Supermodel Doutzen Kroes’s Sexy Serenity
Photographed by: Josh Olins
Styling by: Alastair McKimm
WHEN DOUTZEN KROES landed in New York City in 2003 from her native Eastermar, Holland—population 1,600—with ambitions of becoming a model, she quickly realized she was out of her league. Not only was the urban terrain a struggle for her (Kroes, then 18, had been to Amsterdam only once and had never even taken a tram, let alone the A train), but the 5-foot-9 blonde was repeatedly rejected on casting calls for being “too pretty,” which apparently distracted from the fashion on show. Kroes remembers, “It was strange: I thought, isn’t [being attractive] how it’s supposed to be?”
Fast-forward to 2014, when she was named the second-highest-paid model in the world by Forbes magazine—surpassed only by Gisele Bündchen. It’s an achievement due in part to her longtime contract with L’Oréal Paris, for which she has appeared in television commercials and walked the Cannes red carpet. Kroes’s face has also been featured in countless ads, including for Tiffany & Co., Dolce & Gabbana and two Calvin Klein fragrances. And in 2008 she underwent a rite of passage—receiving her wings, or in layman’s terms, an invitation to become a Victoria’s Secret “angel,” which has resulted in its own hybrid of commercial and editorial stardom.
Now, less than a year after the birth of her daughter, Myllena Mae (joining her 4-year-old son, Phyllon), with her DJ husband, Sunnery James, Kroes stars on WSJ. Magazine’s spring fashion cover. Here, Kroes, who recently turned 30, reflects on the Dutch secret to her success, balancing modeling with motherhood and what’s next.
WSJ: Did you always want to be a model?
Doutzen Kroes: I wanted to become a teacher like my mother, or a charity worker. But my mom says that when I was younger I told her, “People are going to know me,” so I guess I always had that idea. We didn’t have fashion magazines around the house, so I would see someone like Jennifer Lopez’s CD covers and think, “I would love to have hair or makeup like that.” I secretly sent my pictures to a modeling agency in Amsterdam, and they sent me to New York.
WSJ: What was that like?
DK: I lived in an apartment for models in the Meatpacking District, which back then was a place filled with all sorts of people that you couldn’t even look in the eye. 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.
WSJ: What would you say was the turning point of your career?
DK: My 2005 cover shoot with Steven Meisel for 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. And then signing as a Victoria’s Secret angel opened so many doors.
WSJ: You recently walked in your eighth Victoria’s Secret show, soon after the birth of your daughter. Did you feel pressure to get back into shape quickly?
DK: Yes, but I had had a good experience with my first child, so I knew it would be OK. I work out, and I’m always conscious about what I put in my body—not for looks, but because I want to be healthy. I do a workout called Ballet Beautiful with [trainer] Mary Helen Bowers three times a week, and every day right before a show. It’s changed my body, and you don’t even sweat during the workout. Who wouldn’t want that?
WSJ: You and your husband both travel frequently. How do you balance everything?
DK: A lot of communication. Our agents are on the phone every other day. They’re the ones who keep us together.
WSJ: You also travel as a spokesperson for the charity Dance4Life.
DK: Yes, I’ve been all over the world with them. They teach young people how to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS in a positive way, through dance and music. I was in Tanzania, for example, and I hugged a young boy with HIV. Over there it’s a big deal to even talk to people who are infected. I realized it’s amazing what a small gesture can do.
WSJ: Do you have a plan for the next 10 years?
DK: I have no idea! Ten years ago, I had no idea I’d be here. Maybe I’ll do movies—I dream of working with particular directors—or maybe I’ll just live someplace quiet where I can grow my own vegetables.
WSJ: And how long do you think you’ll stay with Victoria’s Secret?
DK: Time will tell, but as they say, “Once an angel, always an angel.”