"I had no credit cards, I didn't have a bank account," Teigen told Vanity Fair about her first years working as a model.
In 2018, Teigen's net worth was $11.5 million, according to Forbes' ranking of highest paid models last year.
The 33-year-old was ranked one of the highest-paid models in the world by Forbes in 2017 and 2018, and appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition in 2014. Teigen has also written two cookbooks that made the New York Times bestseller's list, and co-hosts multiple TV shows, including Paramount Network's "Lip Sync Battle" and NBC's "Bring the Funny."
Teigen's entertainment career started at 18, when she was discovered by a photographer while working at a surf shop in Huntington Beach, California. After modeling gigs started to interfere with her retail job, she quit and moved to Miami part-time to pursue modeling. There, she lived with six other models in the living room of an apartment, and lived paycheck to paycheck, according to Vanity Fair.
To cut costs, Teigen would eat at McDonald's. "I knew exactly how much it was with tax to get a McDouble and fries," Teigen told the magazine.
Teigen appeared on "Deal or No Deal," which debuted on NBC in 2005, as a "briefcase girl." "I did from the pilot season to first, but then I got demoted because I couldn't walk down the stairs," Teigen told Andy Cohen on Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live."
In 2007, Teigen appeared in a music video with singer John Legend for his song "Stereo." The pair have been married since 2013 and have two children, Luna, 3, and Miles, 1. Legend, who is considered an "EGOT" for his Emmy, Grammy, Oscars and Tony's awards. Before making music, Legend graduated from the University of Pennsylvania at 20 and worked as a consultant for Boston Consulting Group.
Fame has allowed Teigen to give back to her parents and see them be "comfortable for once in their lives," she told MarketWatch in May 2019. Teigen's mother is from Thailand, and moved to Utah to be with her father, where they lived in a trailer and worked in a tavern. Today, Teigen's mother lives at home with her in Beverly Hills, while her father lives nearby in the same neighborhood.
Giving back to her parents has always been important to Teigen. "I remember all those times I was Western Unioning my parents when I was 20 living in Miami not making anything because all the checks you would make would go back into modeling and being sucked into your apartment that you're being overcharged for," she said.
These days, Teigen is known for being outspoken on the internet and in real life, which is a trait that she said allowed her to be successful. She told MarketWatch that she thinks it's important to use your voice to "tell people what you want and what will make the job go better."
"I understand people have tough bosses, but I think there are ways to say things to people where they can understand that this isn't just about the job, this is about my personal well-being; my happiness; my mental health," she said. "I don't want to just work, I want to live and work and be happy."
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC, Bravo and CNBC.
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