Nearly one year after her divorce from Tom Brady, the supermodel, 43, opens up (in detail) about homeschooling her kids for three years, ditching alcohol and how meditation helps her through difficult times
There’s a viral TikTok video that depicts a young Gisele Bündchen walking the runway of the Givenchy Spring/Summer collection show in 2000. The heel breaks clear off her shoe, but the supermodel keeps walking so confidently, nobody even notices. Well, she noticed.
“It was crazy. The heel actually went in,” Bündchen recalls, sitting down with PEOPLE last Friday in N.Y.C following a panel for her new Gaia Herbs partnership. “So you’ve got to put all your weight on the front of your foot. And then, you have cramps and it hurts a lot, but you have to just do what you’ve got to do. I’m not going to crumble in front of all those people. There was no option of crumbling there. You’ve just got to pretend like nothing happened and hope that no one noticed. And I think that’s a great metaphor for life, because whenever the curve balls get thrown at you, do you crumble or do you rise? It’s a choice, right? You’ve got to rise.”
She certainly has. After overcoming a struggle with crippling panic attacks, anxiety and depression in her 20s, the supermodel, now 43, went through several years of tumult again in the past few years. Below, she opens up exclusively to PEOPLE about how she navigated difficult times, centered herself and showed up even stronger for her family.
Finding Her Footing
With the pandemic, Bündchen transitioned to homeschooling her son Ben, 13, and daughter Vivian, 10, with ex-husband, retired football icon Tom Brady. She also dealt with uprooting the family to move to Tampa Bay, Fla., for Brady’s final seasons of football before settling down in Miami after finalizing their divorce last October. In the background, she was also privately dealing with two ailing parents.
“It’s been very tough on my family. It’s been a lot — in every area of my life,” she says. “I feel like whenever it rains, it pours. With all the different twists and turns that life takes, all we can do is the best we can given what happens in our surroundings.”
Bündchen relied on meditation, daily exercise (“I work out every single day,” she says, noting a mix of walks, yoga and weights) and a dedication to wellness through nutrition — her debut cookbook Nourish is available for pre-order now — to keep her centered.
“I think if I didn’t have all the different tools that I have to support me during these times, it would’ve been very hard,” she says. “And I think we all can relate to that, because I think we all have gone through our roller coasters of life.”
With that in mind, she recently joined Gaia Herbs as Wellness Ambassador, where she’s sharing tips for incorporating the types of organic herbal remedies she grew up with in rural Horizontina, Brazil, into people’s busy American lifestyles.
”Sometimes, we can get so disconnected from our bodies because we are running away from ourselves, so we just keep adding more things for us to do,” she says. “Give me anything to eat, give me anything to drink. You’re just in this mode. I feel like whenever you can bring yourself back into feeling your body and just being present, it’s great. You’re kind of in your body and you’re really present. You’re breathing, you’re connecting.”
She also gave up alcohol in an effort to sleep better and feel more present in her daily life.
“Right after I turned 40, actually, I felt a huge difference between when I had the glass of wine and when I didn’t have the glass of wine,” she says. “It’s socially accepted to have a glass of wine. And people even say, ‘Oh, it’s healthy for you.’ Well, it is not healthy for me. If you want to ask of your body what I ask of my body, which is a lot, I can’t be having all these things (alcohol, caffeine) because they add up.”
The multi-hyphenate star says she “immediately” felt a shift in her every day life once she stopped drinking.
“I became more clear. I felt a bit more foggy before. Now I’m very sharp and very present and I notice things that I didn’t notice before,” she says. “When I’m not drinking, I’m sleeping much better. You have to be loving to yourself. You ask a lot of your body, you’ve got to do a reset. You have got to take care of this only vehicle you got, right?”
Bündchen says putting herself and her well being first was a conscious choice she made. “No one is going to do it for you. The only person that’s going to make those choices is you. Because ultimately, you’re the first person who’s going to be impacted by it. But then, it’s your children, it’s your husband, it’s your family,” she says. “You got to put the oxygen mask on you first.”
She also advises women — especially mothers — against the pervasive thought that self-care is selfish.
“It’s not a selfish thing. People have been teaching us that it’s selfish if you take care of you. How is that selfish?” she says. “When you feel good, you’re a better mom, you’re a better friend, you’re calmer, you’re more patient, you’re more loving, you’re more grounded. So you can’t feel guilty about prioritizing yourself. Because that’s loving you and loving the people you love the most, which are going to be impacted by how well you are. Because if you’re sick, everyone’s hurts.”
Meditation also helped her navigate the difficult times. “It’s like taking a step back and observing it like a movie, the situation happening,” she says. “And even though you feel the emotions, you’re not attached to them. It’s not attaching to the emotions, it’s observing them. And when you observe them, you can take this little step of separation. It can allow you to take a breath and come in from a place where it’s not reactive, but it’s more proactive. You’re like, okay, let me assess.”
Moving to Miami
Over the course of the last year, Bündchen has been transforming her life. She and her kids have settled into Miami as their new home base.
“I love the sunshine. Wherever the sun is, I feel like the happiest always,” she says. “Just feeling the sun, just taking a dip in the ocean, just running on the sand and just feeling the grass on my feet. Just being in nature just gives you energy. It just makes you feel good.”
She also wrapped up one final year of home-schooling before getting them enrolled in a new school. (Brady’s older son Jack, with Bridget Moynahan, was raised primarily in NY, but Bündchen remains very close to him.)
“They’re getting to know friends in school. They like it. It’s just all new. But they’re really liking it and they’re getting into their things,” Bündchen says. Vivi, 10, has joined the school swim team and Benny, 13, has been playing football for the first time. (He’s No. 12, just like his dad.)
“He just started. I just feel so proud of them. They’re so loving. They’re growing up to be just so thoughtful and considerate of others.”
They’re also continuing on with their long-term passions.
Benny is an accomplished artist and pianist. “I noticed that he loves music. I put a piano in the living room, so anytime he passes by, it’s there,” Bündchen says. “And now because I’m living in this 1,500 square foot house, it’s amazing because literally, it’s right there. He literally passes all the time to it, and every time he passes, he sits and he plays.”
Vivi is continuing her passion for horse jumping. “She’s like, ‘Mom, I’m going to be a professional horseback rider.’ That’s all she wants to do,” Bündchen says, joking that friends encouraged her to ditch the expensive sport. “When I was getting into it, people were like, ‘Gisele, get out while you can.’ I was like, ‘I don’t think I can get out. She’s obsessed.'”
Focusing on the Future
Bündchen recently purchased a horse farm where Vivi can ride her horse, Item, in privacy, but she says she puts her foot down when her daughter asks for another.
“Now she’s already trying to get other horses. she’s already like, ‘Mom. They told me I have to have a new horse to jump higher.’ I’m like, ‘You’re 10, calm down.’ Her horse jumps like a meter 20. ‘You’re going to be fine.’ I think it’s fine where you’re jumping right now.’ But she’s so courageous.”
But what makes her most proud is knowing she’s raised good humans.
“I think, for me, success means that I have raised children who have right values. You know what I mean? Because then, whenever I’m ready to leave, I know I have left something behind that is beautiful and that is an asset versus something different,” she says. “It makes me proud to see how they’re all becoming their own little individual selves, but how their principles and their values are so strong. It makes me so happy to see that, they’re flourishing into their own beings.”
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Carol Dennis is an entertainment aficionado with an eye for all things pop culture. She dives into the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, from movie premieres to music festivals. Carol’s passion for storytelling extends beyond her reporting, as she’s an aspiring screenwriter in her free time.