Claudia, the myth: interview

In 1987 a modeling scout convinced Claudia Schiffer to go to Paris to try modeling. Not long after she became the face of the famous Chanel line. She then starred in a campaign for Guess jeans. She would eventually appear on more than 500 magazines' covers, including Vogue and Rolling Stone. She walked virtually every major designer runway and became nearly omnipresent in marketing campaigns.

Early Life

Supermodel Claudia Schiffer was born on August 25, 1970, to Heinz and Gudrun Schiffer in Rheinberg, Germany. Along with her two brothers and one sister, Claudia Schiffer grew up in a close-knit and well-to-do family in the Dusseldorf suburbs. By her own account, Schiffer was a shy and awkward teenager, painfully conscious of her 5' 11" height, skinny build and status as the daughter of a prominent and wealthy family. "I wasn't a star," she has said of her school days. "There were other girls who were the stars, who were the ones everybody thought were beautiful, the ones everybody wanted to go out with. I had my friends, but I was never 100-percent part of them, because I was so different."

Therefore, it came as a huge shock to the 17-year-old when she was approached at a Dusselfdorf disco by a modeling scout, who convinced Schiffer and her parents to let her go to Paris in 1987 to try out modeling. Schiffer was sure it was all a fluke. "After I was discovered, and did the test shots, I was sure that they would realize they had made a mistake and send me back."

Modeling Success

There had been no mistake. Not long after her first runway shows, the lanky blonde was chosen by designer Karl Lagerfeld to be the face of the famous Chanel line. She then starred in a global campaign for Guess jeans, catapulting her to worldwide superstardom. Schiffer would eventually appear on the covers of more than 500 magazines, including Vogue, Cosmopolitan andRolling Stone, where she became the first model ever to grace the famed music magazine's cover. She walked virtually every major designer runway and became nearly omnipresent in marketing campaigns.

Beneath her angelic looks, Schiffer was, as Karl Lagerfeld said, "all work, very serious, essentially a smooth-running German business machine." Schiffer gave credit to her family for her business sense. "I had a good start because my family was behind me," she said. "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."

As a result, she became a key member of the well-paid, universally recognized "supermodel" set of the 1980s and 90s, joining colleagues like Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford in this elite status. For a time, Schiffer was the highest-paid model in the world, commanding fees as high as $50,000 a day and earning millions more through licensing and endorsements.

Later Career

Schiffer also tried her hand at acting, hosting television specials and taking bit parts in movies, with varying degrees of success.

Of her turn in the 1999 film Black and White, for example, a rather harsh New York Times reviewer wrote, "In the case of poor Claudia Schiffer, the German supermodel, who plays Dean's lover, the movie stops to applaud her efforts to wrestle English to the floor and pin it."

In 2010, Schiffer turned 40, an age at which many models have long since been forced to retire. Just months before her 40th birthday, however, Schiffer won the Elle Style Awards trophy for Model of the Year. She has the freedom to be as choosy as she likes with her projects, but isn't ready to retire just yet. "The most important thing is that you take the profession very seriously, because it is a business," Schiffer said of her approach to modeling. "If you really want to make it, you have to give it your all. And well, I work everyday. You work weekends. You work holidays. And you just - that is your passion and that's what you want to do."

Personal Life

After broken engagements with magician David Copperfield and entrepreneur Tim Jeffries, Schiffer married the film director and producer Matthew Vaughn in 2002. The couple has three children. The family resides in England.

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