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Klum buzzed halfway into LaCount’s routine, sparking an uproar. The other three judges and the audience disagreed, giving the dancer a standing ovation. Klum received intense criticism for fat-shaming, not unlike her time on “Germany’s Next Top Model.”
The Dark Side of Her Marriage to Seal Revealed
Even after Klum and Seal went their separate ways, media fascination with the former couple did not wane. How nasty was the divorce? Who was to blame? Klum today is in a happier place and recently opened up about the dark side of her marriage to Seal.
She revealed that Seal traveled excessively for his career, leaving her alone, isolated, and the sole parent responsible for raising their kids. Seal’s violent temper often created unbearably tense situations at home. She said she was afraid to leave the kids alone with him.
Her Longest Marriage
During an appearance on “TODAY with Hoda & Jenna,” Klum teased that she and Tim Gunn are the world’s ultimate power couple. Her decades-old friendship with Gunn has outlasted several marriages, controversies, and career changes. Gunn attributed their fantastic working relationship and friendship to being “so different and in many other ways, so much alike.”
It also helps that the duo loves what they do. From winning the Emmys together to season 3 of “Making the Cut”, Klum and Gunn are BFF goals.
She Still Has Nothing but Love for Victoria’s Secret
Hulu’s 2022 documentary “Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons” exposes unsettling truths about the exploitation that went into the makings of the glitzy lingerie brand. Klum refused to participate in the docuseries, saying she had “the most wonderful time” at Victoria’s Secret.
She claimed she did not identify with the experience depicted in the film, nor did she recognize the people in the series. Do you believe her? Is she lying or was she that blind?
The Second-Highest-Paid Model of All Time
Heidi Klum’s tremendous decades-old career has seen numerous milestones. The multi-hyphenated celebrity has cemented her reputation, not just as a model but across industries. From clothing lines and design to TV shows, Klum is arguably one of the most consistently successful celebrities.
She may be the subject of some scandals, but the former model has avoided crazy controversies. As of 2022, Klum’s net worth is about $160 billion, the second-highest earning model in history after Gisele Bundchen.