Alessandra Ambrosio And Mo Salah Share The GQ Men Of The Year Cover
Alessandra Ambrosio has a request. She would like to be the first model to go to the moon. She’s only half joking.
It’s a revelation that comes at the end of our interview, tossed over the shoulder as she walks down the stairs and into a waiting SUV. Cards on the table, we wouldn’t bet against it happening. Sure, there’s NASA to deal with but she must know some people who know some people – for more than 20 years this woman has been one of the most recognisable faces on the planet. Now is the perfect time to go and conquer a celestial body. Branson, Musk, over to you.
It’s kind of hard to reconcile that Ambrosio has been at the top of her game for so long. Even as the Brazilian model sits with GQ, all poise and beautiful angles, (her, not us) she doesn’t really look that different from the 18-year-old girl who booked the Guess campaign to kick-start a career.
“Guess was a dream come true,” she says sitting upstairs in the studio having moments earlier just wrapped the cover shoot with Liverpool and Egypt striker, Mo Salah. “This was when it really felt like my life as a model began, there was so much happening. I went to California for the first time, I went to Hawaii... it was a dream come true.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was intense, but I felt like I was conquering something, like you’re in there and fighting for your dream. Not that you’ve made it – because it was only the beginning – but that you were on the road.”
There’s a moment in almost every celebrity interview where you see the change-up. It’s like an invisible switch gets flicked and they revert to approved quotes and anecdotes. After a while you get to recognise the signs – the eyes glaze, the words robotically spoken, the interest levels disappear – for both them and you. But here’s the thing. Here, today, it doesn’t happen. Ambrosio is fun, energetic and gives real answers. There’s an argument to say that this is where her longevity lies.
Blazer, $2830, trousers, $980, Gucci. On her: Shirt, $2830, blazer, $4820, tights, $325, Fendi
“I definitely left Victoria’s Secret at the right time,” she offers up next. “That one was way overdue.” And after 17 years of walking that particular show she probably has a point, but the role was life-changing at a time when the industry had a supermodel shaped void in it.
“I booked the job just a year after Guess,” she explains. “In the beginning I was kind of just in awe of everybody there. My first show was Cannes in 2000, I was the new girl, nobody took any notice for sure. But little by little it happens. Suddenly you have a fan base, you get noticed... suddenly you’re an Angel.”
But the industry is changing – another valid reason for Ambrosio to hang up her wings. While 15 years ago the glamour of Victoria’s Secret was controlled and measured (“you only saw what we wanted you to see”), now nothing is really off-limits.
“I honestly think we shoot more back stage footage than show footage these days,” she says with something of a sigh. “Social media and technology have changed everything. Before you were fed little slivers of glamour, now it’s the full dinner service. Everybody has a phone, you can be filmed at any time and from any angle. But you know there is a positive to that, somewhere. It means that you need to be happy with who you are and how you look. It makes you feel ok not to be perfect... to look that perfect, it takes a village, you know?”
Thankfully for Ambrosio, social media is a game that she has kind of transcended. Yeah, she posts regularly, but she can be selective and has an army of 10 million followers in the bag regardless. It’s funny, you always expect a bit of kick back on social media from the established order over the new guard, a dismissive push-back to the people offering what seems like their entire lives up to the Instagram grid. But not so here.
“Am I pleased I’m not making my name in the industry now?” She asks, the combination of her Brazilian accent and my northern English one requiring occasional clarity.
“You know, I think the industry was way harder 20 years ago than it is now. It was so hard to be discovered back then. When I was 12 and was obsessed with magazines and being a model I had no idea how to get into the industry at all. It was a very small world back then, with less work and less people. Now there are more people and more opportunities, so it’s all in proportion. But with more demand comes more exposure – and you have to be ready for that.”
A few days later, it still feels like there’s something a little at odds at awarding the 38-year-old Ambrosio GQ’s Fashion Icon. Not that it’s not deserved, but icons are meant to be, well, older, right? Fact is she's packed a heck of a lot into that 20 years. As we go through a checklist of brands, magazines and photographers (the late Peter Lindbergh being a favourite) it’s impossible to find one she hasn’t worked with, a runway she hasn’t walked, a job she hasn't booked. There alone lies the reasoning behind the status. Icon it is.
Blazer, $2700, trousers, $1430, Prada. Dress, $3830, Prada
But while the glamour of the jobs skates across the surface, beneath it all lies hard work and passion. “I was booking jobs every day with Victoria’s Secret and travelling to the most beautiful islands in the world to shoot with my friends, but it’s tough, this job. You have to love it.
And Ambrosio does love it, still. You can see it throughout her shoot with Mo Salah, passion, energy, bringing a wide smile out of the bashful Egyptian, making him more comfortable with every shot.
“I always aim to bring that energy to every shoot,” she explains as we pack up for the day. “I’m still so excited to book every single job, I embrace the challenge... every time we have to get something amazing. I honestly think that I’m still living the dream. The minute you stop trying, life just isn’t interesting.”
So, with that in mind, what’s a girl got to do to get a flight to the moon around here?
Photography: Peggy Sirota
Styling (Alessandra Ambrosio): Kate Hazell
Styling (Mo Salah): Keanoush Zargham
Makeup: Carolina Gonzalez
Hair (Alessandra Ambrosio): Frankie Foye
Grooming (Mo Salah): Carmelo Cannata