A Most Beautiful Angel: Doutzen Kroes
on her way to becoming one of the most successful supermodels on the planet.
How important is it to believe in yourself?
In the case of an18-year-old Dutch girl with the unlikely name of Doutzen Kroes, she refused to give up even when she felt lonely and afraid after arriving in New York City in 2003 to pursue a modeling career. Growing up in the tiny village of Eastermar (population 1600) in a remote northern region of Holland called Friesland, Kroes dreamed of living a more glamorous life. A strikingly attractive teenager, her friends kept telling her that she could make a fortune as a model. So she sent a few photos of herself to Paparazzi, an Amsterdam-based modeling agency, with the vague hope of earning some extra money and maybe getting to travel to Paris.
What followed was beyond her wildest expectations. The agency immediately signed her to a contract and flew her to New York where she was put up in a flat in a seedy area of the city that she shared with several other wannabe models. "I felt super-young coming from the north of Holland, and I went to Amsterdam only once before I went to New York. It was a really big adventure to go there," Kroes recalls.
"But it was very hard at the beginning. I didn't really like the area where I was living (the meat-packing district), and I wasn't getting any jobs because people kept saying that I was 'too pretty' to do runway shows because I was distracting from the clothes. I was thinking about going home but I have a pretty tough character and I just told myself that eventually something would happen," she says. "I wasn’t booking jobs, and I was very lonely. There’s a Dutch saying that my mother had always told me: 'You’re not made out of salt,' so being tough and very disciplined helped. The success that people see now took a long time to achieve."
Her determination paid off. Within a year she landed her first magazine cover for the French edition of Elle, and in 2005 her big break came when the iconic fashion photographer Steven Meisel shot her for the cover of Italian Vogue. "When that issue came out, everything changed. All of a sudden everyone wanted to work with me. Meisel is the godfather of fashion and photography. It opened up my eyes to how the industry works—it’s very important to do editorial."
SECOND-HIGHEST EARNING MODEL IN THE WORLD
After that, there was no stopping Doutzen Kroes (pronounced Doubt-zen Cruise) and she was on her way to becoming one of the most successful supermodels on the planet. Today, at age 30, her annual earnings of $8 million rank her second only to that of Gisele Bündchen.
A prime ingredient in her rise to prominence was becoming a Victoria's Secret (VS) model. Always on the lookout for women who fall outside the ultra-thin profile of the typical runway model, VS immediately saw the potential in Kroes' more athletic build. She credits cycling as a teenager and her fondness for speed skating (her Dutch parents were both champion speed skaters in Holland) for having given her body a very toned appearance.
"I've biked my whole life. We didn't have bus service when I was going to school in Holland, so I biked around 25 kilometers to school every day. I did speed skating, too. I was always working out. Then when I came to New York I started modeling, and then took up boxing. Your body becomes really long and lean and toned instead of bulky and too muscular."
VICTORIA'S SECRET ANGEL
Kroes did her first show for the mega-selling Victoria's Secret lingerie brand (annual earnings in excess of $6 billion) in 2005, following in the footsteps of Gisele Bündchen, Heidi Klum, and Adriana Lima. With her statuesque (5'9"), full-figured beauty and charismatic runway appeal, Kroes was an immediate hit as a VS model and in 2008 she was signed to a contract with the brand, thereby becoming an official Victoria's Secret Angel. "Signing as a Victoria’s Secret angel opened so many doors," she says. "The recognition you gain is tremendous and it takes you beyond the limits of the fashion world and gives you international exposure that is hard to get otherwise."
Over the years, Kroes has become the campaign spokesmodel for major global brands that include L'Oréal (hair and makeup products), Tiffany & Co., (jewelry), and most spectacularly, Calvin Klein (fragrances).
Having worked as L'Oréal model for the past decade, she made a major splash when she appeared in a new campaign for L’Oréal’s "L’Or Sunset" Collection, created especially for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Kroes (far right) shown here at a Victoria’s Secret event, became an official Victoria’s Secret Angel in 2008
CALVIN KLEIN "REVEAL" SPOKESMODEL
Last September, Kroes became the official face of Calvin Klein's new fragrance, Reveal, and has since seen her face plastered on billboards and magazine ads around the world as part of the brand's major new ad campaign. That kind of multi-million dollar contract is yet another milestone in the career of the Dutch supermodel, and is further proof that she has attained the highest level of her profession.
The thrust of the Calvin Klein Reveal campaign is a series of semi-nude print ads and a racy TV spot that has Kroes appearing alongside Charlie Hunnam, the actor who was originally chosen to play Christian in the Fifty Shades of Grey film but later backed out.
Said Kroes: "Calvin Klein is almost like an extended family: I worked with them for White Label and Eternity, and I’ve had a lot of work experience with them. The whole scenario was almost like a fantasy that never really happens—like seducing your neighbor. So, that was a lot of fun, and Charlie is great, and sweet, and a gentleman."
In the video spot, Kroes and Hunnam play naughty neighbors that tease each other through the windows of their facing luxury apartments, Rear Window-style, lending a sexy and sensual aura to the commercial. "Charlie was amazing. He was a very, very nice guy. I was not wearing so many clothes [in the commercial], and he would be like, 'Here, here's a robe. Are you okay? Do you need anything?' He was very sweet about it and very caring. He would have been really great, I think, in the movie. The scenario in the commercial is a little like what they needed for the main character."
Kroes as a spokesmodel for Tiffany & Co., L'Oreal and Gucci
WORK AND MOTHERHOOD
While supermodels like Kroes tend to take on an ethereal aura and are held in almost Goddess-like esteem by the public, it would be easy to forgive her for becoming overly enamored with her fame and fortune. But there is no room for ego or excess in the world of the very level-headed Kroes. Though people may think being a model consists of non-stop parties and glamorous events, she offers a cautionary note to young girls thinking of making a career in the business and who may be reading the fashion magazines and watching the various "Next Top Model" shows.
"People have the impression that the industry is always glamorous, but it’s not! We have to work really hard. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and now I’m getting some of the glamorous side. But in the beginning, it’s taking the subway to go to castings, running around… It’s really hard work! In the beginning, you don’t get to fly home and visit family whenever you want because you don’t have the money, and you can’t miss a moment because the next opportunity could be waiting."
In every sense, Kroes is still the good-natured Dutch girl from Friesland who is happily raising two daughters together with her DJ husband, Sunnery James, a star in his own right. The handsome couple were married in Amsterdam in 2010 and are proud parents to a 4-year-old son, Phyllon, and toddler daughter, Myllena Mae, born last July. Kroes had no qualms about starting a family at a moment when her career was skyrocketing and she was at her busiest. "The balance between managing a career and being a mother is always going to be a challenge, but I believe in being active and working hard. I love having a beautiful family which makes my life so whole... I've also become more successful since I've become a mother. To me, that's like proof that if you're happy that's good for you, and people see that." Added Kroes: "I've always known that beauty is also from the inside. If you're happy, that will shine through. I've always believed that, but since I've started having a family, I became even more happy, and I think it even shows more."
Based out of Amsterdam, where she prefers to spend most of the year, and New York, Kroes and James both travel extensively for their jobs, although she generally brings her children with her wherever she goes. "When my eldest starts going to school, I might have to re-think that, although I will probably be doing something else with my life, maybe acting, by then."
HEALTH AND BEAUTY SECRETS
After the birth of her first child, Kroes was back at work barely three months later and looking in perfect shape. She believes that her body's ability to recover its supermodel shape so quickly is a result of having both good genes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle overall. She follows a routine called Ballet Beautiful developed by trainer Mary Helen
Bowers three to four times a week and follows a restrictive diet one month before a major fashion shoot or show. "It's a mix of genetics that I got from my mom and eating healthy and being active all my life,” she says. “I've always worked out and I'm young. It's the work you put in before that's more important." She also wants women to know that maintaining her fabulous figure requires constant work. Kroes says she also had to fight early in her career with modeling agents and casting directors who wanted her to lose more weight than she was prepared to do.
"I can’t stand it when models say 'Oh, I eat whatever I want—fried chicken for breakfast, dessert with every meal.' Is that reality? I work really hard for it [my body] because it’s my job! I have to be in the gym every day. I have to be really healthy. I have to give up things for it. Nobody’s going to win the world Olympics without practicing. At some point, I had to tell my agent, ‘I can’t not eat, because I get hungry!’" She adds: "Diet is 70 percent of what your body looks like. You can work out all you like but if you don't eat well then it’s a problem. I stop drinking [alcohol] a month before the show and no sugar. I still eat carbs because to have just protein and vegetables doesn't work for me. But I eat one potato with some fish and greens—very basic and happy food."
For the past three years, Kroes has hired a personal trainer, the former boxer Michael Olajide (videos of their routines can be found on YouTube) to keep her in top shape while also working with Bowers at her gym in New York's Soho district. "(Mary also) comes to my place [in New York] and she does Skype sessions (when Kroes is on the road). Ballet is amazing for a woman's body; you work on the little muscles. I like the combination between boxing and ballet. It's very extreme."
LIFE AWAY FROM THE CAMERA
Away from the catwalk and cameras, Kroes maintains a relaxed look. She is often spotted by paparazzi wearing jackets and jeans and little makeup and some might say she even looks more beautiful in her everyday, natural self than her supermodel alter ego.
"I would define my style as casual chic. That means I wear lots of jeans and T-shirts and I like to dress it up with accessories like a nice bag or a pair of shoes. I love jeans. The fit is very important. A little bit stretchy comfortable and especially how the butt looks... I'm a typical girl that way." She also maintains a relatively simple beauty routine and goes makeup-free when she's not working.
Doutzen with husband Sunnery James
"I don't always feel sexy even though I have to look it and I've just learned to go into on and off mode. I'm a mom at home and then I go into work and it's nice to have that contrast. I see a different person in the mirror when I'm at work with hair and makeup than when I'm home,” she says. "I prefer not to wear too much makeup when I'm not working, so my skincare routine is just jumping in the shower and putting on moisturizer. I've been using vitamin E oil and that's been working really well and then I'll put on lip gloss or mascara and that's it. I use L'Oréal Paris BB cream—it's quick and not heavy.”
She adds: "At nighttime I have a little bit more time because the kids are in bed. I enjoy taking a long shower. Basically, all I do is just a moisturizer and maybe some mascara. I go see a facialist once in a while, and I put on an oxygen mask and moisturizer. That's it."
At 30, the divine Kroes is more in demand as a model than ever. She recently ended her contract as a Victoria's Secret model because she is too busy doing other projects (some have suggested it was a salary dispute), and is careful about wanting to spend quality time to her husband and children. "If I really don't feel like (taking a particular modeling job), I'll change my plans and choose to be with my baby. If that moment makes me happier, I think that's more important. If I've been working a lot and I've been away from my kids, then I don't go to the gym. It's okay to miss a day. I tell myself not to feel bad about it."