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Who Is Heidi Klum? Everything to Know About the AGT Judge
The multitalented model, producer, designer and actress plans those epic Halloween costumes far in advance.
American’s Got Talent Judge Heidi Klum grew a fashion and television empire—including an Emmy award—out of a modeling career that began when she entered and won a nationwide modeling contest in Germany in 1992 at the age of 18.
But how does a woman go from winning a televised modeling contest to being a judge on AGT (alongside Simon Cowell, Sofia Vergara, and Howie Mandel)? Read on for a look back at all of her successes.
How old is Heidi Klum?
Klum was born on June 1, 1973 in the German city of Bergisch Gladbach, which is just east of Cologne. She turns 50 in 2023.
Where is Heidi Klum from?
Klum is German by birth… but American by choice. She moved to the United States in 1993 and applied for U.S. citizenship in 2008, according to Politico.
Heidi Klum in the ’90s
Klum got her start in modeling by entering the Model 92 contest on the German show Gottschalk Late Night in 1992, along with more than 25,000 other women. After first winning Model of the Week on April 15, 1992, she won Model of the Month, and then Model of the Year on April 29, 1992. As the winner, she received a three-year modeling contract worth $300,000 with Metropolitan Models, which came with one caveat, according to Forbes: She had to earn back the money. (She wrote on her old website that she’d “really had longed for” the red car the other finalists received.)
But the 18-year-old Klum hadn’t finished her high school education yet, so she paused for two months to finish her exams and earn her degree. Then, she wrote, she took up modeling, “learn[ing] the ropes in Hamburg, then in Paris and Milan.”
“The life of a beginning model is difficult: One casting follows the other, and there can be a lot of rejection at first,” she said.
A year later, she relocated to Miami to try and get more work but told Forbes she found “an ocean of girls just like me.” She moved to New York in September 1993 where she lived with several other models in an apartment on the Lower East Side and went to casting calls all day, mostly unsuccessfully. "I cried a few nights a week," she told the magazine. "But I didn't want to go home a failure. "
She eventually began booking catalog shoots, then got her breakthrough moment as a cover model for Mirabella in 1994, followed by cover shoots for Vogue, Marie Claire, and Elle.
And, it was on a shoot that she got a piece of advice that changed the course of her life.
“They told me I had great boobs and curves and that I should start doing Victoria's Secret,” she told Forbes. “I nagged my booker until I got a [casting] call with them.”
Was Heidi Klum a Victoria's Secret model?
In 1997 — two years after her initial modeling contract expired and a year after she copyrighted her own name — Klum signed a 13-year contract with Victoria’s Secret. That year, she walked the runway for the first time for their fashion show, which catapulted her to a new level of fame.
She walked in every subsequent show except for 2006, which took place a week before she gave birth to her son Johan, including the 2004 “tour” that replaced the annual show. When her contract with the company expired in 2010, she announced she would not return to the runway for the company.
“All good things have to come to an end,” she told Page Six at the time. “I will always love Victoria’s Secret.”
Heidi Klum’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover
Though already a widely-recognized model, Klum’s career shot into the stratosphere when she graced the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue on February 20, 1998.
Following the publication of the cover and the attendant press opportunities, Klum appeared on the covers of more than 150 magazines and became a spokesperson and model for brands as varied as H&M, Jordache, McDonald’s, Dannon, and Volkswagen.
Heidi Klum’s movie and TV roles, from Ella Enchanted to Sex and the City
She also parlayed her growing fame into a number of television appearances, including a role on Michael J. Fox’s series Spin City, in which she played his love interest for seven episodes. She also made guest appearances on Sex and the City, Malcolm in the Middle, CSI Miami, How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives, and Parks and Recreation.
She also had roles in films, including Zoolander, Blow Dry, and Ella Enchanted.
Heidi Klum and Project Runway
In 2004, Klum became a judge, the host, and an executive producer for Project Runway in its debut season. The show (and Klum) were nominated for Emmys for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Klum won an Emmy for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program in 2013, and was nominated in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Klum appeared on the show for 16 seasons, but left — along with Tim Gunn — to launch their own fashion design competition show, called Making the Cut. It premiered in 2020 and has aired for three seasons.
Heidi Klum and Germany’s Next Topmodel
Klum also signed up as the host, judge and executive producer of Germany’s Next Topmodel — a modeling reality competition based on the American version that featured Tyra Banks as the host and judge — in 2006.
She’s served in that role for 18 seasons — the latest began airing in February 2023.
Heidi Klum, the designer
Though she dropped out of a post-secondary fashion design program to pursue her modeling career back in 1992, Klum has still managed to work as a designer in the industry.
She has designed a capsule collection for Jordache, shoes for Birkenstock, and jewelry for Mouawad. She's also partnered with Victoria's Secretby helping design their lingerie line "The Body" (which took its moniker from Klum’s own nickname). She’s also developed a line of children’s clothing that was sold through Babies "R" Us, a women's apparel line with New Balance, a lingerie line called Heidi Klum Intimates, and a fragrance line with Coty Beauty.
Heidi Klum throws epic Halloween parties
Klum has thrown a lavish and extravagant Halloween party since 2000 (except in 2020 and 2021).
Although her costumes have always delighted partygoers, 2022's Worm went viral — and she proclaimed it was her "craziest one yet."
Other costumes have included a poisoned apple, Betty Boop, Vishnu, a raven, a skinless corpse, a butterfly, multiple aliens and primates, Michael J. Fox’s character from Teen Wolf, and the green version of Princess Fiona from Shrek,
Plus, who can forget her rendition of Jessica Rabbit?
She’s said she often begins planning her Halloween look in the summer.
Who is Heidi Klum married to?
Klum tied the knot with Tokio Hotel guitarist Tom Kaulitz in February 2019. She had married the singer Seal in 2005, but the two separated in 2012 and finalized their divorce in 2014. She was married to Ric Pipino from 1997-2002.
How many kids does Heidi Klum have?
Klum has four children. Her eldest, Leni Klum, was born in 2004 and adopted by Klum’s then-husband, Seal, in 2009, according to People. Seal and Heidi welcomed son Henry in 2005, son Johan in 2006, and daughter Lou Sulola in 2009.
Klum’s eldest daughter has followed her mother into modeling starting at age 16, according to Vogue. She has appeared with her mother for two campaigns for the Italian lingerie company Intimissimi: one in October 2022 and another in May 2023. Leni Klum began attending college in New York City in August 2022.
This story was originally published on May 19, 2022. It was updated May 8, 2023.