German supermodel Heidi Klum has been condemned in her homeland for purportedly propagating a beauty ideal on her show "Germany's Next Top Model" that can lead to anorexia. In an interview with DER SPIEGEL she defends herself and discusses what it takes to make it as a model.SPIEGEL:
You've gone from being the darling of the Germans to the villain who leads others astray!
Klum: How so?
SPIEGEL: Dont you read the Bild (Germany's popular boulevard) newspaper?
Klum: You shouldnt read everything thats in the papers.
SPIEGEL: Its not only the press which is after you but now the politicians are also getting involved. Christian Democratic member of parliament Julia Klöckner described your show as irresponsible saying that young girls are being put under pressure with an exaggerated obsession to be thin.
Klum: I dont understand this criticism.
SPIEGEL: Why is someone too fat when theyre 1.76 meters (5'9") tall and weigh 52 kilos (115 lbs)?
Klum: Who said that?
Klum: I didnt say that. Peyman Amin, director of the worlds biggest model agency, said that.
SPIEGEL: And he chooses the models with you in the program.
Klum: The jury is made up of four, sometimes five, professionals and each one has their own different opinion. I still always have the final say and I didnt say that. But I cant tape his mouth over. Personally, I didnt think the girl was too fat. I prefer the curvier ones but everyone has a different opinion. There were several reasons why the jury decided against her.
SPIEGEL: And what about the accusation that your show leads to anorexia?
Klum: In this job an illusion of beauty is sold which doesnt really exist like that. Its like a work of art, an act. I cry in front of the camera but am not really sad. Ive just come from a job, am made-up and made to look beautiful with fantastic clothes and hair and nails all done.
SPIEGEL: So you dont really exist.
A newspaper ad for "Germany's Top Model" asking: "Are we too thin?"
SPIEGEL: You wouldnt make it through your own casting show?
Klum: There are girls with the most different body measurements who are super, super thin and girls who are a bit bigger all sorts. We even had girls who had to go because they were too thin.
SPIEGEL: Do you have more fun or more trouble with the show?
Klum: Fun. Im proud of the show, it shows what its like and its entertainment. The photo shoots which are done are like that in reality, its all very professional.
SPIEGEL: But you run the risk of all those who get voted out possibly ending up on the couch with Stefan Raab (a German talk show host) or somewhere else where they will voice their anger about you.
Klum: What can you do? Thats just the way it is. At the moment, Im the bad guy everyone is after.
SPIEGEL: Do you already know who the winner will be?
Klum: We filmed seven episodes last year and we still have three to go. Were down to four girls.
SPIEGEL: Will there be any surprises in the next episodes?
Klum: Of course. What is probably interesting for someone who isnt in this business, is to see how these photo shoots are done. You always think, shes so cool and so beautiful, she doesnt give a damn about what others say. But these girls also have many fears and theyre not stuck-up. Its sometimes such young girls who are really scared.
SPIEGEL: And these young girls are then ripped apart in front of millions of viewers isnt that gruesome?
Klum: Its an entertainment show. These girls applied and wanted to take part instead of presenting themselves to a model agency. But thats all part of it. Thats the documentary part of it. I cant beat about the bush and only say: 'Youre all great, youll all be okay, youll all become top models.' There are, how shall I put it, guidelines and we dont set these, theyre decided by the fashion world.
SPIEGEL: You obviously need really thick skin if you want to make it in the model world.
Klum: Also because weight is, of course, an issue. Despite this, I often tell the girls in the program that its not about losing weight at all costs and not eating anything. They need to train a bit. Sport is so important. It's about toning, the body has to be firm and they need to have good skin and fit in the clothes which the designers have made. That's just the way it is.
SPIEGEL: Some have real breakdowns when theyre voted out.
Klum: The program is 45 minutes long and so you cant include every sentence which is said. I talk to the girls before and after the show, that is the most important thing. I tell the girls who has got through and who hasnt.
SPIEGEL: What will happen next week?
Klum: Well have animals spiders and snakes.
SPIEGEL: The model show becomes a horror show?
Klum: Theyre not going to eat the spiders! No, it will all still be very aesthetic. As a model I also did lots of photos with animals. I was photographed with a six-meter long python and there have also been elephants and monkeys. As a model you need to be able to do the craziest things. I had to ride (horses) and I cant ride. Once I married twelve times in one day - you have to do thousands of different things. I had to walk up and down the street on Sunset Boulevard in a bikini, which makes you feel a bit stupid. If people watch then you might be embarrassed. Youre not used to it but you have to bite the bullet. Its a job. You play the role of another person.
SPIEGEL: What have you got what the others havent? Why is now the time for Heidi-Klum? You advertise everything from Katjes candies to Birkenstock shoes.
Klum: Its difficult for me to explain it myself, no idea. I certainly like working in Germany.
SPIEGEL: Can you remember how it was for you in the beginning? Can you remember the nervousness and the tears?
Klum: Of course. Today I can do it all at the push of a button. I stand in front of the camera and thats it. If I have to start dancing, then I start dancing.
SPIEGEL: Is it tougher for the girls than for the boys?
Klum: Yes, I think so. If you want to make a career out of it and want to be up there at the top then its harder.
SPIEGEL: Around 11,000 girls applied. All want to get in front of the camera, no one wants to become a veterinarian anymore. Whats going on? How did you get into modeling?
Klum: I actually wanted to be a fashion designer. I did a lot with the sewing machine at home - for Barbie or for carnival or just for fun. Then I saw this ad in the newspaper. And as young girls sometimes do some stupid things, I filled in the coupon and sent in my photos. I didnt hear from them for five months and I didnt think that something would come. You dont think that youll be taken seriously and that someone will actually call you and say that you have been chosen.
SPIEGEL: It was the Claudia Schiffer and Linda Evangelista era. Were they your idols?
Klum: I never thought about it. I didnt know any photographers and I also never looked at "Vogue," more the "Freundin" magazine or what was lying around at home, at the hairdressers or the dentist.
SPIEGEL: German photo models are really doing well in the business, better than many others. Why is that?
Klum: Why is that? Because of our cows.
SPIEGEL: Because of the cows?
Klum: Yes, because of the happy German cows with the happy German milk, which happy children drink. So much happiness makes you beautiful! (laughs).
SPIEGEL: Are the German women the most beautiful in the world?
Klum: Yes, of course. All German women are beautiful. Its not for nothing that we talk of the German Fräuleinwunder. You dont get this word in any other language.
Continue reading on page 2 about Heidi's take on motherhood and Germany.SPIEGEL: Now you have two jobs - that of a mother and model.
Klum: A sense of duty - you only really get this feeling when you have a child. You always only used to be responsible for yourself and then there is also a child. Ill never feel like I did before. But I dont want that either.
SPIEGEL: All women want to know how you managed to appear on the catwalk, without an ounce of fat, only two months after the birth of your son.
Klum: Well, Im hardly without an once of fat. But I wasnt really fat when I was pregnant and so I also lost the baby fat quicker. Of course if you spend the whole pregnancy on the couch watching television then it will be harder to lose weight. Its also to do with your disposition.
SPIEGEL: Can you cook a German meal?
Klum: It doesnt matter, I can cook it.
SPIEGEL: Roast pork with dumplings, can you do that?
Klum: Dumplings are a bit harder but Ill manage it - with the towel and spinning round and all the trimmings.
SPIEGEL: Have you ever taken drugs?
Klum: Beer, wine, cigarettes - the harder stuff isnt really my thing.
SPIEGEL: Have you ever been anorexic?
SPIEGEL: How have you managed to stay so healthy in this job?
Klum: Its not difficult for me to stay healthy. I like healthy food. Its also become a lifestyle for me and I need a certain fitness level to be able to travel and have good skin and nails. If I ate worse then it would be difficult for me to keep up and it also wouldnt be so good for my looks either.
SPIEGEL: The question was more regarding your mental stability. How do you manage all the madness?
Klum: I spend a lot of time with my family. I go to bed early, dont watch too much television, dont read everything thats written about me whether positive or negative.
SPIEGEL: What does it mean for you to be German?
Klum: Its the only identity I know. Im not an American, I only know who I am, thats why I have, for example, a German nanny.
SPIEGEL: What is a typical German characteristic?
Klum: What I often hear is that Im always punctual even though Im actually always late. But only a little bit!
SPIEGEL: Which countries do you like apart from Germany?
Klum: Africa, and not only because my husbands parents come from Nigeria. I went on safari in Africa and there were incredibly nice people there.
SPIEGEL: Your husband, Seal, is English.
Klum: Yes, through and through. With the English, their house can fall down and they dont mind. At five in the afternoon theyll resolutely drink tea and then everything is okay again.
SPIEGEL: Do you think its great that Germany is being governed by a woman?
Klum: I dont mind whether its a man or a woman. It is, of course, difficult to identify politics with just one person since there is a whole system revolving around them.
SPIEGEL: Do you tend towards patriotic feelings?
Klum: I dont know. We Germans arent really patriotic, its different for Americans. Why?
SPIEGEL: Youre in a PR film of the Foreign Ministry with Michael Ballhaus and Anne-Sophie Mutter and others in which you say: I travel around the whole world but my heart belongs to Germany. Is it possible to advertise for a country like for a product?
Heidi Klum made up all purdy.
SPIEGEL: Why not?
Klum: Because its too colorful and diverse to simply go over it with a smile on your face. I do things to help but the whole thing is very superficial and Im quite aware of this. On the other hand, if our government wants to advertise for our country then I think its stupid and egotistical to turn it down. Perhaps I can influence the mood in a positive way. Sometimes this is all you need to get things moving forwards a little bit.
SPIEGEL: Do you lose a bit of your identity when you are photographed?
Klum: You also gain something new. You give something and you get something back. Then someone is standing in front of you again telling you some sort of gobbledygook and you just have to switch off and go on autopilot.
SPIEGEL: What does it feel like to know that 90 percent of men from 150 countries who saw you on TV during the World Cup group draw gala would have liked to have slept with you on the spot?
Klum: They can dream on! They dont know me. We dont want to tell them the truth about what I look like at home when I scrape off all the make-up.
SPIEGEL: Ms Klum, thank you for the interview.
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2006
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH