Alessandra Ambrosio

Brazilian bombshell Alessandra was just eight years old when she decided she wanted to be a model, after seeing a picture of top covergirl Karen Mulder in a magazine. "I wanted to be like her," she recalls. Seven years later she had debuted on the catwalk and the rest is modelling history.

One of several Brazilian models to hit the international scene big time in the late 1990s, Alessandra was born on April 11, 1981, in the small town of Erexim in Southern Brazil to petrol station-owner parents. A leggy youngster, she developed a passion for the fashion business at an early age, enrolling in modelling classes at the age of 12.

In 1996 the stunning brunette entered Elite model agency's Look Of The Year competition and, although she didn't win, was soon listed on its books. After appearing on the cover of Brazilian Elle she made the leap to ad campaigns for Guess - the denim brand that helped launch the careers of Anna Nicole Smith and Laetitia Casta.

Described by supermodel Tyra Banks as "the future of the modelling world", Alessandra has since been in huge demand from big-name brands including Revlon, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, as well as the famed Pirelli Calendar. But perhaps her best known collaboration was that with American lingerie brand Victoria's Secret, where she ranked alongside fellow Brazilians Gisele Bundchen, Adriana Lima and Izabel Goulart.

The elite group, who made fashion sexy again with their curvaceous figures and exotic looks, have been firm friends since leaving their native country for the States. "I've known those girls since we were 15," says Alessandra, who these days shares a Big Apple apartment with her lawyer sister Aline.

"When I first came to New York, Gisele lent me her apartment for two weeks," Alessandra recalls, adding: "I didn't know any English, so Adriana helped me translate."

As for the future the super sporty catwalk star - who lists skydiving, surfing, volleyball and snowboarding among her interests - could be following in the footsteps of Gisele by pursuing a silver screen career, having made a cameo appearance in 2007's Casino Royale.
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