The chance to talk with Heidi Klum is not one you take lightly. When we talk about the uber famous: she’s on that list. Plus, this beautiful and busy model/mom/mogul always speaks her mind without even the lightest dusting of sugar on top. Was I intimidated? Uh, is Rachel Zoe a stylist? Geez! Yes. The goal of my chance to speak with her? Working vocal cords.
While it was clear from the start of the call that Klum operates best when everything is kept on schedule, she’s not just a pristine professional. She’s also generously honest in her answers, friendly, and a devoted wife and mother. In fact, she speaks fondly and often about her husband and kids. It’s difficult to take her off her pedestal as a sparkling fashion model and tough Project Runway judge that I know her to be. But as we were talking about the new Lifetime show Seriously Funny Kids I came to hear how passionate she is about being a Mother. Which is, I assume, a fairly messy job!
There’s an old Hollywood adage about how you should never work with children or animals. But you are pursuing working with children. So, how would you modify that statement?
I have to say it’s true. …Someone was very wise by saying that. It is very, very hard. I have to say going into this I thought it going to be much easier, mainly because I have four children myself. It is challenging, always. There are days that are harder than others. Our kids, they have their days where they’ll all have a breakdown. They’re all crying, all want to do something different. Or we go to a park and someone wants to go in another direction. But – at the end of the day I know them and they know me. So if I change my tone, they know ‘okay, now we better not mess with mommy. She’s upset and we’re gonna have to go in a time-out or she’s gonna take something things away, or we won’t be able to have popcorn in the movie theater.’
Now these children (on the show) are not my children, and obviously I can’t change my voice to that voice that my kids know. And I’m not there to teach them things like manners. They’re not my kids. So it sometimes takes me a long time to figure out who they are or what their story is.
We can interview the kids beforehand, and there are obviously things I want to know about the kids, like if there is divorce in the family or something like that, the subjects I want to stay away from because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Or, they are really into dinosaurs for example, and then I’m like ‘okay guys, let’s talk about dinosaurs!'” And then we talk about dinosaurs and maybe someone will pull out a funny story before…they don’t tell the story then when I want them to with the cameras on. (Laughs)
Sometimes the funniest things happen. Sometimes they go off on something. I’ll learn they really love talking about unicorns, and then all of a sudden they talk about the tooth fairy and they’ll have the most incredibly story about the tooth fairy. With kids you just have to be open-minded, and go with the flow.
What are you learning about how kids see the world these days?
Kids are honest. They’ll talk about their parents. They say they’re on their ‘machines’ as they call them. Like their blackberry or their phone or their computer. Being a parent, myself, it’s hard to kind of do it all.You are so expected now to have an e-mail and return it within the day, or within the next 20 minutes. Sometimes I get a call of ‘I e-mailed you 20 minutes ago, why haven’t you replied?’ and I’m like, maybe because I’m sitting down with my kids, or I was driving them to school in the morning.
The kids, they’re like, ‘why are you always looking into that computer?’ or ‘why are you not talking to me?’ So I hear those complaints a lot.
You just talk to the kids, and they will answer you. Sometimes they’ll lie. but those lies are quite funny. Or they’ll lie about silly things. About how they saw the tooth fairy, or that when they were in a plane they saw angels in the clouds. But all in all, they’re innocent and not polluted with all the madness that are in the adult world.
Klum also mentioned how much kids have changed. “Kids are innocent, but they do speak differently. They talk back more. I was thinking about my own childhood. When I was 5/6 years old I was quite as a mouse. If I would have been on television I wouldn’t have talked back the way some kids talk back to me.”
Can Heidi Klum be a goof? Yes! “I try to be a kid with (my kids). I don’t try to take myself seriously. I do have to be a grownup sometimes, or they’d walk all over me and the house would become TOYS R US in five seconds.” She added that, “I like to be the Mom who’s like ‘Yea, come to our house. Yea, that’s cool, we can play at our house.'”
But what about when life gets chaotic? For instance, sometimes Klum is on an airplane to Europe with her 6 family members for twelve hours, and admits that “it gets hard sometimes.” She continued, “You just have to have a lot of things for them to do. We always have arts and crafts. I bring tons of workbooks for them to do, but like fun workbooks.” Movies are another travel activity, but arts and crafts dominate no matter where they are. “When we’re home… we have a beautiful garden and they go outside a lot. They have to go outside every day unless it’s pouring (rain.) I like that they’re active and I don’t want them always sitting in front of the computer.”
Because both she and her husband (Seal) travel so much she’s turned that into a fun project. “We make gigantic welcome back signs that we paint and put on the door. … I always try to make things into a memory, or make things into something. If someone goes away, or if we’re moving, I make a big calendar that sticks to the fridge and every day I’ll make a cross so they know how much longer and are always able to participate with what’s happening with the family. It helps them understand what is happening so they’re a part of it and not surprised.”
When the conversation goes to Valentine’s Day, Klum says she feels that holiday is more romantic for just one special person. But she does help her kids make the cards for all of the kids in their classes. She’s surprised that schools do so much with this holiday, as that’s not how she grew up.
Klum’s daughter wears uniforms to school. Seal and Heidi had a long discussion about the uniforms. Heidi grew up loving Lacoste because other kids wore it. One time her parents went on vacation and bought a bag of Lacoste crocodiles and her and her Mom sewed them on her T-shirts and sweaters so she could feel like she fit in.
As a child, Klum loved snail races and said they always had snails in their house and garden. While she never stuck anything up her nose, she did pee her pants – a lot! “I would pee in my pants a lot. That was always very embarrassing. I never loved going to the bathroom at school so I would hold it in all day – which is the worst thing to do. Then my Mom couldn’t get to the door in time…”
What about her hot husband? How does she keep it spicy? “Key number one, you have to marry someone you think is really, really hot. I look at my husband, and what can I say? He’s hot and sexy. We went to the Soho House and had dinner with a few friends and I was already at the bar – we came in separate cars. When he walked in it’s like ‘Aaaah. Yea, that’s my man.’ I still feel it, I get the butterflies in my stomach. And I think he’s very hot. To have hot and sexy, you have to marry someone you find hot and sexy. I also think we work on each other to be hot for the other person – exercising, eating right. I do it for my work but I also do it for my husband. I don’t want to get out of bed and say ‘don’t look at my butt!'”
And how do you make time for your marriage? Klum says you have to force yourself to go out sometimes to have just a bit of grownup time together. Plus, you can’t only talk about kid things. “Sometimes you have to steal away some time together.” Rather than opt for a babysitter or nanny all the time, Klum is a big fan of Grandparents staying with the kids.
Back to Seriously Funny Kids, Heidi loves the hidden camera pranks like when they have kids talking to croissants. Hearing Klum talking about her interactions with these kids, the show sounds perfectly adorable. And maybe even a little messy.
Seriously Funny Kids premieres on Tuesday, February 1 at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime Television. The concept of Seriously Funny Kids is very similar to Kids Say the Darndest Things.