Her piercing feline aquamarine gaze, playful dimples, and long, lean limbs are celebrated the world over, but at 15, Adriana Lima was just another hopeful girl entering a modeling contest. That same year, the girl from Salvador, Brazil, launched her career. She won the Ford Models Supermodel of Brazil competition, and the following year, she placed second in the Ford Models Supermodel of the World competition. She swiftly signed with Elite Model Management and moved to New York City. Today, the 38-year-old proudly owns her status as one of the world’s highest-paid models and the longest-running and “most valuable” Victoria’s Secret Angel. In 2000, she became a “Guess? girl” and later worked for Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, and Christian Dior. She’s also a star on the red carpet and has taken jobs with Maybelline and Kia, proving her power to cross over from high fashion to more commercial work. Today she is a brand ambassador for IWC, Puma, and Chopard, and yet, Lima still considers each new job with fervent enthusiasm. Onset in Egypt, she reflects on why she’s happy to let the good times roll.
What makes you laugh?
My children. They amaze me and make me laugh every day. Children say anything that comes to mind, whether we like it or not. They speak their truth and sometimes you don’t know where they come up with different comments. The moments when you have to correct them become very humbling because you have to explain why, and sometimes you don’t know how. It’s both very funny and awkward.
When are you most happy?
When I’m at home with family and friends. I love hosting, enjoying good food, playing games, jumping in the pool together, and playing music.
You’ve mentioned that you come from a long line of strong women. What imprint did your mother and grandmother leave on you?
I believe all mothers are strong and wear many hats. My mother and grandmother have always shown elegance, strength, and courage. Of course, I appreciated everything they did for me as a child, but it wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized the work and sacrifice they put into keeping a happy and safe home.
How would you describe your personality?
Silly, loving, and strong-willed. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on who I am and what I want, but I believe you learn about yourself every day and should always continue to grow.
An important pillar in your life is your faith. How has it helped you stay your course?
I believe that spirituality helps you find your path and work through hard times in your life. Whether you’re religious and pray, or practice meditation, there is something very powerful when you take a moment to reflect on your journey – past, present, and future.
What surprised you most about your first trip to Egypt?
I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt and was excited to work with Vogue Arabia on such a special trip. I was most surprised by its beauty. I knew it was going to be a special place, but I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. It was amazing.
How do you overcome the unexpected?
To be honest, I try to be flexible because work can come up suddenly and take me to unexpected places, however, with two children, I’m a planner and like to have a clear idea of what’s to come. Of course, life doesn’t always work this way, so I just try to make the best of every situation.
How would you describe the vibe on set with Samir Ghanem?
I loved Samir. He is a legend. He was such a gentleman and so funny! We played off each other on camera well, and he knew how to pose quite well, too. He made me laugh with his wit and charm.
Of your long list of achievements, one of the greatest is your ability to help a brand exceed its anticipated return on investment. What is your recipe for such engagement?
I just like to be myself. I believe in the brands I work with and hope that my audience realizes that I’m authentic.
Victoria’s Secret was such a big part of your life. You walked your final show in 2018. What is life like without it?
I loved my time with Victoria’s Secret, but all good things must eventually come to an end. I’m blessed to say that I’m still working a lot and spending all of my downtime on mommy duty.
What is your opinion on the rise of regular women on runways and magazine covers?
I love it! I believe all women are beautiful, no matter what size or color. I’m glad to hear that women who previously did not feel represented are starting to see people like themselves in fashion, film, and television. It creates a more inclusive standard of beauty, which, in my mind, is universal.
Originally published in the November 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia