How Supermodel Heidi Klum Became TV's Superwoman
by Bruce Fretts
Heidi Klum struts onto the Project Runway stage in Manhattan’s garment district and addresses a group of the show’s superfans, who are serving as models for the Sept. 19 episode. “I love Project Runway,” she tells them. “It’s my fifth baby, so to speak.”
If that’s the case, the real-life mother of four figuratively delivered her sixth child this summer: a new judging gig on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. But today, all of her focus is on Lifetime’s Runway — especially since guest judge Sigourney Weaver bailed at the last minute.
Good thing Klum and her team had booked hot designer Erin Fetherston along with Weaver. “Sigourney was really sick,” Klum later explains. “She canceled [her performance in] Broadway’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, too, so I was happy it wasn’t just us.” (The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco guest judges this week.)
It was yet another make-it-work moment in the busy life of the supermodel, who turned 40 on June 1. “If anybody can do it, it’s Heidi,” says her Project Runway cohost Tim Gunn. “She’s the closest thing to a superhero as a person can be.”
Gunn’s increased role — he attends every runway show and has the power to save one designer — is just one of the alterations Klum and Co. have made this season. Judges can now take an up-close, touchy-feely look at the outfits, which has made wunderkind designer Zac Posen (who replaced Michael Kors as a full-time panelist last season) more at ease.
“It’s great for Zac, because he’s so in his environment,” Klum says. “Michael Kors is not only one of the best designers; he’s also hilarious. It would be hard for anyone to take his seat.”
With typically refreshing bluntness, Klum admits, “I was not the biggest fan of last season’s Teams Edition. I told the network, but they said, ‘No, we want to do something different.’”
For now, Runway seems back on track, and Klum doesn’t see it coming to an end anytime soon. “If there were only five people watching, then we’d have to say, ‘All right, this is it,’” she says. “But if it’s still good and we have fans out there who want us to keep putting it on, we’ll keep putting it on!”
A few weeks later, Klum answers the door to her America’s Got Talent dressing room at NYC’s famed Radio City Music Hall in a robe — and without a stitch of makeup. And yes, she still looks gorgeous.
How does she do it all? “I’m done with Runway [for] this season,” she explains. “We had eight days of vacation, and now I shuttle myself back and forth every week. I’m here for two days, and the rest of the week I’m home [in Los Angeles ]. To be honest, it’s not superhard.”
She seems to have an easy rapport with fellow judges Mel B. (aka Scary Spice), Howie Mandel and Howard Stern. “I’m happy we’re all so different and wild and crazy,” she says. “Howard is cute. He’s always peeking over at his wife [Beth]. She gives the thumbs-up or thumbs-down.”
Stern gives Klum a big thumbs-up. “Working with Heidi is like waking up in the morning and smelling roses,” he gushes. “It’s been nothing but pleasant — no gossip or bad news. I’m glad she dumped Seal, how’s that?”
Klum’s split from her pop-star husband hasn’t caused a snag in her career (she’s now dating former bodyguard Martin Kristen). In fact, the only thing that has flummoxed her lately was having to wear the same outfit four days in a row for continuity during AGT‘s audition episodes in various cities earlier this year.
“By the second or third day, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m wearing the same thing again!’” she says with a laugh. “I wear an outfit for two hours and I’m over it. It’s just what I do.”
More people know what she does, now that she’s on one of summer’s highest-rated shows. “People notice me more on the street,” she says. “We went to [Long Island water park] Splish Splash, and people were like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s Heidi from AGT!’”
Any concerns about overexposure are given a firm “auf Wiedersehen!” “I’m not on TV constantly,” she stresses. “I’m on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There are still other days of the week!” — Additional reporting by Megan McCluskey
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.
Project Runway airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Lifetime.