Gisele Bündchen didn’t know as she began gracefully gliding down the runway at the 2002 Victoria’s Secret fashion show that she was about to have a life-changing experience. But after that event, her relationship with fashion was never the same. Bündchen is telling her story in this month’s issue of Vogue.
In 2002, Gisele had an experience that transformed her relationship to the business. At that year’s Victoria’s Secret fashion show, protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals rushed the stage brandishing signs that read, “Gisele: Fur Scum,” in response to recent news of her contract with the furrier Blackglama. “Suddenly it dawned on me,” she explains. “I was in the hamster wheel: I’m just going to go out there and be a good girl and do what my agent tells me to do. What do I know? It wasn’t until that shock—it stopped me in my tracks. They sent me all these videos. I wasn’t aware of what was happening, and I was devastated. So I said, ‘Listen, I’m not doing fur campaigns.’ It put me in the driver’s seat, finally. The universe comes to you and says, ‘Hello, maybe you should notice this.’ You need to be responsible for the choices you make.”
Bündchen stopped wearing fur. And her open-mindedness and desire to learn continue to fuel a determination to help animals and the planet. She researched how animal agriculture devastates the environment, harms human health, and hurts animals, and she and her family are now thriving on a mostly plant-based diet. She’s an animal advocate, an eco-warrior, and a UN environmental ambassador. Her book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, explains how she went from being a kid in Brazil rescuing dogs and cats off the streets and dreaming of becoming a veterinarian to using modeling as a platform to make a difference on a global scale. She is, admittedly, on a mission to save the Earth—and everyone on it.
Almost as notable as Bündchen’s willingness to see, to reflect, and to transform is the publication that shared this story: Vogue. It’s the same magazine whose New York City office PETA President Ingrid Newkirk and Kate Pierson of The B-52’s took over decades ago, plastering the walls in “Fur Hurts” stickers and answering the phones, “We’re closed today due to cruelty.” And it’s the same publication whose furry editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, has been treated to more than a few tasty flying pies, courtesy of PETA.
Could it be, then, that even Vogue, the stalwart of the fur industry, is starting to pay attention to Bündchen and the legions of other models who refuse to be photographed in fur? And perhaps the legions of designers—including Donatella Versace, Michael Kors, Gucci, BCBG, John Galliano, Furla, Giorgio Armani, and Calvin Klein—that have dropped it from their lines after years of PETA actions?
Most people don’t contribute to animal suffering because they want to. Like Bündchen, they simply have not been made aware of the cruelty that is so often carefully hidden. That is why, as animal advocates, we can never stop speaking up. We must be bold, as we were back in 2002 when we confronted Bündchen and forever changed her. We must never be silent, because our silence will not end animal suffering. Today—and every day—we have to strive to show people what animal-abusing industries won’t. We have to give them the opportunity to see, to reflect, and, hopefully, to transform.