The dazzling Doutzen Kroes (DNA models) is finally on the cover of Vogue Netherlands December 2012 issue. Photographed by Patrick Demarchelier and styled by Darcy Backlar. Check out the interview and editorial below…
She is the only model with four exclusive contracts worth millions. A conversation with the Frisian model and her agent Sarah Keller, who takes care that Doutzen’s hectic life goes smoothly 24/7. ‘We cried a lot together.’
She walked into model agency Paparazzi located along the Singel in Amsterdam in a simple skinny jeans with black sweater, her thick long blond hair in a ponytail, flawless skin, eyes you can drown in. Just cycled eight kilometers against the wind, with her manager Sarah Keller on the carrier of the bicycle, totally not out of breath. One chunk of Dutch health. ‘Except for the bruise on my thigh’, she says. The result of a collision with a woman on a bicycle with a tray in front.
She noticed that the people in Amsterdam are blunt. ‘This week I was called on one day bitch, idiot and to fuck off. Yesterday, a man in his seventies on a bicycle also called me a bitch. I followed him, opened my window and said: “Sir, you must have a bad day, but I think your reaction is very rude. I told you I was sorry.” But he just continued cycling! At that moment I did curse him. Phyllon, he is almost two, was on the back seat and started trying to copy my words. I said to him: “Mommy did say some very bad words, but you must not let them walk all over you, make that for sure.”
Dutch big pride, Doutzen Kroes, is for a short stay in The Netherlands because of the presentation of the Golden Calves (awards Dutch film festival) in Utrecht, the opening of the very first G-Star Women Store in Amsterdam and in between a shoot in the old Greek harbor Thessaloniki courtesy of British Vogue. A short time ago she was in Thailand because of dance4life, the foundation which inspires young people to prevent the spread of hiv and aids, before this she was four days on the British Virgin Islands courtesy French Vogue with Dutch duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. ‘I was thinking: nice bikinis! Then I saw the wardrobe: only leather coats and big black shoes. It was boiling hot, but the pictures have become amazing.’
Are you already in a position to make demands? For example you would rather like to shoot in Miami than in Barcelona, because you are already a few days without your son?
DOUTZEN ‘Luckily yes, but you have to ask Sarah for more details.’ Sarah is Sarah Keller, 44 years old and born in Columbia, Missouri, VS. Being a model she traveled the whole world, after that she started the Amsterdam Paparazzi Modelmanagement in 1996, parent company of two of the most successful Dutch models at the moment: Saskia de Brauw and Doutzen Kroes.
SARAH ‘We can change data if an assignment doesn’t suit’, she says with a light American accent. ‘Doutzen doesn’t want to travel a lot between Europe and America. When she’s in New York, she flies to Miami or Los Angeles and misses a maximum of three nights at home. When she goes to Europa, her son travels with her. When she has to go two nights somewhere over there, Phyllon stays as home with family. Changing a date isn’t always possible, but everybody is prepared to give it a try. Even L’Oréal has changed shooting data, because Doutzen wanted to be with her family in august.
There aren’t many models who can manage that.
SARAH ‘No one.’
DOUTZEN ‘Sarah protects me. Sometimes there are assignments that I want to do, but she says that I need to take some rest. Sarah knows what the profession entails and how it is to travel. A lot of managers don’t get it; a day of travel is for them a day off, but you are in a plane. But being a bitch to protect me has taken its toll on Sarah.’
Where would you be without Sarah?
DOUTZEN ‘For certain not here… ‘Oh now she is crying. We have been crying a lot together. Of happiness, when everything is going that well. For me it is very special that I send my pictures to her ten years ago. And the fact that Sarah now knows everything of me, also where I want to be in the future.’
Both ladies, one on each side of the table, are visibly emotional. Sarah lights, with her head partly outside the window, a sigaret. ‘Without proper management a model doesn’t get anywhere or you have to be good at it yourself,’ Doutzen continues. ‘But that wasn’t the case with me. I even didn’t know who Mario Testino was. I was sitting with Mo (Karada, at that time a beginning booker, by now head booker at Paparazzi) in Central Park with a list of names of all the top photographers. I had to memorize them. In that respect I had a different starting point than the new generation of models. They already know at their first casting who the new designer of Dior is or the favorite visagist of Kate Moss.’
She would have liked to give a more exciting tale, but nine years ago, at her eighteenth birthday, the Frisian beauty, as said, did sent, hoping for the best, pictures of herself to Paparazzi. Sarah Keller jumped for joy, but not everybody was that enthusiastic. Doutzen was simply too beautiful to be taken serious as an editorial model. But Sarah continued to believe in her. When she didn’t find any clients in The Netherlands, she sent her to New York.
DOUTZEN ‘Fortunately Mo went with me for coaching. I was very homesick, crying, crying all the time. When Mo left me after two weeks I clanged very embarrassing to him at the airport and begged him to stay.’
SARAH ‘After that she was at the telephone crying. I hung up and called Mo, who just arrived at home, that he had had to go back.’
What was so disturbing?
DOUTZEN ‘I was just very alone. I was eighteen and had been living in a little village!’
SARAH ‘To be going to Amsterdam was quite something. We had to pick her up at Central Station.’
DOUTZEN ‘In the earlier days it already was the same. When my mom took me to gym lessons, she had to stay on the bench, because otherwise I started screaming. At that time I wasn’t very young anymore.’ Big smile. ‘Maybe it was some kind of separation anxiety, no idea. I’m happy Phyllon isn’t that way, otherwise I didn’t have a life.’
Less is more
Do you and Sara have a mother-daughter relationship?
SARAH ‘No, I’m more like a cool aunt.’
And what is she exactly doing for you?
DOUTZEN ‘Everything! She chose my nanny, bought my apartment in New York, arranged my honeymoon and has been my wedding planner. It was very awful with the paparazzi. Sunnery became at one moment very angry. I was heavily pregnant and one photographer was almost beneath my skirt taking pictures.’
SARAH ‘All clients and foreign agencies who represent Doutzen contact me first and then we discuss what we want to do and what not to do. An offer in Paris, another one in New York and an interesting one in Milan. It is very political, so you don’t make friends, because every agency finds its own booking the most important one on earth. In the end Doutzen and I chose the best one for her career. Also keeping the philosophy of my company in the back of my mind: less is more.’
How vulnerable are you as a model and especially for someone who is as famous as you are? Everybody wants something from you.
DOUTZEN ‘Correct. Trainers, hairdressers, beauticians; everyone is asking if he or she can have a picture with me, for their Twitter of Facebook. Apparently it is positive for their business.’
SARAH ‘In New York this is less important, they are more used to working with celebs and are more professional in dealing with this.’
DOUTZEN ‘Al lot of hair and make-up people do have a blog and do come backstage at a show with a video camera and are sometimes taking large interviews. At such times I sometimes think: hello, what is this all about!’
How do you build a model career?
SARAH ‘By being very selective and not choosing right away the first profitable contract. At the very start Nivea offered Doutzen a contract of 400,000 Euro, but it was for three years. A lot of money for a beginning model – nothing wrong with Nivea – but I knew that in no time such a contract would be worth a million. It is not necessarily the brand you are associated with, but it is about the timing.’
DOUTZEN ‘I was already a year and a half in New York without any job and Sarah just said no. It was hard to swallow.’
What was the moment that Doutzen’s career started?
SARAH ‘Photographer Steven Meisel. I still know exactly when, because it was on my birthday. I was in Mexico and got a phone call that she had had a booking. For the Italian Vogue cover and editorial. By Meisel! I was yelling: yes! Because in this business you only need one stamp of approval.’
In love with his music
In the meantime we are almost ten years further, Doutzen can cover her living room with all the covers she has done so far and has worked with every important person in the industry. She is one of the exclusive angels of Victoria’s Secret, and one of the global brand ambassadors of cosmetics giant L’Oréal Paris (besides Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé Knowles), she is also the face of Tiffany & Co and Repeat Cashmere, with the last one she has her own clothing line. In de models hierarchy she is a personality, and when she walks the red carpet at the film festival in Cannes a shiver goes through the press area when she arrives.
When you became pregnant, was it planned?
DOUTZEN ‘No, it came very naturally. Suddenly everywhere I saw babies and buggies. Sunnery and I didn’t consider the implications for my career. Sarah and I did make a plan. We wanted to live in The Netherlands again because then we could raise our child there. I was thinking: now I can finally have a balanced live. But when Phyllon had reached the age of nine months, we wanted to go back to New York.’
Do you see each other often?
DOUTZEN ‘In spite of Sunnery travelling a lot, we see each other rather often. We don’t have an office job from nine to five and we are very flexible in flying after each other. Sometimes I join him on his performances. He doesn’t accompany me often, he finds it rather boring.
What is so wonderful about Sunnery?
DOUTZEN ‘Oh, everything!’ She shines. ‘He is just a very nice man and not afraid for showing how much he adores me. And he laughs about my jokes! I love the passion he showcases for his work and when he is working he is irresistible. He lets me feel that he will always stay with me. Even at times when we fight I know that Sunnery will fight for us.’
How did you meet him?
DOUTZEN ‘In Miami at a Party by Cathy, the wife of dj David Guetta. Actually I have fallen in love with his music, he makes very nice music, glorious house music. I danced until
the end, after that I addressed him. He was very busy texting, I knew that there was no working network, he didn’t know how to behave. I gave him my mobile number, address and ping; everything. It was at once… After that he visited the office to meet with Sarah. Very funny, it was very obvious he had to pass an exam.’
SARAH ‘I knew right away that it was ok.’
DOUTZEN ‘Sarah has foresight. When I was just dating Greg Andrews, she said one time: “Well, when all is over…”. I was very mad at her, because I was still very in love. But Sarah had been dreaming that I would marry a Dutch guy. Not that Sunnery is typical Dutch. He was born in The Netherlands; his parents are from Surinam. His mother is a quarter Chinese, a quarter Portuguese and half creole, his father is creole. He is for certain a very good mixture. Phyllon could be Brazilian considering his looks and when he was a baby, he was just a little Chinese.’
Schools in New York are very competitive, did Phyllon had to take violin lessons when he was three?
DOUTZEN ‘No, come on. We do have a piano and instruments at home, but Phyllon must be allowed to be a child. He doesn’t have to be the best in his class, I don’t want to give him such pressure.’
What do you want to teach him?
DOUTZEN ‘That he doesn’t has to stand in a queue. No, just kidding. Sometimes on airports I take sneaky precedence. Values are very important. As parents we are very consistent. He doesn’t get no from daddy and yes from me. And when he is bothersome, I put him in the hallway for a minute, I notice that that makes him easier.’
Thousand times better
The model market is being flooded with new people, and there is an obsession of very influential casting directors and designers with everything that is new and young. When a girl walks down the stairs of the airplane, going to New York Fashion Week, she is figuratively speaking already ‘old’ and the casting directors are already asking the agency’s for new faces for the Milan Fashion Week.
How does Doutzen keeps on going at the age of 27 and what is her strategy for the following years?
SARAH ‘Considering work it is thousands times better now. We don’t really have a strategy, the only thing that is planned is not to do a step back. There are no models at their twenty-seventh who choose security and take the 300,000 for a less prestigious campaign. Intentional we don’t take a step back. Doutzen stays on top.’
After your pregnancy you’ve only become more beautiful, more womanly, more slender and more muscular.
DOUTZEN ‘My pregnancy fat is gone, in a kind of way I have ran dry. I think it is the result of breast-feeding for eight months. On the set at L’Oréal and Victoria’s Secret they had reserved a spare room for me and at Nova Zembla I did even have my own trailer. That sounds a little bit like a diva, but that way it was possible to express milk quietly. That was the reason I had an enormous bosom in the film.’
‘My metabolism has also changed after the pregnancy. I eat when I’m hungry, healthy and varied. Before I was too much planning on what to eat. I’m also going to the gym three to four times a week and the month before a Victoria’s Secret show I exercise two times a day one-on-one with my personal trainer: in the morning, then sleep and in the evening a few hours. When I don’t do that, I wouldn’t have any jobs.’
But you never did have a so called editorial figure?
‘I have never been an ironing board, no, and do have a real skating bum. I’ve never fitted a sample size. But I haven’t been this thin before. At the presentation of the Golden Calves I even was wearing an haute couture jumpsuit by Valentino.’
Your trainer, the Canadian former lightweight boxer Michael Olajide, is stating that your training schedule isn’t much different from the one of golden boy boxer Floyd Mayweather: 39 wins, 25 knock-outs.
DOUTZEN ‘Oh really? I have been working out with Michael already for seven years, I love his energetic workouts, work myself totally into a sweat. When I’m rope skipping, with very loud music, I sometimes get goose bumps from the adrenalin. Sunnery? No, he doesn’t has the time to go to the gym. But he is out a lot and eats very healthy. The first time we ordered diner together he ordered a salad! That surprised me a bit. He isn’t into burgers.’
‘At home we always eat biological that is the way I am raised. My grandfather was the first biological farmer in Friesland, with pride he cycled with his trays of strawberries down the village. And my mother has done a training in food. Yesterday there was a bag of Celtic sea salt on the kitchen table with a notice why it is healthy. On the balcony in New York I have sage and thyme plants for making tea for Phyllon and I give him spelt milk. Phyllon is a hearty eater. It’s very surprising all the things he eats: every vegetable, potatoes, rice, fish. He is very fat. He is starting to talk, Frisian. His way to do things/attitude is very like mine, he’s also continually staring. But he has also many characteristics of my mother in law. Such a nice woman.’
Hybrid car and biological roll.
Are you a typical down-to-earth Frisian girl?
DOUTZEN ‘Less than my parents, they are very reasonable. Especially my mother. She keeps both my legs on the ground, she remembers me that ‘skûtsjesilen’ (some kind of sailing) has started. Asking if I want to twitter that the skûtsje (some kind of boat) from Eastermar is doing well. Over there everybody knows each other and they would mind if I seem arrogant. Concerning my own common sense: I like the combination of living in Amsterdam and in New York. Because in New York you can enjoy the rich and famous and everything in between. Over here they just want famous people on a bicycle.’
Is your job easy to combine with motherhood?
DOUTZEN ‘It is the ideal job. My working times are irregular, but I have lots of spare time and I have a Super nanny, she is on my mobile phone list. It is very luxury that she can life with us, that’s why Phyllon has a very good connection with her and we can go out for diner when he sleeps.
The new generation of models haven’t got the same opportunities anymore. Do you feel sorry sometimes?
DOUTZEN ‘A lot of girls disappear after one season. They don’t get the chance to grow. In that context I feel that the industry misuses the girls a bit. There should be a union for models. Agents in the east of Europe don’t speak very well English. So what are they doing to protect the girls?’
Has the fashion scene become tougher?
SARAH ‘More professional. The former days of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll are really gone. Because there is a lot of competition you have to approach this profession like top-class sport act and try to make the most out of it. When you are late on set or you’re bitchy, you’re out.’
The big money is earned in New York. What about the day earnings, are they less because of the crisis?
SARAH ‘They have awfully gone down and the result leads to even bigger competition. Those girls with 10,000 dollar a day – not the top, but with one or two campaigns and good
editorials behind their name – have dropped to 7000. The rising girls are on 5000. And with that I mean the fees from for example J. Crew, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales.’
DOUTZEN ‘You get paid very little for doing shows. Most of the time you only get clothes.’
SARAH ‘Nowadays you don’t even earn half for campaigns than before the crisis. A career such as Doutzen’s, nobody gets this anymore. She is the last one of the Mohicans. L’Oréal is the biggest client with which you can have a beauty contract and they only book celebs, actresses. Except for Doutzen, she has a global brand ambassador’s contract with L’Oréal Paris since 2006. And she just renewed her contract for two years. Such a mega contract, that isn’t going to happen to any other model.
What are Doutzen’s demands, so called rider?
DOUTZEN ‘Always a first class flight, or else a business class, a five star hotel with 24/7 room service, a chauffeur, in LA with hybrid car, and please biological food on the set. I’m not going to slap anyone when there is no bio roll, I just want to eat healthy.’
Front row at the Knicks
You’ve already had six years of coaching from Harold Dusking, also the acting coach of Rachel Weisz and Famke Janssen. How do you see your future?
DOUTZEN ‘I would like to do another film. Nova Zembla was a very nice experience, but I would like to give something more from myself, something rougher. There have been a lot of offers form the United States, with top actors and top directors, but just a modelling role. Of course I wouldn’t reject James Bond, but unfortunately they haven’t called yet. But honestly, I would rather join a small artistic film, but that’s also hard, because people see me in an angelic girl kind of role. But ask Sunnery, in real life I can be a bitch when necessary.’
How about your social life in New York? Colleague models Patricia van der Vliet told me she partied with Jay-Z and receives invitations all the time for basketball games.
DOUTZEN ‘I also get those regular invites: awesome, front row at The New York Knicks, the balls are flying around your ears. The first time I went to The Knicks I had to buy a ticket and was sitting at the ridge. But that didn’t suppress my enjoyment. A show with cheerleaders and loud music, attending a basketball game in America is quite an experience. Especially when you’re front row.’
SARAH ‘At one time we went to a party by artist Julian Schnabel – we always call him schnabbel (Dutch for job on the side) – and in the hallway we met Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Beyoncé. They immediately asked about Doutzen’s baby. They just know her. Everybody knows her. When you’ve reached a certain level, you ‘flow’ in the same circles.’
DOUTZEN ‘You just see each other regularly, but I don’t go to everything; I want to keep myself exclusive. That way I can build a status that I’m not a girl connecting with everyone and everything. Three years ago I was at a special event on Ibiza. In the end I was sitting on a boat with Leonardo DiCaprio and not on de second boat with all the other girls.’
SARAH ‘Just now when we are talking about Leo: Doutzen, her sister Rens, Mo and I went to a Calvin Klein event a long time ago. After that we went with the son of an oil sheik to a club. But first he had to pick up his friend ‘Leo’. It turned out to be Leonardo DiCaprio. At the club, it was very boring, Leo was – totally enthralled with Doutzen – staring at her, but she ignored him! I liked it very much, he is just not her type. By now they are friends.’
DOUTZEN ‘He is dating model Erin Heatherton at the moment, recently we had a pleasant diner with the four of us.
Anticipating the future, are you a business woman?
DOUTZEN ‘I am busy to invest my money in a serious way and for years I’m working with the same accountant and tax expert who keep track of everything. Where I’m going, how long I’m in New York, and if my clients are paying. I have the same financial team in New York and Paris because of the different tax laws. And with Sarah we’re designing a new
strategy concerning my career, like presenting the Golden Calves. A great honor, but I don’t see myself as a hostess. I’m not a show lady and instead of guiding the audience I would rather be guided the way. But I want to broaden myself and leave all doors open.
Do you still have homesickness for Eastermar (parents’ home village)?
DOUTZEN ‘No homesickness, but I like it very much to go over there and reload myself. Actually, if I’m with Phyllon and Sunnery it doesn’t matter that much anymore where I am. I’ve never been happier in my life.’
And there she goes. The woman who has Leo DiCaprio mobile number in her Blackberry and iPhone, who recently was a guest at an intimate diner in Donatella Versace’s home, who had a police escort for a whole weekend in Istanbul, and where ever she goes she creates uproar. On the bicycle. Collecting Phyllon at grandmas and after that going to the goat farm down the Amsterdam forest.-