Bündchen is born a few minutes before her fraternal twin sister Patricia in Horizontina, a small town near Brazil's Argentine border. As a kid, the 5'11" Brazilian is teased by her peers. "I was taller and skinnier than everyone else," she tells PEOPLE in 2000. "My nickname at school was 'Oli' for Olive Oyl." But she uses her height to her advantage, training extensively as a volleyball player.
Bündchen, 14, is spotted by an Elite Modeling agent in a São Paulo McDonald's. "They asked if I wanted to be a model, and I was like, 'Forget it,'" she tells New York's Daily News in 2004. "But in Brazil, people struggle, so I thought, 'You know what? I should try this.'" She moves to New York in 1997, where she catches the eye of top photographers Mario Testino and Steven Meisel, who coax magazines and designers to take a chance on the teenager. "I was mesmerized by her," Testino tells PEOPLE.
Bündchen single-handedly ends the "heroin chic" era brought in by Kate Moss when fashion industry's bible, Vogue, puts her on its cover. The magazine declares the "Return of the Sexy Model." The Brazilian import is named Vogue/VH1 Model of the Year (right) and by 2001, graces nine Vogue covers.
Bündchen follows the likes of Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum when she signs with lingerie giant Victoria's Secret. "I think guys like me because they like girls in lingerie," she tells Time about her Victoria's Secret work. "They like any girl in lingerie."
Bündchen frolics on the shores of Malibu with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The two remain coy about their relationship. "I don't talk about my private life," she tells New York's Daily News. "The only thing I have to say is that I so appreciate [Leo]." They endure a rocky, nearly six-year, on-again, off-again relationship before calling it quits (for good) in November 2005.
It may not be Vogue, but Bündchen graces the cover of Rolling Stone in a bikini. The magazine dubs the 20-year-old, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." Time magazine says she's "one of the few runway models whom straight men can name."
Bündchen makes her acting debut opposite Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon in the box office disappointment Taxi (right). "It's not Shakespeare, I'm not telling everyone I'm a serious actress, because that's not who I am. I'm a model!" she tells New York's Daily News of her role as Vanessa, a leader of a group of gorgeous bank robbers.
After her split from DiCaprio, Bündchen is photographed surfing and cuddling with Pamela Anderson's ex Kelly Slater (left) on the sands of Hawaii's Waikiki beach. The two tanned stunners are reportedly more than beach buddies.
Bündchen appears in the film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada despite reports that anyone involved would be banned from the pages of Vogue. She plays an editor opposite Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt (right).
Bündchen expresses her admiration for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, 29, telling the Herald, "Definitely not too shabby. He's pretty cute. All-American, that's a good way to describe him." The following month, Brady, who recently ended a three-year relationship with actress Bridget Moynahan – who later discovers she's pregnant – begins dating the 26-year-old supermodel.
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