Women and Success – The Heidi Klum Effect by Elissa Freeman

This is the sixth entry in “I Don’t Know How She Does It,”  a series of guest posts about the working mom/stay-at-home dilemma.  It’s written by Elissa Freeman, the Vice President, Communications & Public Relations for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games.  She lives in Toronto, Canada with her extremely tolerant husband and precocious 11 year old daughter.  She refuses to believe there is such a thing as work-life balance and prefers to liver her life one moment at a time – as long as her carpool doesn’t fall apart.  You can chat with Elissa on Twitter at @ElissaPR.

Elissa Freeman

Heidi Klum and Seal? Over? Splitsville? Really?

I have to admit, I was somewhat shocked and saddened when I heard this piece of salacious celebrity gossip.  I always looked at Heidi Klum as the woman who worked hard to have it all:  the career, the kids, the body, the happy marriage…the $20 million dollars a year…

“How does she do it?” I wondered…

While I can’t provide accurate commentary as to why she chose to go her own way, her startling decision made me think.

My conclusion? She’s successful, she’s driven and she’s busy. And according to friends, radio announcers, the aesthetician who does my nails and just about anybody who was speculating over the twittershpere, the real answer was that she was simply too successful.

I don’t think any woman starts a career thinking it’s going to skyrocket to stratospheric proportions like Ms Klum.  Most of us are content to contribute to something that keeps us interested and interesting. However, when you enter the world of ‘busy’ working woman, whether you’re senior management or contemplating corporate world domination, in order to keep all those balls in the air you need support, both emotionally and practically.

Someone who is proud of you and buys into your success.

As working women, we find that support in many ways: with parents, siblings, children or spouses; people who can support or validate our effort.  One of our basic human desires is to be needed and appreciated.  I don’t care how hard-core, independent any woman is; success can be a lonely island if nobody cares about it but you.

So maybe that was it. Maybe Seal came to the conclusion Heidi didn’t really need him.  Maybe Heidi decided “what the heck, I’m doing it all anyways, I’ll just continue doing it all…myself.” Or maybe there was infidelity involved – but I’m not exploring that point.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be successful – or even super-successful. But it is a two-way street.  Women need to be appreciated for what they contribute, however they contribute.  Whether you’re Heidi Klum or not.

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  1. Jodi Echakowitz says:

    While I don’t think we’ll ever know the “real” reason behind this breakup, I truly believe that for any marriage to last – whether it’s a celebrity couple or not – there needs to be unconditional support for one another, love, honesty and respect.

    While I agree that “women need to be appreciated for what they contribute, however they contribute,” I think it’s just as important that we appreciate and support the men in our lives. My hubby may not be the primary bread-winner in my family, but that doesn’t mean that the work he does or his contribution to our family life is any less important. It is indeed a “two-way street”.

  2. The point about redefining roles continues to come up again and again. It’s amazing how entrenched we have become with what is deemed ‘familiar’. I guess the question is: how long will it take to (ever) redefine male/female roles? If it’s a situation out of necessity – then it could definitely be a faster process…

  3. Great article Elissa – similar subject on the cover of Bloomberg Business Week recently about the “Perfect Husband” (i.e one that will stay home while you go out and conquer the world and he doesn’t feel left behind). I am supporting my own family and I suspect that my financial, social, and emotional independence, even though it was not my choice, can be intimidating to some. Given the generation I was raised in, if this isn’t something that has been familiar to you, it takes a special couple of people to be able to define/redefine the roles and terms that a relationship is based upon. Very insightful Elissa…as usual….and fun using the celebrity marriages to explore your points.

  4. Ha! I did see Seal on Piers Morgan on Friday night…except I thought the exact opposite! Sometimes I think when a ‘wronged’ party has to go on national TV and explain his/herself…I’m always suspect…it’s the ‘jaded realist’ in me…

  5. Who saw Seal on Piers Morgan last night? What a gentle soul and he clearly loves the woman. It’s sad that he has to go on national TV and defend himself. The tabloids were saying that it was his temper that ruined the relationship. What if she had a temper? Why is it always the man who is presumed to have the temper? I know I have one….

  6. My first thought was Damn! Why does it seem that women have to give up something (usually love) when they get success? But, as you and the other commentators pointed out, we don’t know the circumstances of the split. Maybe Seal sucks as a partner and only now, when Heidi feels firmly confident in her success & her ability to go it alone, can she leave him.

    I hope they can be happily divorced.

    I did see that article in Forbes & it confirms my argument that men benefited from free, guaranteed childcare for centuries, which allowed them to go balls out for the top rung. We could certainly use that kind of support! Although I’d hate for men to end up broke and unemployable after a bad divorce like so women do/did.

    • I love the conversation this post has generated – by some super smart women like you, Lisa. Historically, traditional roles have perpetuated male/female stereotypes, even to this day. I don’t think many of us even realize it until some pop culture story dredges up what’s been there all along…

  7. I think it’s pure speculation to think that Heidi Klum’s success contributed to the end of her marriage…it could have been anything. But I do think that strong, successful, women have a hard time in relationships with men and with women. And I think it’s sad that that’s still the case. When was the last time you hear about a super successful man having trouble in a relationship because his (female) partner was threatened? I’d like to think we’re past these gender stereotypes…but I don’t think we are.

    • You’re absolutely right, it is pure speculation – but a great premise to make a point that’s becoming more and more prevalent…and one that you raise: when WAS the last time you heard about a successful man having trouble in a relationship because his female partner was threatened? Almost never. I think it comes down to the dismantling what are the traditional roles between men and women….and who’s ‘supposed’ to carry them out…

  8. It’s like the curse of the Oscar. Every time a strong woman wins the Oscar for best actress, she’s headed for divorce in the next few months.

    I echo the comments here in that society says men should be the successful ones – the bread winners. So, when the woman is more successful, I think (some) men have a hard time dealing with it….as much as they claim they don’t mind.

    We definitely cannot be successful with a support network. There was a story written a few weeks ago (I can’t remember now where – maybe Forbes?) that looked at the female CEOs at the Fortune 500 companies. Every, single one of them had stay-at-home husbands. And all of them had the support at home needed to stay on top.

    It’s definitely an interesting phenomenon going on.

    • I remember that Forbes article…and I was struck by the ‘stay-at-home’ husband phenomenon. It demonstrates a true understanding of each other’s roles…and likely neither of them look at it as a ‘sacrifice’ – which I think is the key to making that type of arrangment work.

  9. I think men are still threatened by women and their success. I think men still feel this need to be the primary breadwinner– but the paradigm is shifting- so men will need to adjust their attitudes as well….

    • So true, Melissa. I still wonder how many men with successful/busy spouses wonder if there will still be dinner on the table at night? I think it’s more than we know…

  10. My husband always says that he would be content to stay at home with the kids and not be the primary wage earner, should I ever become hugely successful. He insists he would love it. But I think he’s wrong. I think after a couple of months he would feel like he was in my shadow and not contributing.

  11. Good point about what celebs are running to and the next relationships. What we do see time and time again is celebs starting up rebound relationships where they do not have to bte emotionally present and in essence arrangements that are convenient. Case in point JLo’s new boy toy – one could argue that she ran right into the arms of one of her “sycophants”. The same could be said about Madonna and her current beau. It will be interesting to see how other celebs with failing relationships handle their next move – I am thinking Johnny Depp, Demi, Will and Jada, etc

  12. I think it’s great that in today’s world, women can take care of themselves and if they are in a bad marriage, they have the emotional and financial independence to get out. Thirty years ago, a lot of women were stuck. It’s a good reflection on how far we’ve come.

    • So true, Holly. Now if more people (ie spouses) would really, truly buy into the notion of one-sided success, we’d be even that much further ahead…

    • I completely agree, Holly. Still I do often think celebrities hit a rough patch and run away way too easily. I don’t know their situation, and the news saddened me more than I care to admit, but there’s something to be said for not giving up on love when it gets difficult (as long as, of course, it is a safe, non-abusive relationship). Divorce and separation are absolutely viable options, because sometimes something simply doesn’t work, and in those cases I am proud that women have the option and freedom to be independent, fearless and self-reliant!

      • I echo the comments above and think it’s great that in this day and age women are independent and have the confidence to end a marriage rather than being stuck in a bad relationship. I also can’t help but wholeheartedly agree with the notion of running away too easily. Case in point: People reports today that Heidi and Seal are separating becasue they simply “grew apart”. I am sorry but this seems like a very weak excuse – have they thought of their 4 children and the impact this will have on them? These celebrities are surrounded by sycophants who say “yes” to them all day and I guess it’s natural for them to be selfish and feel they are entitled to run at the first signs of trouble because it is inconvenient for them. I don’t think they truly understand or expect that at their level of success things can still get tough and that the right thing to do is to work through issues until there is no further choice but to separate. Without knowing these people personally I can’t confirm if they treid to work through their problems or not but the rate at which celebrities divorce leads one to believe that when the going gets tough the only thing they are interested in doing is to escape asap.

        • Hey Sophia…thanks so much for your comment…you are a woman who always tells it like it is! The point you bring up about ‘sycophants’ is interesting. Maybe celebrities look at hangers-on/person assistants as their social network or safety net. Maybe that makes is easier for them to ‘run away’. But really? Where are they running to? Unless the next relaetionship contains elements of mutual respect and support – then it all just becomes a visious cycle. And that doesn’t spell success to me.

      • Couldn’t agree with you more, Mary Alice! I was really surprised by my visceral reaction to the news…as well as that of my facebook friends, IRL friends etc…I think we still (for better or for worse) look for a celebrity ideal to certaing things, like success, love etc. And when it seems like something so public is working and then it’s not…well, it sort of rocks our faith in humanity. That being said, Heidi Klum has created a successful situation not only for herself, but one that will still support her family. At least she was not afraid to consider other options.

        I do wonder if she did tell Seal: “Sorry, Seal. But you are OUT!” LOL

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