Heidi Klum’s 19-year-old daughter, Leni Klum, followed in her modeling footsteps
Heidi Klum and her oldest child, Leni Olumi Klum, live up to the phrase “like mother, like daughter.”
Born in May 2004 in New York City, Leni is a model like her mom and made her professional debut alongside Heidi for the January/February 2021 issue of Vogue Germany. Heidi shared her excitement about the cover with a long, heartfelt message to Leni on Instagram.
"I'm so proud of you. And it's not because you've chosen your own path. I know, that no matter which path you were to go down, you would be your own woman. You always know exactly what you want and what you don't want. You ain't no mini-me and I'm happy for you that you can now show who YOU are,” the supermodel wrote, in part, in German.
The Making the Cut host has been happy to help guide her daughter’s burgeoning modeling career, which she described as “really exciting."
"It's a fun thing for her to do," Heidi told PEOPLE. "She's not afraid of cameras because she's always come to my sets and my shows. She's quite strong in the sense where she plays with it!"
It was Heidi’s own joy of modeling that sparked Leni’s passion.
"I've always gone to work with my mom and thought, 'This looks so fun. She looks so happy while she's working,' " Leni told PEOPLE. "I'd jump in sometimes, and I'd play around with the makeup that her makeup artist would bring."
Here’s everything to know about Heidi Klum’s daughter, Leni Olumi Klum.
She was born in New York City
Leni Olumi Klum was born on May 4, 2004, in New York City, shortly after Heidi split from Italian businessman Flavio Briatore. She was 5 years old when she was adopted by Heidi’s then-husband, Seal, in December 2009.
“They have both taught me to be myself, and to do what makes me feel comfortable,” Leni told PEOPLE of Heidi and Seal. “You can tell if you're not comfortable and then the best of you isn't brought out. I just think you should be open and honest with what makes you comfortable, be yourself, do what you love. And if you do all those three things then you're golden.”
Leni grew up primarily in Los Angeles, where she graduated from Pacifica Christian High School in 2022. She is a big sister to Heidi and Seal’s three children together, sons Henry Günther and Johan Riley, and daughter Lou Sulola. Heidi and Seal separated in 2012, and the German-American model married Tokio Hotel guitarist Tom Kaulitz in 2019.
In an Instagram post in 2020, Heidi admitted that Leni “never had the possibility to grow up ‘normal.’ ”
"But what is normal? Growing up with three different daddies ... And I would say: none of it harmed you,” the proud mom wrote. “On the contrary: you are a self-possessed young woman, works hard for your goals. And even more important ... you are a really cool person, with your heart in the right place.”
She's close with Seal
Seal adopted Leni in 2009, and while the musician and Heidi divorced in 2014, Seal and Leni have remained close.
The singer showed off their bond in a September 2023 Instagram post, which included a picture of the father-daughter duo smiling together on a N.Y.C. street.
"In NY with the young woman who changed my life for the better 19yrs ago. Thank you Leni for making me a better person," he wrote in the caption. "Love you, -papa."
In the comments, Leni responded: "So cute! I love you papa ❤️."
She is a model — and has posed with her mom!
"That's, like, insane that I did that as my first job and my mom was with me, which made it so much fun,” Leni, then 16, told PEOPLE of the cover shoot. “It was just such a good day. I wasn't nervous at all. I was just so excited. I was like, 'I'm finally modeling, and it's Vogue.' It was just so many things to be excited about."
She teamed up with her mom again for an Intimissi lingerie campaign in 2022. Leni's other major career moves include making her runway debut while opening Berlin Fashion Week in January 2021, walking for Dolce & Gabanna, and starring in campaigns for brands like Dior Beauty and Fila.
Her first solo fashion cover was for Glamour Germany, which honored the 20th anniversary of Heidi becoming the magazine’s first cover start in 2001. Heidi and Leni had individual covers for the April 2022 issue of Harper's Bazaar Germany, and Leni has also graced the covers of Harper’s Bazaar Kazakhstan, Hunger, Flaunt and Rollacoaster.
Though she’s trying hard to define an independent career, Leni gets frequent advice from her mom, which she told Extra in 2021 included “always telling me I need to have fun … She's always like 'Bounce around, have fun, be energetic, be excited.' "
Heidi’s decades-long well of advice is a good one to source.
"I said to her, at the end of the day you have to be happy with yourself," the Germany’s Next Top Model host told PEOPLE. "And don't do anything you don't want to do. It's OK to say no. You don't always have to please people."
Her mom kept her out of the public eye until she was 16
Leni has wanted to model since she was around 12, and she told Vogue Germany that it was “only a matter of time” before she started pursuing it.
"The first offer came when I was only 12 or 13, from a brand I liked to wear: Brandy Melville. At that time I begged my mother, but no chance. Now I understand that it would have been too early," she said.
Despite the many offers sent Leni’s way, Heidi purposefully made an effort to ensure her daughter’s privacy as she was growing up.
“She's old enough now,” Klum told PEOPLE in 2020. “I always thought she was too young. We always also decided to keep the children out of the public eye. But she's driving a car now, she's 16, so I figured if you can do that, you can also model now if this is what you wish to do.”
"Obviously, as a mother, [I want my] child to do what she wants to do,” she added. “The industry is great and I love it and I've been in it for over 20 years but it's also, it's a lot of traveling, it's different. You have to be a strong person, especially as a woman you have to be very strong."
Leni is also very aware of the “nepo baby” label.
"It's just a fact. My parents are famous," Leni told PEOPLE in 2022. "I did get help starting off, and I know that people would dream to start off with what I had. I'm so grateful that I've been able to take what was gifted to me by my mom. But I am doing the work and putting in the time. Now I'm working on my own, traveling alone, going to school. My mom and I just have the same love for the same thing."
She is a college student
Leni moved from Los Angeles to N.Y.C. to both pursue her modeling career and attend college. She began studying interior design, a dream she’s had since she was 14, in August 2022. Heidi told the Today show that Leni is at “the school she always wanted to go to.”
“I feel I'm all grown up now, and I can live on my own. I'm not technically on my own because I have a roommate, but I get that it's hard for [my mom],” Leni told PEOPLE of Heidi’s adjustment period. “She loves to send us groceries. I got an alert the other day, and I looked outside the door. There were 25 big bags of groceries. My roommate and I were freaking out. We started meal prepping everything. It almost didn't fit in the fridge.”
Though the cross-country move has been nerve-wracking and “worrying” for Heidi, she told PEOPLE that she is “very proud of my daughter and her modeling. And she's studying at the same time, she's juggling already."
Heidi feels good about Leni making her way in the Big Apple, telling Entertainment Tonight, "I started in New York, so she knows New York inside and out because we shot Project Runway there for so many years."
She is very close to her mom — and wore one of Heidi’s dresses to prom!
In a twinning video for Vogue Germany, Leni told her mom, "You're my best friend because I can tell you everything.” To that end, both frequently praise each other publicly, with Heidi often sharing photos of Leni on Instagram. Leni even shared a photo of herself in “mama’s dress” for her prom night in May 2022.
Heidi has also occasionally shares photos with both Leni and her own mother, Erna. The most recent three-generation selfie came in June 2023, which the America’s Got Talent judge captioned with three heart emojis.
But the one place they differ? Their fashion choices, with Leni telling Extra she is “definitely opposite” of her mom.
"She calls it grungy, I call it oversized I guess … You'll never catch me in super tight jeans because I don't like wearing things that are uncomfortable … baggy and big," Leni said.
She has made red-carpet appearances with Heidi and Seal
As her career grows, Leni has been stepping out at more and more high-profile events, though she's no stranger to the experience.
Leni has walked a handful of red carpets with her mom since 2021, including the 2022 Harper’s Bazaar ICONS and Bloomingdale’s 150th Anniversary party in N.Y.C., the premiere of Jurassic World: Dominion and the LuisaViaRoma for Unicef event in L.A.
She's also accompanied her dad Seal to a few events, including the premiere of Netflix's The Harder They Fall in October 2021 and the Shotgun Wedding premiere in January 2023. The father-daughter duo were also spotted taking in the US Open in September 2022.
She made her debut at her mom's famous Halloween party in 2022
"My kids have never really gone to the Halloween party, obviously, because they're all too young," Heidi told PEOPLE. "And now my daughter moved to Manhattan, so she was here. It's her first time coming and she was so excited. She's only ever heard about the stories and seen photos. It's fun for her to be here tonight and it's fun for me to have her here!"
Leni dressed as Catwoman for the spooky event, posing for plenty of photos with her mom, who was dressed as a worm.
She has been in a relationship since 2019
Leni has been in a long-term relationship with Aris Rachevsky since 2019.
She marked their three-year anniversary in November 2022 by sharing a photo of the two posing in green wigs. “Our little holiday has finally arrived! FLFLFC i love you,” she wrote on Instagram.
She has started to design clothing
Leni co-created her own collection for the clothing line About You. She modeled items during the collab’s Fashion Week Milan 2022 show, with her mom and boyfriend supporting her from the front row.
Her second clothing collection with the brand was a spring/summer 2023 collection.
“Everything's very casual. Comfort is key. A lot of linen. I'm also doing bathing suits. I always have trouble finding bikini tops, because no bikini top brand really fits me perfectly. Which is why I definitely wanted to include a diverse size range in my About You collection,” she told PEOPLE.
She went brunette during her senior year of high school
Though she’s back to blonde, Leni spent most of 2022 as a brunette. But despite what many people thought, she did not go darker to separate herself from her mother.
“I was just so sick of looking the same every single day and I needed a change," she told PEOPLE. "I was also dyeing my roots every month. And then obviously, from bleaching your hair all the time, your hair gets really dead. So I dyed it brown, it got so much healthier. And then I was like, ‘Okay, well, it's still dead. I need to chop it.’"
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