SAO PAULO--The door to Gisele Bundchen's hotel suite high above Sao Paulo swings open, and there she is, for a moment. "Hi!" she says and rushes back inside. There, her Brazilian agent, Monica Monteiro, Monica's husband, Aluisio, and two of Gisele's sisters all stare down at a table scattered with sparkling jewelry of an unknown origin and discuss the matter in Portuguese. "What do you think?" asks Gisele, holding up what appears to be a diamond necklace in one hand and a diamond ring in the other. "The ring or the necklace?" Before anyone can answer, she's slipped the ring onto her finger and thrust the rest of the glittering booty at the reluctant Aluisio. "You're responsible," she tells him, smiling. Gifts from an overwhelmed fan? A publicity-hungry jeweler? Gisele's already on the other side of the room. "Oh my God, these are so amazing!" she says, and she's back with an enormous chocolate wrapped in gold foil. "You have to try one." She waits only to see that the first bite is enjoyed; then she's off again at the cartoon-like pace that keeps everything around her inching along in slow motion. Vida, the famous little Yorkshire terrier who follows her famous mistress from continent to continent, paces anxiously as the party heads for the door. The group avoids the lobby by taking the hotel's service elevator down to a dark passageway on the ground floor. Gisele, who turned 20 in July--on the 20th of the month in the year 2000, as she likes to point out--is easily the biggest star in all of Brazil. People there make pilgrimages to Horizontina, a small village of 10,000, just to get a look at the house where she grew up, and her arrival for Sao Paulo's fashion week threw the city into a tizzy. Other big-time Brazilian models may have made the trip home, but Gisele's only real competition here is Xuxa, the impossibly busty, brassy, blond host of a children's TV show, who turns up to walk for one of the local designers. Each woman has a contingent of young fans in a fenced-off area backstage who call out "Xuxa!" or "Gisele!" in vain. Gisele and company arrive at Nakombi, a laid-back, trendy sushi restaurant, and are ushered to a table up on a dais. Gisele sits between her sisters Gabriela and Raquel, and in a mad rush of Portuguese, brokers all requests and orders for the table. The owner hovers, then finally sits on the platform next to her. "He's going to open a place in New York," she announces. "I told him I would split my time between his place and Nobu, since I eat there three times a week." When the owner takes his leave, a waiter moves in. He looks over his shoulder nervously, slides Gisele a piece of paper and a pen, then looks back over his shoulder again, risking all for an autograph. She smiles and complies, and a few minutes later another fan approaches, crowds in with another piece of paper and another pen, and so on. "A few nights ago, I was in a restaurant, and this woman asked for an autograph," Gisele says. "It was a chic place, so I was surprised, but then she took out her cell phone and called her daughter and asked me, 'Can you say hi to her?' " Huge platters of sushi arrive, enough to feed a team of sumo wrestlers, and Gisele twists in her chair to order more. She's the kind of girl who doesn't remember your name, so she calls you "Baay-bee," but she's also the kind of girl who notices that your glass is empty and promptly orders you a drink. "No one knows where I'm staying in Sao Paulo," she says. "There was one paparazzi photographer who waited all day in the hotel lobby trying to find me. When he saw us, we ran and we ran and drove with the headlights off. "He was like MacGyver," she adds, laughing and pointing to Aluisio with her chopsticks. "I'm Gisele Bond! Double-O-G!" Gisele starts in on the feast, ravenous, while at the next table several sour-faced older women try not to stare. "Look at me, I'm an animal," she announces and reaches for more. One woman, then another, steals a glance at the gorgeous girl throwing back sushi rolls. "The last time I went out dancing in Brazil, I had five bodyguards," Gisele says, rolling her eyes. "Guys were jumping over them to grab my butt and screaming, 'Gisele, marry me!' I had to leave." Although she may be less noticeable in New York, the tabloid press hasn't made life there particularly pleasant for her lately. Besides printing accounts of her alleged nastiness--and almost everyone who has worked with Gisele can tell countless stories to the contrary--they've charted her breakup with Joao-Paulo Diniz, the Brazilian supermarket tycoon, and her alleged romance with Leonardo DiCaprio, whom she refers to as "this-guy-who-they-say-is-my-boyfriend" in a way that makes it sound like he is. Other stories have been less flattering. "Page Six reported that I passed out at a party," she says, her voice rising. "I went in and had one drink. Then I was in the bathroom and there were girls there who were kind of bothering me and the place was really getting crowded, so I wanted to leave. My friends were on either side of me, and I put my head down and my arms out like this just to get through the crowd." She figures that paparazzi are less likely to track her down in some random bar in midtown. "I like going places where there are no fabulous people," she says, putting a pair of quotation marks into the air with her fingers. "I like to go with my friends to the kind of bar only people from New Jersey and Queens like to go to, and just play the jukebox and dance to old songs. No one looks at you, and there are no lies in the paper the next day." She leans forward in her seat now, across the din of the table. "I know that if I had a normal job, I wouldn't make as much money, but if you have a normal job, you can go home and be normal. I love my job, but I don't love all of it. And I don't love being famous." But that hasn't stopped her. "I always knew she was going to be big," says Monteiro, the agent who brought Gisele to Sao Paulo at the age of 14. She describes with pride the way that Gisele walked differently from the other girls. "I was in Sao Paulo alone, and I was bored," says Gisele of her early days, "so I started to go in and answer the phones at the agency. This editor called and was looking for girls for a shoot, and I wanted to do it. The editor said, 'No, Gisele can't be in the shoot,' because she said that I have a big nose. I said, 'One day, she'll be sorry'--you know, just to make myself feel a little better. But now when that magazine wants to do a cover, they have to use pick-up photos." Monteiro smiles. The strawberries flambe arrive, covered by mounds and mounds of vanilla ice cream. Gisele digs in, and the ladies at the next table wince in pain. She pulls up her top and pats her perfectly flat stomach, showing everyone how full she is, and laughs at the idea that the newspapers will report that she's skipping couture because she's pregnant. "Yeah," she says, giggling. "Gisele is pregnant, and the father is the food. I'm going to have a strawberry baby!" Now it's 1:30 a.m., and she's sprung to life again. "We're going to go out dancing." The idea is shot down almost immediately. Her crew is tired and wary of bringing Gisele to a club on a Friday night. "She's got so much energy," says Monteiro, shaking her head. "I always say that NASA should study Gisele." The group files out. Dinner is on the house, but just as she reaches the door, Gisele turns back, pulls a wad of American cash out of her bag and, smiling, shoves it toward the waiter. On the sidewalk, each person waiting in front of a nightclub across the street turns to stare at her. The valet-parking guys can't seem to find the car, and a quiet crowd gathers, incapacitated by the sight of her. But Gisele seems just as surprised as they are. She slowly turns her back on the crowd. "Look," she says, with a smile, "at all these strange people."
Issa Rae stopped by WWD's NYC headquarters to talk about season two of "Insecure," which premieres this Sunday on HBO. Click link in bio for all the details. #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery; Styled by @mayteallende)
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"