Before Klum's years as one of Victoria's Secret's best-known models, she says, "I never did fashion shows—not in Paris or Berlin or even in New York City. I tried, but no one would book me." That includes her Project Runway cohost, Michael Kors, who, as she recalls it, saw her in his clothes when she was 20 and said, "Thanks, but no thanks." Here, Klum poses in a lycra-and-leather swimsuit by Lenny.
"I was too curvy and too busty and a little too short," she says of her early days as a model. "And I was a little bit self-conscious about it. But I was by no means heavy, I just—well, you have hips and boobs, and that's it. Haute couture, you don't really see girls with big boobs. And I always wanted first to be a model. So I had to say, 'OK, you're going to find other things to do in this industry, or it's maybe not my industry.'" Here, Klum wears a brass-and-crystal bracelet by Hervé Van der Straeten.
Klum married Seal in 2005 and had a seemingly perfect marriage until this January, when the couple announced their separation. "It's hard, just like for other couples," says Klum. "People go through our trash cans. It's crazy. And you know, we have four kids; they have to go to school." Gilded brass necklace by Herve Van Der Straeten.
Klum, who had no qualms about posing nude, is just as uninhibited in conversation. She explained the importance of gay men in her life: "They are like this kaleidoscope of interesting thoughts and opinions. They teach you so many things about men that are useful." "Like what?" our reporter asked. Klum paused, and then made the universal tounge-moving-rapidly-in-cheek motion that signifies blowies. She explained what she's learned (off the record, of course), and our reporter said she discovered two things: 1) Everything sounds authoritative when said in a German accent, and 2) Seal was a lucky guy. Here, the supermodel poses in a Charles Albert necklace.
Allure creative director Paul Cavaco wanted to capture Klum as a 1970s Vogue girl, so she needed an era-appropriate tan. Makeup artist Brigitte Reiss-Andersen used a giant sponge to cover Klum in makeup two shades darker than her skin tone. "I wanted her to really glow," she said. Here, Klum poses in a Hervé Léger by Max Azria swimsuit.
Hairstylist Serge Normant amplified Klum's "natural glamour" with loose, sexy waves. After working volumizer through her wet hair, he blow-dried it and wrapped sections around a one-inch curling iron. He set those sections in hairpins. When he took them out, he used his hands to shake through her waves and smoothed a dry oil over the top for extra shine. "I didn't use too many products because I wanted the hair to move." Here, Normant and Klum playfully pose with a wig on set.
Reiss-Andersen wanted Klum to look like "a healthy beach girl." First, she traced dark brown eye pencil along Klum's upper and lower lash lines, then swept gold eye shadow across her lids. Next, she blended a terra-cotta cream blush onto Klum's cheeks, forehead, chin, and the tip of her nose. She brushed some of the gold eye shadow onto her cheekbones, then lined and filled Klum's lips with a glossy pink pencil to draw attention to her best feature: "When she smiles for the camera, it's as real as a smile gets." Here, Klum poses in a Tom Ford dress.
Klum swears she's never had any cosmetic surgery—even Botox. "Ask me again when I'm 65, but...I'm proud to be able to say, in this day and age, I haven't done anything," Klum says. "Everyone has a view of what's pretty and what's not pretty, and [surgery] just doesn't look pretty to me. Especially when I see it on really young girls. I don't want to name names, but it's like, Wow, I remember you five years ago, looking to me so beautiful, and now it's like... who is this person? And I know girls half my age who do it. What are they gonna do at 40 or 50, when the s-h-i-t really hits the fan?"
When the topic of Seal comes up, Klum says, "You know, I wouldn't change anything. If I had to go back in time and say, 'I should have changed this or that...' No. I don't resent anything that ever happened. Things just turn out the way they turn out.... I'm still in the eye of the storm now, and it's all a little bit crazy. But sometimes you have to be apart in order to figure it out."