It was back in 2007 when South African-born model Candice Swanepoel rose to international fame, becoming a Victoria’s Secret ‘Angel’. In doing so, she followed in the footsteps of some of the modelling world’s most renowned names such Helena Christensen, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Gisele Bundchen, Miranda Kerr and close friend Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Earlier in 2013, she was named as the cover model of the coveted Victoria’s Secret Swim Catalogue and wore the Royal Fantasy Bra, worth a reported USD 10 million, at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. All in a year’s work for the girl from KwaZulu-Natal.
“I was the lucky girl wearing the multimillion dollar Fantasy Bra,” smiles Swanepoel, discussing the bra and matching belt, designed by Mouawad and featuring some 4,200 gems, including rubies, diamonds and yellow sapphires, set in 18-carat gold with a 52-carat ruby at the centre.
“It’s quite a moment when they tell you that because there has been such iconic women before me, like Giselle Bundchen, who have worn it. They told me five months before because they had to mould my body. They came in and did a plaster mould and then five months later the bra was done… it’s kind of a big ordeal. The bra comes with two bodyguards and you have to handle it with a lot of care!”
“I got the call that I’d landed the show and I couldn’t believe it. It totally changed my life when I think about that first year and how much I’ve grown to now, it’s crazy.”
The bra is the most expensive of its sort since Gisele Bundchen wore Victoria’s Secret’s Sexy Splendor Fantasy Bra back in 2005. If ever one item summed up Candice’s modest background to lavish riches story, then the Royal Fantasy Bra was it. It is perhaps the pinnacle moment for the 25-year-old, who has appeared in global versions of Vogue, GQ and ELLE.
The glitz and glamour is all a far cry from Swanepoel’s childhood, where she was raised on a dairy and beef farm just outside the South African town of Mooi River.
“I was very awkward looking in high school—very skinny, knobby knees. I had braces too. Somebody actually scouted me in a flea market in Durban and that was the first time it kind of got into my mind. I used to watch fashion TV a lot and the girls were kind of androgynous and skinny, which I fit into. At that time in South Africa it was all about the bombshell, the sexy blonde, and I had dark hair and was skinny, so they sent me overseas very quickly! It’s funny that now I’ve turned into the blonde bombshell.”
Candice moved from South Africa to Paris while still a teenager, but after just a short spell of modelling and living in France, she contemplated giving up the lifestyle and returning home.
“Victoria’s Secret had asked to see me, so my agent told me that I should come to New York, meet them, and if they signed me up I’d move to America,” she recalls. “And if they didn’t sign me, I was leaving Paris and going to go back to South Africa.
I got the call that I’d landed the show and I couldn’t believe it. It totally changed my life when I think about that first year and how much I’ve grown to now, it’s crazy. I mean, it’s all about representing the brand and they choose a certain number of girls to embody what a Victoria Secret model is—a healthy beautiful woman.”
Swanepoel’s success has had so much to do with the support of her parents, Eileen and Willem. While other parents might have reservations about modelling as a choice of vocation for their daughter, Candice’s were always committed to backing her dream.
“My parents were really supportive to my brother and I for whatever we wanted to do,” says Swanepoel. “They’re a big part of why I carried on.
There were times I wanted to give up and go back to South Africa and study, and they knew I had more opportunities overseas so they were like ‘hang in there’. It was hard for them and I think it’s worse now because I have my own life; I work so much that it’s hard to find the time to go back. I don’t think they ever thought all this would be happening on this level, but yes, my parents miss me a lot.”
The biggest factor in Candice’s success has, of course, been her own hard work. She has talked on numerous occasions about the loneliness that comes with modelling and admits to feeling homesick early in her career as she moved around Europe and the United States. There are also high expectations from other people and physical demands that come with being seen as one of the most attractive women on the planet.
The biggest factor in Candice’s success has, of course, been her own hard work.
“The models now are like athletes,” comments Swanepoel. “We have a lot of work days, so it’s a lot of endurance and we have to be strong. I work out hard like three times a week, but everyone’s body is different. It’s all about dedication. I have an extremely high metabolism so I have to eat a lot because we’re travelling around and using our bodies all day. So, I fuel up but I work out a lot so I balance it that way.”
“In the run-up to shows, I ramp up my workouts and I cut back on stuff that’s not good for me. I work out usually five times a week for an hour or two each time for the month before the show. I do a lot of green juices and green tea.”
The support of Candice’s family and her hard work and dedication has most certainly paid off. Swanepoel made her debut at number 10 on Forbes’ The World’s Top-Earning Models list with estimated earnings of USD 3 million between 2010 and 2011, and was ranked number 9 in 2013 with income of around USD 3.3 million.
Candice cites her phone, lip balm, music, love and daisy dukes as the five things she can’t live without and the ultra-ambitious model is not short of ideas with what she would like to do with her future.
“I’d like to open a charity for abused animals, learn to surf, DJ, sky dive, come out with my own line, study reflexology, interior design, have children and buy a beach house,” replies Candice, with little hesitation.
Given what she has achieved already, few will doubt her ticking off all the aforementioned items on her lifetime ‘wish list’.