Gisele Bündchen has walked down 600-plus runways throughout her 20-year career as a model. But in her new memoir, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, she reveals that her first major fashion show was far from a positive experience. In fact, she broke down crying before stepping on the runway.
Back in 1998, Bündchen recalls being set to appear in an Alexander McQueen show—her first ever international gig, according to Cosmopolitan—and “couldn’t believe” that she had been chosen. But that excitement would melt away when she saw her look for the first time, the day of: a skirt—and nothing else.
“Where’s the top?” Bündchen remembers asking someone, who informed her that there wasn’t one. The model then started to cry, as she was afraid that coming down the runway topless would disappoint her family. “I was a good girl. I was a tomboy. I was someone whose big breasts had embarrassed her since she’d hit puberty,” she writes, per Cosmopolitan. “I was a girl gripped by the fear that my family would feel so embarrassed they would never speak to me again. I was terrified.”
Thankfully, someone backstage had her back: “As soon as Val, the makeup artist, saw the situation, she said she would paint a top on me using white makeup… Val told me how beautiful it looked and said that the runway was so dark nobody would know,” Bündchen recalls. Because the show took place in the rain, “no one could tell what was rain and what was tears.”
Bündchen writes that her family never saw the photos from the show. And according to Cosmopolitan, she credits that Alexander McQueen show as one of the most important jumping-off points of her career. Still, she’s not the only model to speak out about the pressure of going topless, especially when you’re starting out: Kate Moss recently opened up about a similar experience at a photoshoot, saying “there was pressure… I worked with a woman photographer called Corinne Day, and she always liked me with no top on. And I did not like it at all when I first started.”