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Alessandra Ambrosio: From Model To Fashion Icon

Alessandra Ambrosio smiling on the red carpet

Making the leap from supermodel to fashion icon is no easy feat, but nobody fits the bill quite like Alessandra Ambrosio. Her name is synonymous with the runway. In the days of Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel, Karlie Kloss, and Lily Aldridge (before influencers took over the catwalk), Ambrosio hails from the golden age of runway models. From running her own personal fashion brands, to being an ambassador of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, to making appearances in both movies and television, the Victoria’s Secret model seems to dip her toe into a variety of industries, proving herself to be a multi-faceted powerhouse not just in the fashion world.

With hobbies like skydiving, surfing, volleyball, and snowboarding, Alessandra Ambrosio embodies the concept that if you work hard, you can play hard. However, becoming an international success doesn’t happen overnight. The bohemian beach babe wasn’t always the ‘It’ girl opening up shows during fashion week. Read on to discover how Alessandra Ambrosio managed to skyrocket all the way from model to fashion icon.

Alessandra Ambrosio knew she wanted to be a model by the time she was 8

Alessandra Ambrosio as a baby

While some of us still might not know what we want to do with our lives even as adults, Ambrosio has known her calling since she was just a little kid. In fact, ’90s fashion icon Karen Mulder actually inspired the Brazilian-born rookie to pursue modeling. Ambrosio recalls seeing photos of the high fashion model: “I wanted to be like her,” she explained (via Hello! Magazine). This sparked a passion in Ambrosio for fashion — and the rest is history.

Ambrosio followed in the Dutch supermodel’s footsteps in more ways than one. Much like Ambrosio, Mulder has collaborated with Dior and Chanel on many campaigns, as well as gracing the cover of Vogue on several occasions. She was also featured among the original 1997 lineup of Victoria’s Secret “Angels,” when the name was first coined by the brand. She posed alongside Tyra Banks, Helena Christensen, Daniela Peštová, and Stephanie Seymour for the “Angels” collection that eventually sprung the elite group of Victoria’s Secret mainstays, which would go on to include Alessandra Ambrosio herself.

She received cosmetic surgery at age 11

Alessandra Ambrosio dancing as a kid

Unfortunately, plastic surgery has grown to be expected within the modeling industry as we all journey on our pursuit of perfection. But Alessandra Ambrosio has a different story. The model spent much of her childhood very insecure about her large ears. Therefore, at the young age of 11, she got a procedure done to pin her ears back, which she considers a botched surgery.

When speaking to The Edit by Net-A-Porter in 2013, Ambrosio described the complications she experienced due to the surgery and her continued hesitation to go under the knife ever again. “I always knew I wanted to be a model so I decided to have my ears pinned back, because they stuck out a bit.” She went on to describe the first few nights as feeling like someone had “cut off” her ears and said that for a year after, she had to keep returning for mini-surgeries until they were completely healed (via ABC News).

She was only 12 when she began modeling classes

Young Alessandra Ambrosio smiling

Having known she wanted to be a model from such a young age, Ambrosio wanted to start the process right away. At the fresh-faced age of 12, she began working with a modeling coach in order to focus on her runway walk, posing, and posture (per Glamour). In the pursuit of her big break, the Brazilian native participated in her home country’s Elite Model Look competition, run by the Elite Modeling Agency, the same competition that famously discovered legends like Cindy Crawford and Gisele Bündchen. Although she didn’t win, the agency offered her a contract anyway, which began the swift upward trajectory of her modeling career.

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The Elite Modeling Agency boldly passed Ambrosio’s modeling photos along to the fashion brand GUESS, which chose her as the face of their 1999 Millennium campaign, alongside Ana Beatriz Barros, when she was just 19 years old. This kick-started a lucrative partnership between the model and the brand. Among other fashion icons like Anna Nicole Smith and Claudia Schiffer, she was clearly in good company. Ambrosio would go on to appear in several GUESS campaigns and be listed among the most famous Guess Girls of all time.

Her first big modeling gig was the cover of Brazilian ELLE Magazine

Alessandra Ambrosio on the cover of ELLE

One of Alessandra Ambrosio’s first notable collaborations in the early days of her career was a cover shoot with Brazilian Elle Magazine. Following her induction into the GUESS hall of babes, Ambrosio was a hot commodity in the fashion world and her name recognition began rapidly spreading. Major photographers were lining up for the chance to work with her, and among these were the team at Elle Magazine.

Back in the ’90s, beauties like Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Ambrosio’s idol Karen Mulder were among the models gracing the magazine’s pages, meaning that the wide-eyed rookie model was already clearly bound for success after getting herself on the cover. She has since appeared on the cover of just about every country’s version of Elle Magazine, including Spain, America, Portugal, France, Russia, Japan, Greece, Italy, and so many more, exhibiting that her beauty really is universal.

She is an expert in the editorial world

Alessandra Ambrosio in pink dress

Apart from lending her looks to ad campaigns for GUESS, the 41-year-old model has collaborated with a long list of huge designers. The Brazilian beauty has had the honor of being the face of many campaigns, working alongside fashion houses like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Moschino, Ralph Lauren, Revlon, Prada, Chanel, Givenchy, Dior, Balmain, Gap, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and many others. Ambrosio is one of a select few models that have the ability to lend their versatility to so many different avenues.

Apart from online and print advertising, Ambrosio has cemented herself as a catwalk idol. Her time walking in Victoria’s Secret fashion shows is just the tip of the iceberg. Ambrosio has walked the runway for designers like Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, Tommy Hilfiger, Givenchy, Bottega Veneta, and tons more. She has demonstrated time and time again what it means to be the quintessential high fashion supermodel.

She is a Victoria’s Secret legend

Alessandra Ambrosio in the Victoria's Secret fashion show

It’s hard to think of Victoria’s Secret and not picture people like Alessandra Ambrosio, Adriana Lima, and Behati Prinsloo. Ambrosio has undoubtedly become synonymous with the brand . and vice versa. She began working with them in 2000, and although she had been walking in their shows for several years, Ambrosio did not gain the coveted title of Angel until 2004. Nonetheless, over the coming years she’s remained a favorite among the VS family. The model was actually the first spokesperson to be linked to the Victoria’s Secret PINK line. In 2008, Ambrosio famously walked the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show just three short months after giving birth. On a separate occasion, she sported the heaviest pair of wings ever made for a show while pregnant. In an interview with Seth Meyers, she shared that the wings were a whopping 60 pounds (via Insider).

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Ambrosio has also had the honor of wearing the Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bra on two separate occasions: the Floral Fantasy Bra and the Dream Fantasy Bra. The former cost $2.5 million and featured 5,200 stones, including amethysts, sapphires, rubies, and diamonds (via InStyle). A few years later, Ambrosio made VS history with fellow Brazilian Adriana Lima, as they walked the runway together in matching Dream Fantasy Bras that featured 16,000 gems, each costing $2 million. Ambrosio told People, “It is every model’s dream to wear Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bra so when you get chosen it is very important to do it with elegance and enthusiasm.” Although she hung up her Angel wings in 2017, Ambrosio remains Victoria’s Secret royalty.

Alessandra Ambrosio is considered one of the highest paid models

Alessandra Ambrosio on the red carpet

Much like the big step that exists between Victoria’s Secret model and the title of an Angel, there is a large distinction between model and supermodel. Typically, that distinction is made based off of a model’s earnings. Luckily, Alessandra Ambrosio has had a very lucrative career thus far. On several occasions, Ambrosio has landed on Forbes’ list of the World’s Highest Paid Models. She is reportedly earning around $6.6 million on a yearly basis, merely from modeling ventures. Ambrosio even gets the opportunity to share this title with many of her close friends. In fact, in 2016, 11 of the 17 women on Forbes’ list were made up of Victoria’s Secret Angels. A few other Angels who have been lucky enough to land on the Forbes list are Joan Smalls, Lily Aldridge, Taylor Hill, Barbara Palvin, Jasmine Tookes, and Miranda Kerr, among others.

Apart from modeling, Ambrosio has earned her fair share of television and movie credits. With appearances on “How I Met Your Mother,” “Entourage,” “New Girl,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Project Runway,” and “Casino Royale,” she has demonstrated aptitude for not only fashion endeavors but for acting as well — a well-rounded talent. Ambrosio was even selected as NBC’s Food and Culture Correspondent for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. When talking to Vogue about the opportunity, she said “I have been working in the modeling industry for almost 20 years, and have done so much, but there is always more I can do and learn.”

She became a blogger for Vogue in 2011

Alessandra Ambrosio blowing a kiss

Back in 2011, Vogue hosted a series called “Today I’m Wearing,” where people from the fashion industry would act as guest bloggers for their site. Vogue describes the series as a way to “showcase the daily fashion choices of both established and up-and-coming style icons.” Among these icons were people like Alexa Chung, Lily Aldridge, Francesca Versace, Liberty Ross, and of course, Alessandra Ambrosio.

As a guest blogger, the model would post a photo of herself every day for a month, breaking down her iconic looks and her approach to fashion. Ambrosio is famous for her laid back, beachy-chic style choices. During her stint as a blogger for the major publication, she let readers in on her style inspirations while demonstrating exactly why she was among the elite group of Victoria’s Secret Angels for more than 15 years.

In 2014, she started a fashion and lifestyle brand

Alessandra Ambrosio at ale by Alessandra event

In 2014, Ambrosio decided to start her own fashion and lifestyle brand in collaboration with U.S. retailer Cherokee, called ále by Alessandra. When conceptualizing the brand’s identity, the retired VS Angel hoped to pay homage to her Brazilian heritage while shining a light on her love for body-conscious and relaxed apparel. The website describes her collections as “feminine, vibrant, and effortlessly cool,” much like the model herself. Her goal for the brand was to share her “Brazil-Bohemia Meets Malibu Chic” style with the world. Her first collection debuted in the spring of 2014 and featured modestly priced clothes, ranging from evening formal to daytime casual.

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In a 2013 interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Ambrosio wanted to assure people that she was taking the endeavor very seriously. “This is not a hobby for me,” the model explained. “I’ve been a fashion model for 15 years and designing is just an extension of my career.” When discussing her aspirations for the brand, Ambrosio shared, “I’m creating a brand that’s everything that I am passionate about and have experience in, from growing up in Brazil, traveling around the world and moving here five years ago.” Celebrities like Nina Dobrev, Heidi Klum, Mariah Carey, and Candice Swanepoel are among the big names that have been seen sporting Ambrosio’s personal collections. Ále by Alessandra is being sold in stores across the country, including Bloomingdale’s, Revolve, Ulta, Nordstrom, Everything But Water, Planet Blue, and Neiman Marcus.

She has her own swimwear line

Alessandra Ambrosio meditating on beach

If you need to know anything about the Ambrosio, it’s that she really loves the beach and being outdoors. So naturally, in 2019 Ambrosio launched a swimwear line called GAL Floripa with her sister Aline and her close friend Gisele Cória (via Vogue). The brand’s name was created as a homage to a beach in Brazil named Florianopolis, where the model made fond memories as a kid. Florianopolis is known as “The Magic Island” and is the setting where Ambrosio and her friends used to spend every moment of their summers by the water, with their swimsuits becoming like a “second skin.” This went on to inspire the “feminine” and “holistic” approach to Ambrosio’s line, made by women, for women.

According to the GAL Floripa website, the brand is all about “cultivating women’s bonds to encourage each other in gaining the confidence to reach our true selves.” It is evident that the model has picked up a few tricks from her time working with Victoria’s Secret and various designers. Much like she does in regular life, Ambrosio hopes to reintroduce women to their femininity while connecting them with Mother Nature.

Her influence on fashion is undeniable

Alessandra Ambrosio smiling at Coachella

If the term “supermodel” wasn’t self-explanatory enough, Alessandra Ambrosio embodies every meaning of the word. To be a supermodel, one cannot merely look good while wearing clothing. Rather, a supermodel must have the ability to make everyone else want to wear that same clothing, and Alessandra Ambrosio has proven herself to be an expert at this. Not only is she a world-class luxury runway model, but she has become a fixture of the fashion industry due to her own personal style influences.

With over 25 years of modeling experience, Ambrosio has been ranked on People Magazine’s list of “100 Most Beautiful People in the World” as well as often being coined by the media as one of the world’s sexiest women (via Apple TV). Her bohemian style has evolved exponentially over the years, fusing together the looks of beachwear with the looks of streetwear to cultivate the relaxed elegance of flowy sundresses and open toed shoes. Her bold fashion choices over the years earned her GQ’s Fashion Icon award. Once described by Tyra Banks as the “future of the modeling world,” Ambrosio has indisputably lived up to the hype.