Fashion

What sets Heidi Klum apart from the rest

Supermodel says the secret to pulling away from the pack is to really want it

It is the title most readily assigned to her, but "supermodel" doesn't quite cut it when describing Heidi Klum.

The 44-year-old German-American is more of a media mogul these days.

And in an industry littered with the pulverised egos of models who have failed to become actresses or talking heads, Klum has conquered an entire genre, appearing on three top-rated series: America's Got Talent, Germany's Next Topmodel and Project Runway, the latter earning her the 2013 Emmy for Best Reality Competition Host.

Fans know she does not coast on her looks, earning a reputation as a tough but fair judge and host whose pronouncements are often right on the money.

In the middle of a day packed with design meetings for her swimwear and lingerie lines, she greeted Harper's Bazaar at her Los Angeles office with a sunny hello, and was charming and attentive - even though she was running on fumes.

"I've been shooting America's Got Talent for the last nine days. We were on a night schedule so I worked from 8pm to 2am. By the time I was home it was 3am."

Klum is also a single mother of four.

"My children get up at 6.30am, and they don't care that I went to bed at 3am - they want to have breakfast and get to school on time. So I have to be there in the morning with my mum-hat on even though I'm tired," she said of Leni, 12, Henry, 11, Johan, 10, and Lou, seven.

"It's definitely harder how I have my family structure compared to mums who have a husband who goes to work every day and then comes home at six," said Klum, who was married to British musician Seal, 54, from 2005 to 2015, and is now dating art dealer Vito Schnabel, 30.

"But my children will not suffer from any of this - I want them to be happy and feel like they always have me and that I'm always there for them."

Her work ethic is not the only reason she managed to pull away from the pack.

Said Klum: "You have to really want it. Some models don't want to work on weekends or after the shoot, but sometimes I stay longer and do something extra with the photographer or client...

"Being passionate about what you do is the key. I was always eager to learn more and do more, and I always had a lot of drive to do things outside of modelling."

She could simply rubber-stamp her Heidi Klum Intimates and Heidi Klum Swim lines like other stars who put their names on products.

Instead, she pores over each design with the attention to detail that makes Project Runway contestants quake.

"I'm involved in everything. I believe that's the only way. Then, if things don't work, you can be mad with yourself rather than with other people."

Klum did not start out wanting to model. Growing up outside of Cologne, Germany, she had dreamt of becoming a designer.

"The passion for designing was always there, and I've always made things like Barbie clothes or Karneval (a German festival) costumes with my mum. I was accepted into a fashion design school in Dusseldorf, and that's what my path would have been. But I won a modelling contest and everything shifted. And now it's shifting back. "

The second changing point in her career came when Klum was asked to host the first season of Germany's Next Topmodel, which aired in 2006.

"That first season, all these things went wrong in that show. And I was like, 'I'm not happy with this'.

"I don't want these girls to do weird challenges that have nothing to do with being a model. They wanted me to sign a contract to continue for a few more years, but I said, 'I'm only going to participate if I have creative control over what happens, because I know what the fashion business is like - you guys don't because you are TV producers'.

"So they gave in and let me have final control over everything.

"And 12 years later, we're the number one TV show in Germany - I'm not sure we would be if we'd done it how they wanted to," said Klum, now an executive producer and the lead judge on the series.

Klum occasionally turns to her wardrobe for a power-up.

"A look can be powerful too, and make people go, 'Oh, she's not a pushover'. There is power in the way you dress. And, especially as a woman, sometimes you want to have that extra power.

"For me, that would be something like a red pantsuit - I feel powerful in that. Or I'll wear a dress and a bright red lip because it makes me confident."

Klum added: "At the end of the day, you have the power when you feel happy with yourself. When I look in the mirror, I might be stressed out but I'm happy with myself... Everybody has their own thing. For someone else it could be their passion for art or movies or politics...

"Whatever it is that makes you feel confident, that is your power. You have to look at what makes you happy."

PHOTOS: YU TSAI

STYLING: CAT WENNEKAMP-TAPPER

MAKE-UP: LINDA HAY/THE WALL GROUP

HAIR: Lorenzo Martin/The Wall Group

MANICURE: EMI KUDO/OPUS BEAUTY

PRODUCER: TREVER SWEARINGEN/88 PHASES

DIGITAL TECHNICIAN: MASSIMO CAMPANA

PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT: ROBIEE ZIEGLER/88 PHASES

This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar Singapore's July issue. Bold, opulent and provocative, Harper's Bazaar Singapore is available in both print and digital formats. Visit www.harpersbazaar.com.sg for more.

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