Gisele Bündchen has ascended to become the world’s most famous supermodel since walking in her very first big show, Alexander McQueen, in 1998. But in her revealing new memoir, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life (out today), Bündchen says that her life-changing moment on the runway almost never happened.
In the book, she writes that she was 18 years old at the time of the McQueen show and fresh to the world of runway modeling. “This was my first big international show, and I had no idea how it worked,” the now 38-year-old writes.
She was hired to model three looks total. She walked the runway in the first two outfits “without any problem,” she says. However, she noted, “it was definitely fewer clothes than I’d ever worn on any runway.”
For the third look, her last for the show, she was asked to wear a fishtail skirt and nothing else — meaning she would have to walk completely topless.
“I began to cry,” she writes. “I had no idea what to do. Mostly, I thought about how disappointed and embarrassed my parents would be. I tried to hold back my tears, but they just kept coming down, and the black feathers glued to my lashes began coming unstuck.”
Luckily, the show’s makeup artist, the legendary Val Garland, swooped in and painted her with white makeup to create the illusion of a top. “If Val hadn’t shown up just then, I seriously doubt I could have walked the runway. I remember thinking that if anyone took photos of me, at least my parents wouldn’t be able to recognize me in my black wig.”
During her vulnerable moment, rain started pouring from the ceiling. She writes that she was thankful for the visual effect because no one could tell she was crying as she walked the runway.
The 5 Biggest Revelations from Gisele Bündchen’s New Memoir
Her McQueen memory is just one of the many revelations she shares throughout the memoir.
In it, she also opens up about her past demons and how she overcame them to live a happy, healthy life with husband NFL quarterback Tom Brady and their children, son Benjamin, 8 and daughter Vivian 5, as well as Jack, 11, Brady’s son with actress Bridget Moynahan. From her ongoing battle with anxiety, to her plastic surgery procedure regrets, she reveals a side of herself the public hasn’t seen before.
“Things can be looking perfect on the outside, but you have no idea what’s really going on,” the 38-year-old model recently told PEOPLE. “I felt like maybe it was time to share some of my vulnerabilities, and it made me realize, everything I’ve lived through, I would never change, because I think I am who I am because of those experiences.”
Bündchen’s new book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, is out now. All proceeds will be donated to Projeto Agua Limpa, a Brazil-based nonprofit organization committed to protecting water sources and sustainability.