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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

As Cigar Aficionado magazine approaches 20 years in print, we are taking a look back at some of the most memorable stories we have published over the years. In this step back into our vaults, we go to 1997 when we profiled the beautiful Claudia Schiffer.

Claudia Schiffer is talking tough. There's a problem in the world of fashion these days, she says—the fact that too often models have to look like junkies just to be cool. "I think fashion should be promoting beauty and health," she says. "That doesn't happen if the model looks anorexic, unhealthy, tired, if the photography makes her look as if she's on drugs or been out partying all night. That kind of thing can end up hurting young women or girls who feel they have to imitate the models they see in the magazines. That's not what fashion is about. For me, fashion is about beauty."

When Claudia Schiffer is the subject, that's what it's always about. The 26-year-old German-born supermodel has been called, by GQ magazine and countless others, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her face and body have graced the covers of more than 500 magazines, among them Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and Time. She was the first model to make the cover of Rolling Stone. She has walked down runways for all the major designers and appeared in ad campaigns for Revlon, Chanel, Versace, Valentino and Ralph Lauren. Her image, on billboards for Kenar, has loomed above the millions of tourists in Times Square. She danced in a Fanta ad with Mickey Mouse for a reported $2 million. Last fall, she appeared on the cover of the Victoria's Secret catalogue wearing a diamond-encrusted brassiere worth $1 million. She also has a contract to do Pepsi commercials with Space Jam co-director Joe Pytka and has appeared in a TV commercial for cotton "Underware," which was censored in the United States.

John Fairchild, the publisher of Women's Wear Daily, once said that Schiffer "looks better in jeans than any model ever looked in Chanel." And on this rainy early spring day, as she exits the elevator at the Four Seasons Hotel on East 57th Street in Manhattan, it is clear that Fairchild knows whereof he speaks. She is clad all in black—simple, tight black Gucci jeans and a black wool V-neck Prada sweater—and she is radiant. Her long, glistening blonde hair glides gently and gracefully down her back. Her magnetic blue eyes twinkle; her soft, high cheekbones personify the blush of youth.

Claudia Schiffer, portrait
Her body, all 5-feet-11 and 127 pounds, sparkles with an unself-conscious sensuality that, combined with her still-present air of youthful innocence, is—there's no other word for it but the cliché—breathtaking. And yet, inside this tall, willowy body beautiful, this perfect mannequin for haute couture, there lies the mind of an experienced, tough and highly expert businesswoman, the very model of a modern major female entrepreneur at the turn of the twenty-first century. A profile by Nathaniel Nash last year in The New York Times called her "focused" and "no-nonsense," a "combination that may be the reason she is considered by many to be the best businesswoman in modeling."

Designer Karl Lagerfeld has explained her success by saying that underneath the glamour she is "all work, very serious, essentially a smooth-running German business machine." While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it is clear that she loves to work, loves her business, and has risen to great heights in the worlds of fashion and commerce.

She won't discuss her finances, but there is no doubt she is the world's highest-paid supermodel. That title was attained in 1992, Nash wrote, when she inked an exclusive global deal with Revlon for a reported $6 million a year for 10 years and surpassed the previous titleholder, Cindy Crawford. According to the Times, fashion insiders estimate her yearly income at as much as $14 million—or more. She has put out a yearly swimsuit calendar since 1990; she designs it herself, and industry estimates put her annual earnings from it at $500,000 (this year her royalties are going to the Pediatric AIDS Foundation). Her series of four exercise videos, "Claudia Schiffer's Perfectly Fit," for CBS/Fox, has made the best-seller list. She has published two books, Memories, a pictorial for young people about a fashion shoot, and Claudia Schiffer by Karl Lagerfeld, a black-and-white coffee table book she designed with photos by Lagerfeld.

In 1995, she and two of her fellow supermodels—Naomi Campbell and Elle MacPherson—and Tommaso Buti, an Italian restaurateur, opened the Fashion Cafe in Rockefeller Center. It was so successful that there are now Fashion Cafes in New Orleans, London, Jakarta and Barcelona; another supermodel, Christy Turlington, has joined the crew, and there are plans to open in 10 more cities this year, among them Mexico City, Manila, Paris, Singapore and Madrid. Last October she switched from the Metropolitan modeling agency—where she had been since her career began—to Elite, and, she says, things have gotten even busier.

Sitting in a lounge at the Four Seasons this Saturday morning, there is about Schiffer a clear and imaginative intelligence, a disarming friendliness. With Claudia Schiffer, in life and on a magazine cover, what you see is what you get.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about her this April day is that she is not exhausted. It is the end of Fashion Week in New York. She has completed two all-day shoots posing for two magazine covers—Cigar Aficionado and Cosmopolitan.

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