SPIEGEL Interview with Heidi Klum "I Didn't Think the Girl was Too Fat"

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.


You've gone from being the darling of the Germans to the villain who leads others astray!

Klum: How so?

SPIEGEL: Don’t you read the Bild (Germany's popular boulevard) newspaper?

Klum: You shouldn’t read everything that’s in the papers.

SPIEGEL: It’s 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 don’t understand this criticism.

SPIEGEL: Why is someone too fat when they’re 1.76 meters (5'9") tall and weigh 52 kilos (115 lbs)?

Klum: Who said that?

Foto: DDP

SPIEGEL: You did.

Klum: I didn’t say that. Peyman Amin, director of the world’s 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 didn’t say that. But I can’t tape his mouth over. Personally, I didn’t 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 doesn’t really exist like that. It’s like a work of art, an act. I cry in front of the camera but am not really sad. I’ve 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 don’t really exist.

Klum: No normal person on the streets looks like this. In this job models tend to be thinner than the average person on the streets, that’s true. Who makes the rules? I don’t make them. It’s the fashion world which makes these rules and they always see 90-60-90 (centimeters) as the ideal measurements. I don’t have these measurements, hardly anyone does. I didn’t even have them at the beginning of my career and hardly anyone in "Germany's Next Top Model" has them.

SPIEGEL: You wouldn’t 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. I’m proud of the show, it shows what it’s like and it’s entertainment. The photo shoots which are done are like that in reality, it’s 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? That’s just the way it is. At the moment, I’m 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. We’re down to four girls.

SPIEGEL: Will there be any surprises in the next episodes?

Klum: Of course. What is probably interesting for someone who isn’t in this business, is to see how these photo shoots are done. You always think, ‘she’s so cool and so beautiful, she doesn’t give a damn about what others say.’ But these girls also have many fears and they’re not stuck-up. It’s sometimes such young girls who are really scared.

SPIEGEL: And these young girls are then ripped apart in front of millions of viewers – isn’t that gruesome?

Klum: It’s an entertainment show. These girls applied and wanted to take part instead of presenting themselves to a model agency. But that’s all part of it. That’s the documentary part of it. I can’t beat about the bush and only say: 'You’re all great, you’ll all be okay, you’ll all become top models.' There are, how shall I put it, guidelines and we don’t set these, they’re 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 it’s 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 they’re voted out.
Klum: The program is 45 minutes long and so you can’t 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 hasn’t.

SPIEGEL: What will happen next week?

Klum: We’ll have animals – spiders and snakes.

SPIEGEL: The model show becomes a horror show?

Klum: They’re 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 can’t 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. You’re not used to it but you have to bite the bullet. It’s a job. You play the role of another person.

SPIEGEL: What have you got what the others haven’t? Why is now the time for Heidi-Klum? You advertise everything from Katjes candies to Birkenstock shoes.

Klum: It’s 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 that’s 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 it’s harder.

SPIEGEL: Around 11,000 girls applied. All want to get in front of the camera, no one wants to become a veterinarian anymore. What’s 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 didn’t hear from them for five months and I didn’t think that something would come. You don’t think that you’ll 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 didn’t 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. It’s not for nothing that we talk of the German “Fräuleinwunder.” You don’t 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. I’ll never feel like I did before. But I don’t 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, I’m hardly without an once of fat. But I wasn’t 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. It’s also to do with your disposition.

SPIEGEL: Can you cook a German meal?

Klum: Yes.


Klum: It doesn’t matter, I can cook it.

SPIEGEL: Roast pork with dumplings, can you do that?

Klum: Dumplings are a bit harder but I’ll manage it -– with the towel and spinning round and all the trimmings.

SPIEGEL: Have you ever taken drugs?

Klum: Yes!


Klum: Beer, wine, cigarettes -– the harder stuff isn’t really my thing.

SPIEGEL: Have you ever been anorexic?

Klum: No.

SPIEGEL: How have you managed to stay so healthy in this job?

Klum: It’s not difficult for me to stay healthy. I like healthy food. It’s 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 wouldn’t 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, don’t watch too much television, don’t read everything that’s written about me whether positive or negative.

SPIEGEL: What does it mean for you to be German?

Klum: It’s the only identity I know. I’m not an American, I only know who I am, that’s why I have, for example, a German nanny.

SPIEGEL: What is a typical German characteristic?

Klum: What I often hear is that I’m always punctual even though I’m actually always late. But only a little bit!

SPIEGEL: Which countries do you like apart from Germany?

Klum: Africa, and not only because my husband’s 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 don’t mind. At five in the afternoon they’ll resolutely drink tea and then everything is okay again.

SPIEGEL: Do you think it’s great that Germany is being governed by a woman?

Klum: I don’t mind whether it’s 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 don’t know. We Germans aren’t really patriotic, it’s different for Americans. Why?

SPIEGEL: You’re 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?

Klum: No.

SPIEGEL: Why not?

Klum: Because it’s 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 I’m quite aware of this. On the other hand, if our government wants to advertise for our country then I think it’s 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 don’t know me. We don’t 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.

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