Gisele Bündchen considers her memoir, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, to be a letter to her younger self and a voice behind an image, one that she hopes that she can use for good.
Is Lessons worth a read? Absolutely. It’s a light and uplifting read, more self-help than lifestyle guide.
The book’s chapters are divided into sections of mantras and practices such as “Know Thyself” and “Challenges are Opportunities” that Gisele contributes to her successful career and that have helped her live a purposeful life.
It’s very personal. At times I got lost reading about Gisele’s inner self. However, she is so earnest and her advice is practical that overall, I enjoyed what she had to say.
Images, clockwise from top left: Gisele poses above the New York City skyline on the Plaza hotel’s Royal Terrace Suite balcony. Photographs by Mario Testino; styled by Sarajane Hoare for Vanity Fair May 2009 / Pinterest / Gisele Bündchen for Ralph Lauren S/S 1998 / Photo by Bob Wolfensen / A childhood photo of Gisele with her sisters and mother, via Instagram @gisele Supermodel Fan saved to Gisele Bundchen Editorials
From the Editorial: 24-Hour Couture, Gisele Bündchen by Karl Lagerfeld for Harper’s Bazaar Korea August 2007; see more here
“Everything in life starts with a dream. But first the dream needs to be clearly defined and, more important, you need to understand why you want it.” –Gisele Bündchen
Here are a few things I learned about Ms. Bündchen:
Her dedication to her family is a driving force.
Gisele writes more about her family more than any editor, photographer, or designer she has worked with. She is extremely close to her five sisters and parents.
Her love for her family and children radiate through her words and it is clear that she takes pride in her personal relationships more than anything else.
It was also nice to read about what she considers one of her greatest relationships, the one with her dog, Vida. When Gisele was thousands of miles from her family in Brazil, Vida was her constant companion (and at sometimes co-model).
She attributes her success to discipline, more so than her appearance.
In “Lessons” Gisele writes that she was one of many beautiful girls in the fashion world. She even describes herself as being “unphotogenic.”
When she started modeling as a teenager, she was told that her eyes were too small; her nose was too big, that everything about her was “all wrong.”
The discipline that she learned from her parents allowed her to focus on her goals, more than the criticism. She worked as much and as often as possible and according to her, has never been late to a job.
When she gained success, she refrained from falling into the traps of a sudden rush of income. She even traded her first class airplane tickets for cheaper seats so she could save money to buy an apartment in New York.
Self care also requires discipline.
Gisele has much more resources than the average person, but even she has to work at maintaining her physical and mental health. There are no magic pills or detox regimens listed in this book. Exercise, a healthy diet, yoga, and meditation are part of Gisele’s holistic approach to wellness.
Her advice such as drinking lemon water in the morning and refraining from coffee and sugar are adoptable–with discipline.
The image she portrayed as a model was often different from her reality.
In 1999, Anna Wintour chose the nineteen-year-old Gisele for a feature called the “Return of the Curve.” She was a symbol for the end of “heroin chic.” Editorials such as this one propelled the young model into stardom and soon she was a household name with lucrative campaigns for companies like Victoria’s Secret and Versace.
Gisele writes of working 350 days a year, starting the day off with a lack of sleep and a mocha Frappuccino, surviving long shoots on coffee and cigarettes, and developing scoliosis because of posing in heels for hours at time.
It’s no wonder that she struggled with anxiety.
What surprised me was her insecurity. One thing that stood out in Lessons is how many times she mentioned being criticized for her looks and also the pressure to pose without clothes, at a young age before she was comfortable. You can tell that this still affects her today.
You could argue that she’s earned millions and that it was worth it. But many young women, especially in fashion go through similar situations and do not make it.
We are entering a time where we can recognize that appearance, wealth are not the key to health, happiness or success and that’s part of this book’s message.
Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life was published on October 2, 2018 by a division of Penguin Random House.