Birthplace: Tallinn, Estonia
Carmen Kass (born 14 September 1978) is an Estonian model and former political candidate. Considered a supermodel within the fashion industry, she has worked as the face of Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Valentino, Chanel, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Dior, Narciso Rodriguez, Givenchy, and, for ten consecutive years, Michael Kors. In the year 2002, she was estimated to have been the second-highest-paid model in the world.
Outside of modeling, Kass ran for the European Parliament in 2004 and was the president of the Estonian Chess Federation from 2004 to 2011.
Kass was born in Tallinn and grew up in the village of Mäo, near Paide, Järva County. Kass, her elder sister Victoria and elder brother Kutty were raised by their mother, Koidu Põder. Her father, Viktor Kass, is a chess teacher in Põlva.
When Kass was 14 years-old, she was discovered in a supermarket by a model scout from Milan. Her first venture into the modeling world was unsuccessful, and Kass left Milan after a short time.
Kass then moved to Paris at the age of eighteen. She soon received exposure by appearing on the covers of American, French, British, and Italian Vogue, Australian Elle, UK Image, Madame Figaro, and French Numéro. Kass's first Vogue cover was French Vogue in November 1997.
Her career was launched by Anna Wintour, and by 1999, Kass was walking the runway for numerous and diverse top designers, such as Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, and Dolce & Gabbana; and posing in advertisements for designers and brands, like Calvin Klein, Chanel, Gucci, Donna Karan, Dsquared2, Versace, Givenchy, Fendi, Max Mara, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Narciso Rodriguez, and even General Motors. She also appeared in a Gap denim advertising campaign, and was a spokesperson for Revlon cosmetics, Sephora, and the Christian Dior perfume, J'adore. In 2007 alone, Kass booked ten campaigns with notable designers for Spring/Summer collections. From 2007 onwards, she became the model and spokesperson for Max Factor.
Kass was the muse of Michael Kors, and the face of the brand for 10 consecutive years. Kass has been also the spokesperson of the Narciso Rodriguez For Her perfume and its various editions for 14 consecutive years to date.
Kass was named "Model of the Year" at the 2000 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards. She is well known for her distinctive runway walk in the fashion industry. Despite her height, her feet are relatively small (about an American size seven).
She opened and closed the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 1999, and also walked for the brand in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2008.
She is considered to be one of the models who ended the heroin chic era alongside with Gisele Bündchen.
While a model in New York, she attended the Lee Strasberg Institute. In 2004, Kass played the female lead in the Estonian murder-mystery film Täna öösel me ei maga ("We Won't Sleep Tonight"; titled "Set Point" in the international release). She also had a cameo appearance in the film Zoolander, where she played herself opening the Derelicte fashion show.
In February 2004, she joined Estonia's ruling Res Publica Party. Kass ran for the European Parliament after her homeland joined the European Union in May 2004. She won 2,315 votes from the Estonian electorate, but was not elected to the European Parliament.
Kass is a keen chess player. She was elected president of the Estonian Chess Federation for 8 consecutive years and currently serves as a councillor. She ran a campaign for Tallinn to host the 2008 Chess Olympics; however, Dresden, Germany was chosen instead.
She is part owner of her mother agency, Baltic Models. In Estonia, Kass owns some private companies, including two real estate companies.
From 2004 until 2014, Kass was in a relationship with Eric Lobron, a German chess grandmaster.
Kass speaks fluent Estonian and English, and is conversational in Russian and Italian.
Carmen Kass has a nephew Antonio Sebastian Kass, who is a model and a musician.