RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Gisele Bundchen, the Brazilian supermodel who has been illuminating catwalks the world over for the past two decades, is retiring from the runway with what is expected to be her final lap on Wednesday at Sao Paulo Fashion Week.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - APRIL 02: Gisele Bundchen walks the runway during the Colcci show at Sao Paulo Fashion Week Summer 2014/2015 at Parque Candido Portinari on April 2, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images)

The 34-year-old mother of two, who's married to NFL quarterback Tom Brady, said she wants to spend more time with her family but has also vowed to continue working in the industry. The world's highest-paid model according to a 2014 ranking by Forbes, Bundchen is the face of Chanel, Carolina Herrera, Pantene and other top brands. She also designs her own line of flip flops and lingerie.

Bundchen rivals soccer legend Pele for the status of Brazil's most internationally famous person, and her rise from a middle-class childhood in a small, rural town to superstar is the stuff of fashion legend.

In a posting Wednesday on her Instagram account, Bundchen wrote, "Today after 20 years in the industry, it is a privilege to be doing my last fashion show by choice and yet still be working in other facets of the business."

"I am grateful that at 14, I was given the opportunity to start this journey," she wrote.

Bundchen's longevity is a feat in an industry where careers tend to be fleeting. While most get their starts, like Bundchen, in their early teens, the vast majority last only a few seasons or years in what is widely acknowledged to be a cut-throat business. Very few superstars, such as Britain's Kate Moss, can measure their careers in decades.

Bundchen was slated to make her final catwalk appearance Wednesday for Colcci, the Brazilian streetwear label she has represented since 2005.

In an interview this week with the Estado de S. Paulo daily, Bundchen is quoted as saying she wanted her last runway experience to be in her homeland.

"For me, it's very natural that this last show takes place in Brazil which, after all, is my country and where it all started," she said.

Bundchen was born and raised along with five sisters, including a fraternal twin, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, a center of German immigration to Brazil. She was discovered by a modeling agency at age 14 and came in second place in a nationwide modeling contest, then moved to New York, where she made her runway debut at fashion week there.

By age 20, she'd become a sensation, her freckled face gracing the cover of top fashion magazines worldwide and her unique combination of legginess and curves causing a sensation during her runway appearances. Bundchen's success was heralded as marking the end of the sickly, skinny and bedraggled "heroin chic" look that had dominated runways for years prior and the return of the healthy looking model.

Her romantic life was regularly splashed across gossip magazines, as she was linked to a series of A-listers, from surfer Kelly Slater to actor Leonardo DiCaprio. In 2009, she married New England Patriots quarterback Brady. The couple has two small children.

Last year, she out-earned Brady, netting an estimated $47 million on contracts including those with H&M and Chanel, as well as other deals, according to Forbes. The next highest-earning models on the Forbes celebrity list, Holland's Doutzen Kroes and fellow Brazilian Adriana Lima, earned $8 million each, according to the magazine.

Still, for all her success, even Bundchen failed to make healthier, more athletic models the enduring norm. These days, runway models tend to be so thin that France earlier this month passed a law banning extremely thin girls from walking in runway shows at Paris fashion week. Agencies and labels that hire models with insufficient body mass indexes can face fines or even prison terms.

 

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