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Claudia Schiffer, A Model Life

Supermodel Claudia Schiffer skillfully manages a career that proves that classic beauty will always be in fashion.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Claudia Schiffer, Jul/Aug 97

(continued from page 3)

"When we made the final decision to do it, I still had to stay to finish high school," she says. "I didn't tell anybody in school about it for six months. Even when they were doing the test photos in Paris and writing up the contract I didn't tell anyone, not even my best girlfriend. I thought, 'What if they find out. Then I'll really be different.' It was all done very discreetly. It was only the day before I left that I told my friends."

Once in Paris, the rise was swift. Editors at the influential Elle magazine saw her, liked what they saw and put her on their cover. It was Schiffer's first. Soon she was chosen for the coveted Guess? jeans campaign, which carried her face and figure around the world. Within a year, she modeled at her first fashion show—for Chanel. It led to work with Versace, Valentino, Dior and all the other giants of the fashion industry. Her relationships with Chanel and Metropolitan's Souliers would last until 1996.

"At first I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing," Schiffer says of her beginnings in the business. "I thought they were making a mistake about me. Why choose me and not these other girls at school, who I thought were much more beautiful? I thought I would be there a year, improve my French and go home. But I was lucky. I had a good start because my family was behind me. Some girls just starting out make the wrong choices because they have to do those things to make money. I was able to say, let's have fun, do things I like to do. And they turned out to be the right things."

In her nine years in the fashion world, Schiffer has learned that not all in the business do the right thing. There is, for one, the large drug subculture.

"There are a lot of drugs around," she says. "Especially lately, because drugs have become fashionable again. When I began in the late '80s, the drug world of those days was essentially over. People were more health conscious. But it's back again. Some people have nothing to do with it because of their education and beliefs, and some think it's cool. In the beginning I didn't even notice. I came from such a clean home. I was so naive. People would tell me afterward that everybody in the studio was stoned except me, and I had no idea. Now I notice. But it's not something I would ever do. I don't like to lose control over myself. I don't like the feeling of not controlling what I'm saying or thinking."

Now, of course, Claudia Schiffer is recognized everywhere she goes—by the media, the paparrazzi and her many fans, all of whom constantly seek her out, taking photographs, asking for interviews and autographs. At times, she admits, it can be a little much.

"When I'm working, I consider it part of my work," she says. "If I'm attending a public event, or even if I'm on the street going to work, it's not a problem for me. But on vacation it has bothered me a lot. I understand logically that people have a need to see a celebrity, to know what's going on in their lives. But after a while it became so bad it was affecting the rest of my family, too."

Her family vacations on Majorca, where they owned a house. "There was no big wall," she says. "There was the house and the pool and the view and a little wall. And we had 20 photographers out on the wall every day. So I would stay inside all day. I didn't want to go out until the evening, when they would be gone. Then my sister and my mother started to do the same thing. We felt awkward going out in bikinis with everybody watching, or sunbathing topless on a boat, which in Europe everybody does. We couldn't do it. It was very uncomfortable being watched all the time. So we sold the house, and we're building a new one with a wall around it so we can have our private family life. I feel I have the right to take a vacation. There are many advantages of being well known, but that's the major disadvantage."

Claudia Schiffer portrait.
Schiffer refuses to pose nude, and many paparrazzi have gone to great lengths to catch her topless. A group of photographers, she says, once rented a boat and masqueraded as a vacationing family, then suddenly turned with their cameras and caught her relaxing far out at sea. Another photographer cut a hole in a tent at a fashion show in New York to benefit AIDS research and took shots of her changing costumes. Even the store on Majorca where she has photos developed, she says, made copies of shots a friend took of her topless in the Bahamas eight years ago, kept them and recently sold them. She says she has been talking with her lawyers about keeping the photos from being circulated more widely.

Another area in which she insists on some semblance of privacy is her personal life. She and the magician David Copperfield have been engaged for more than three years. He reportedly gave her a five-carat engagement ring, but so far there have been no wedding bells. She will talk about their relationship, but only a little. "I don't want to talk about my private life too much," she says. There are as yet, she says, "no official plans for marriage," but they are still very close. "We're just really great friends," she says. "We share a lot of things—hobbies, passions, interests. We have a lot of fun together." And yes, he does share with her the secrets of his astounding prestidigitations. "I'm there when he invents something, when he rehearses it, so naturally I know," she says.

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