German Roots - Gisele BŁndchen Print E-mail
August 2007 Life

By Simon Akstinat

Did you know that Brazilian bikini model Gisele Bündchen’s full name is Gisele Caroline Nonnenmacher Bündchen?

Like most German-Brazilians, Gisele comes from the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. German travel magazine Merian has a somewhat opinionated explanation for her success: “Today, Brazilians, too, prefer large breasts. That is the Gisele Effect. Personally, she doesn’t need silicon – she is ethnic German and naturally more generously endowed than most Brazilian women. Her hometown, Horizontina, is far in the south. It is an area where many descendants of German and Italian immigrants have settled and is famous for its beautiful girls.”

Another young German-Brazilian is in the starting blocks, preparing to conquer the modeling world. Ana Hickmann, still largely unknown in Europe, did her first Victoria’s Secret show in 2002 for a fee of $250,000. Hickmann, whose parents came to Brazil as farmers, also has her own TV show and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the model with the longest legs.

With their German names, Gisele and Ana are hardly unusual in Brazil. The country’s 2000 census determined that 12 million Brazilians claim to have German ancestors, most of whom immigrated in the 19th century, especially from the Hunsrück region of southwestern Germany.

In the state of Santa Catarina and in Bündchen’s home state of Rio Grande do Sul, German-Brazilians constitute 30 percent of the population. Even the Brazilian who discovered her, Dilson, has the surname Stein. In the city of Pomerode in Santa Catarina, a whopping 90 percent of the population is German-Brazilian, and the people speak a Pomeranian dialect. Pomerode is considered Brazil’s most German city. Today about 600,000 Brazilians speak German.

– Simon Akstinat wrote a book titled “Made in Germany,” about his country’s most curious exports.

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