Heidi Klum

From Fashion Model to Businesswoman

Heidi Klum was born in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany on June 1, 1973. The German-American former fashion model is now a television host and producer, fashion designer, businesswoman, and actress who lives and works in both southern California and Germany.

Klum Project Runway

Heidi Klum not only hosts “Project Runway,” she is also one of the TV show’s producers.

Klum (pron. KLOOM) is the daughter of Günther Klum, a cosmetics company executive, and his wife Erna, a former hairdresser. Heidi’s father had earlier been a production manager for the 4711 perfume company. She grew up in her birthplace of Bergisch Gladbach, a city of about 100,000 residents only six miles east of Cologne.

Klum’s modeling career began while she was working as a barmaid in a Düsseldorf discotheque in 1992. A girlfriend (Karin) encouraged the then 18-year-old student to enter a German TV talent show called “Model ’92.” The show, sponsored by the German women’s magazine Petra, was part of a late night talk show hosted by Thomas Gottschalk. Klum competed against 25,000 contestants from all over Germany and Europe until she was one of three semifinalists. In April 1992 she won the top $300,000 modeling prize.

After graduating from high school (the Integrierte Gesamtschule Paffrath in Bergisch Gladbach), Klum decided not to study fashion design in Düsseldorf, as she had once planned, but rather to embark on an international modeling career at the age of 19. She signed with Metropolitan, a German modeling agency, and successfully modeled in Europe (“I learned the ropes in Hamburg, then in Paris and Milan.”) before going to the United States in 1993. Her biggest success there came when she began working for Victoria’s Secret. In 1998 she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Issue, one of the very top achievements for a fashion model.

Klum’s career was now reaching a level which opened up more opportunities, including putting her name on her own lines of perfume, clothing, jewelry, and Birkenstock shoes. From there she moved on to films and television. (A small role in the ABC sitcom “Spin City” (1999); a cameo as the Swiss bombshell Ursula Andress in the 2004 biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.) She also has lucrative contracts for print and TV advertising for firms such as Douglas (DOO-glus, a German retailer), McDonald’s and Volkswagen in Germany and the US.

“Project Runway”
In December 2004 the hard-working beauty became the host, judge and executive producer of the US reality show “Project Runway,” first aired on the Bravo cable TV channel, and since 2009 on the Lifetime network. Her Peabody award-winning show has fashion designers compete for the opportunity to show their line at New York Fashion Week, along with a cash award to help launch their own fashion line. Klum was nominated for an Emmy in 2008 for “outstanding host of a reality or reality-competition show” for “Project Runway.” Each of the first four seasons of the show was also nominated for an Emmy Award.

Klum also has been a judge on NBC’s long-running reality show “America’s Got Talent” since 2013.

“Germany’s Next Topmodel”
In January 2006 Klum began appearing as a judge and hostess for “Germany’s Next Topmodel”, the German version of Tyra Banks’ “America’s Next Top Model,” for the German TV network ProSieben. One of Heidi’s co-judges for the first two seasons was the Afro American Bruce Darnell. The German show has been less successful than the American version, and came under criticism for being sexist and taking advantage of the models-to-be. In its first season the show made headlines in February 2006 when the jury kicked off a candidate for being “too fat.” But “Germany’s Next Topmodel” entered its eleventh season in 2016.

Personal Life
Heidi Klum’s personal life has not always gone as smoothly as her career. In 1997 she married celebrity hairstylist Ric Pipino, an Australian of Italian heritage living and working in New York City (cuts from $110 to $300). Their marriage lasted five years.

Heidi Klum

Heidi Klum at an “America’s Got Talent” special event at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in April 2014. PHOTO: Mingle Media TV, Wikimedia Commons

After her 2002 divorce, Klum dated Italian businessman (Formula One racing) Flavio Briatore (1950- ). In 2003, she announced she was pregnant by Briatore. On the day of her announcement Briatore was photographed kissing Fiona Swarovski, an Austrian jewelry heiress. Klum and Briatore parted soon thereafter.

Klum was still pregnant when she met British-born singer-songwriter Seal (b. 1963; full name: Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel), of Nigerian and Brazilian heritage. Klum and Seal were married in Mexico on May 10, 2005. They have three children: a daughter and two sons. Seal officially adopted Leni, Klum’s daughter by Briatore, in December 2009. After November of that same year, Klum’s legal name was Heidi Samuel, the surname of her husband. In January 2012 the couple announced that they were separating and moving toward an “amicable” divorce. As a condition of her divorce, finalized on April 6, 2012, she legally reclaimed her birth name of Heidi Klum.

In 2008 Klum became a naturalized US citizen, according to her, in order to be able to vote for Barack Obama for president that year. She now has dual citizenship, also retaining her German nationality. Klum visits her German homeland and her family there as often as she can. She says that she feels at home in both Los Angeles and Bergisch Gladbach. She often is a guest on American and German TV talk shows. She also has appeared in episodes of several American television series (Spin City, Sex and the City, and How I Met Your Mother) and has acted in or made cameo appearances in Hollywood films, including Ella Enchanted, The Devil Wears Prada and Perfect Stranger.

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