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Since 2004, Bündchen has been among the highest-paid models in the world, and as of 2007 was the 16th richest woman in the entertainment industry. In 2012, she placed first on the Forbes top-earning models list. In 2014, she was listed as the 89th Most Powerful Woman in the World by Forbes.
In the late 1990s, Bündchen was the first in a wave of Brazilian models to find international success. In 1999, Vogue noted "The Return of the Sexy Model", and she was credited with ending the "heroin chic" era of modeling. Bündchen was one of the Victoria's Secret Angels from 2000 until mid-2007. Bündchen pioneered the "horse walk", a stomping movement created when a model picks her knees up high and kicks her feet out in front. In a 2007 Vogue interview, Claudia Schiffer stated that Bündchen is the only remaining supermodel. Bündchen ventured into acting when she played a supporting role in Taxi (2004), for which she was nominated at the Teen Choice Awards for Choice Movie Breakout Performance, and for Choice Movie Bad Guy. Bündchen had a supporting role in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), and from 2010 to 2011, she was the executive producer of an educational environmental cartoon, Gisele & the Green Team.
She supports many charities including Save the Children, Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, as well as dedicating time to environmental causes. She is the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme.
Bündchen is a fifth-generation Brazilian of German descent, born and raised in Horizontina or in Três de Maio, Rio Grande do Sul, Southern Brazil, to Vânia (née Nonnenmacher), a bank clerk pensioner, and Valdir Bündchen, a college professor and writer, both of German descent. She grew up with five sisters—Raquel, Graziela, Gabriela, Rafaela and her fraternal twin, Patrícia, her junior by five minutes. In addition to Portuguese, Gisele speaks English, Italian, Spanish and some French, and learned German at school, but has stated that: "... being out of touch with the language for such a long time, I unfortunately forgot it."
Bündchen wanted to be a volleyball player but joined a modeling course with her sisters Patrícia and Gabriela at their mother's insistence in 1993. The following year, Bündchen was discovered by the Elite modeling agency at a shopping mall in São Paulo while on a school excursion. She was subsequently selected for a national contest, Elite Look of the Year, in which she placed second. Bündchen placed fourth in the Elite Model Look world contest in Ibiza, Spain. At 14, Bündchen moved to São Paulo to launch her modeling career. In 1996, Bündchen had her first New York City break at Fashion Week.
Bündchen began dating New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in December 2006. In 2009, Brady revealed they had been set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. Bündchen and Brady married on 26 February 2009 in a small Catholic ceremony at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California. In April 2009, the couple held a second marriage ceremony, in Costa Rica. Bündchen and Brady have two children, a son born in 2009 and a daughter born in 2012. She is also stepmother to Brady's first son from his previous relationship with actress Bridget Moynahan, from whom Brady had split in December 2006. In 2010, Bündchen told Harper's Bazaar how important breastfeeding is for her. Bündchen and her family eat a primarily plant-based diet. Bündchen and Brady and their family live in Brookline, Massachusetts, and New York City.
In August 2011, Bündchen ranked 60th on the Forbes list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women. She ranked third on The 20 Youngest Power Women of 2011 List at age 31. In 2011 Forbes named Bündchen and Brady as the World's Highest Paid Celebrity couple, beating Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as well as Beyoncé and Jay-Z. In August 2012 she was one of four people in the fashion industry and the only model to be ranked on the Forbes list of "The World's Most Powerful Women" at No. 83. She ranked in the top 10 of the Forbes list of "Entertainment's Highest-Paid Women" in 2012, at No. 8. In July 2007 Forbes named her the world's top-earning model. By 2008, she continued to dominate the Forbes list of the world's highest-earning models, and appeared on the magazine's list of the Top 20 Richest Women in Entertainment.During 2009–2010, she was the top-earning supermodel.
In 2010, she retained the top spot as Forbes's highest-earning model. In May 2011, Forbes ranked her as the world's top-earning model for the fifth consecutive time. Her earnings climbed over the previous year, thanks to an economic boom in Brazil, coupled with a 10 per cent surge in the value of the Brazilian real against the dollar. Also in 2013 she ranked No. 3 on the 16 most successful female entrepreneurs list by Forbes. Bündchen, however, disputes the number, telling WSJ. magazine in November 2013, "Who are they speaking to when they come up with these numbers? Not my accountant, that's for sure."