Supermodel Heidi Klum and super-obnoxious Howard Stern couldn’t be more different, but something unexpected happens when they’re together: the odd couple turns into a comedy duo.
When Pursuitist met up with the mismatched pair during the production of “America’s Got Talent,” NBC’s top-rated summer series, the two superstars couldn’t stop teasing each other. Never mind the show’s on-stage variety acts, it’s the playful power-struggle behind the judges’ desk that is usually more entertaining. I’d even go so far to suggest that they should vote to give themselves the talent contest’s $1 million prize, except that the salaries of judges Klum, Stern, Howie Mandel, former Spice Girl Mel B, and host Nick Cannon (the former Mr. Mariah Carey) are much, much, much greater than that. Klum is ranked by Forbes as the world’s #2 most-wealthy model, earning $20 million annually for her stylish business empire including the Emmy-winning “Project Runway.” With an estimated worth of $550 million, Stern — as he likes everyone to know — is one of the highest-paid personalities in radio and reality TV with an annual salary said to be $15 million for “America’s Got Talent” alone.
PURSUITIST: You are two of the wealthiest people in television. Why take on another year of “America’s Got Talent” instead of retiring to just spend your fortune?
HEIDI KLUM: I mean, how can you say no to “America’s Got Talent”? It is such a fun and exciting show to do. I love hosting, of course, and working on “Project Runway,” and I love fashion. I’ve been in the fashion industry now for over 20 years, and I love that. We only shoot the show for about five weeks in the summertime when my kids go to school, so this fit in perfectly. And when I’m done with “Project Runway,” you know, it’s still summer holidays, and I fly back and forth from L.A. to New York.
HOWARD STERN: What are you going to do with your kids?
HEIDI KLUM: They are going to come with me.
HOWARD STERN: While you are going to judge? But you are going to be neglecting your children.
HEIDI KLUM: I will be? You will nanny them for me.
HOWARD STERN: If you are going to be a mother…
HEIDI KLUM: We don’t need to hear what you have to say in any case.
HOWARD STERN: All right. Okay.
HEIDI KLUM: I push your eggs every once in a while.
HOWARD STERN: So you are really going to bring the kids while we are doing the show?
HEIDI KLUM: Sometimes, yeah, in the summer.
HOWARD STERN: All, like, 10 of them? That’s too many kids, Heidi. That’s going to be fun.
PURSUITIST: The sexist sort of has a point, Heidi. How do you do it all? How do you manage to run a business empire, juggle three hugely successful television production schedules on two continents, and still manage to be such a great mom?
HOWARD STERN: Another Heidi question? Didn’t you get the memo? I’m the star of the show.
HEIDI KLUM: Yes. It’s about me. She asked me, not you.
HOWARD STERN: All right. Okay.
HEIDI KLUM: I’m a Gemini. So there’s two of me, thankfully. So that’s how I could do it. Otherwise, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know. I think, if you love to do what you do — that’s why, for me, this is not work. I really enjoy doing this, and so you just make it work.
HOWARD STERN: Yeah, but something has to suffer. If you are doing this show and you’ve got kids and you’ve got “Project Runway,” something has got to be suffering. Heidi, something has got to give.
HEIDI KLUM: Well, for me, I’ve been in the entertainment industry now for 20 years. I’ve traveled the world. I feel like I’ve seen things not only in America, but all over the world. And I’m very interested in theater and music. Being married to a musician for eight years, I’ve seen a lot of things. I don’t know. I’ve judged in fashion or in music, I guess it’s part of my personality, too. I want to tell everyone how they are looking and how they should be doing or whatever. I think it’s part of my personality, too. And in Germany, I do “Germany’s Next Topmodel” where I try to find a beautiful, young girl that has that all-around talent because nowadays you are not just supposed to look pretty, but you have to talk, and you have to kind of fit into so many different things. I enjoy it.
PURSUITIST: I have a question for Howard.
HEIDI KLUM: Oh, come on.
HOWARD STERN: No, no, no. I defer to Heidi. I’m only answering Heidi questions.
PURSUITIST: Howard, as you’ve told everyone again and again, you’re the “king of all media” – television, radio, books and more. As the media landscape evolves to include new production and distribution methods like download streaming and video-on-demand, how difficult is it to remain the king?
HOWARD STERN: What kind of silly question is that? Why don’t you ask me what it’s like to be a mom and to have two chosen careers? That’s something I can answer. OK, so how difficult is it to be the king of all media? Not difficult at all. I accept my title of king of all media. I embrace it, and I embrace all media. So it is not difficult. When you are this talented, it is not hard at all. I don’t know. I can’t keep up with all of it.
PURSUITIST: This is the third season for Heidi as an “America’s Got Talent” judge, but you’ve seen it all over the past 10 seasons, Howard. What were some of the most memorable moments for you?
HOWARD STERN: We had so many great talents. The dog act was so unusual for “America’s Got Talent.” For a dog act to win, no one would have predicted that. But I thought Tom Cotter, the comedian, has proven himself to be a top-notch entertainer. And you know, I was a big proponent of bands coming on this show, but I never would have predicted something so unusual as a guy with an earth harp, and he put together a band with it. It was different. And, as a judge, what you look for is something so unusual or different or something that can excite America. This year, I would love to find an international superstar, I mean, somebody who can break through and rise to the top and really have a big career. That’s my goal this year, and I know the other judges join me in that. We take the job quite seriously. I am amazed how entertaining the show is when you see, you know, a danger act come out. Then you see a singer or a ventriloquist or a magician. There’s no other show like it on television. It’s a lot of fun. Very, very gratifying.
PURSUITIST: What are the two of you bringing to the show that’s different from last season?
HOWARD STERN: I’m not bringing — first of all, I’m not bringing anything that’s different. I’m bringing the same thing I brought last season. I’m going to be an honest judge. You saw how great I was on it last season, and now I’m going to do it again. I’m going to take these 6- and 7-year-olds and make them cry. I’m going to make them weep.
PURSUITIST: Has Heidi become the show’s official fashion stylist? The much-needed arbiter of taste?
HOWARD STERN: By the way, one of the things I’ll be bringing to the show this year, I am picking out the outfits for Heidi, Mel B., and Nick Cannon, all three of them. Howie’s on his own.
HEIDI KLUM: I’m warning my children about you because, now that we are in L.A., they are going to come and visit. I am already a little worried what they are going to ask me afterwards.
HOWARD STERN: The kids are going to be around me. I’m going to be a good role model from them. I’m going to nanny them.
HEIDI KLUM: They are definitely going to learn a few things that they don’t know.
HOWARD STERN: So, of course, it’s kid-friendly. The show, anyway.
PURSUITIST: Both of you are clearly talented at earning fans and fortunes . When you were young, who first told you that you had talent?
HOWARD STERN: I told them.
PURSUITIST: How hard is it to tell the less-talented “America’s Got Talent” contestants that they just don’t have what it takes?
HEIDI KLUM: The audience, they want everyone to go through sometimes. It’s like, “Seriously, this person cannot sing.” And everyone is, like, “Yeah, let them go through!” And you say no, and they boo. I mean, they boo all the time. They don’t care if they are good or not.
PURSUITIST: Since you’re both used to being the boss, what changes will you demand for the new season?
HOWARD STERN: They’ve given me complete veto power over the other judges. Let’s say they all vote no and I say yes, then the person goes through.
HEIDI KLUM: I changed the rules two times already.
HOWARD STERN: What about I’m performing topless this season, too. A lot of people are thrilled about that, actually.
PURSUITIST: On that note, I think we’d better end this while you’re still dressed.
HOWARD STERN: Wait! I had so much more to say.
Based in Los Angeles, Vicki Arkoff is an Editor at Large for JustLuxe and a founding editor for Holiday Goddess, the online destination for chic women travelers from the editors of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, Conde Nast Traveler, and BBC. Her travel and lifestyle reports can also be been seen in Atlas Obscura, The Awesomer, DaySpa, The Chicago Tribune, CNN Travel, JustLuxe, Lonely Planet, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Toronto Star, WellSpa 360, WestJet Magazine, Where Traveler, Where Guestbook, Yahoo News, and dozens more. She's co-author of the bestselling Holiday Goddess books (HarperCollins and iTunes) including 'The Holiday Goddess Guide to Paris, London, New York, Rome,' a travel Top 10 staple. As editor, Vicki's other books include 'Sinatra' (DK), 'Inside Mad' (Time-Life) and 'Virgin Los Angeles' (Virgin Books). She is one of the Usual Gang of Idiots for MAD Magazine, an entertainment reporter (Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine, CREEM), and authorized biographer for pop culture icons from the Beach Boys to Beastie Boys, Paul McCartney to MC Hammer.