A Staged Fairytale: The Model Meets the Magician

The German model was once a staple of the catwalk, but now, she’s a mom of three who doesn’t wear heels because then she can’t run after her kids. Claudia Schiffer might actually surprise you with her quirkiness. Apparently, the supermodel has a knack for dates – she can remember the date, month and year of every cover shoot she’s done. Oh, and she collects insects and paints them.

claudia schiffer
Source: Getty Images

Now, she’s married to British film producer Mathew Vaughn, but there was a time back in the ’90s (the good old days) when she was in a magical sort of relationship – the kind that made her disappear right in front of audiences’ eyes. Yes, she was once (almost) Mrs. David Copperfield. But apparently, it was a sham.

The Supermodel Stuck to Her Day Job

During the ’90s, Claudia Schiffer became one of the most successful supermodels in the world, making up to $50,000 a day. Her contract with Revlon marked her as the highest-paid model in the world. Her face has been planted on the covers of magazine more than 900 times (as noted in the Guinness Book of Records).

Claudia Schiffer poses for a portrait.
Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images

No matter how beautiful she may be, the woman endured her fair share of ridicule. She appeared in over 10 movies, including Richie Rich, Love Actually and The Blackout. The latter was directed by Abel Ferrara who later said, “The first goat that came down the road could have played the part better” than Schiffer. It’s a good thing the model stuck to her day job.

Their First Meeting Was Literally Magical

For the most part, Schiffer’s public life consisted of runways, cameos, and cover pages. That is, until her six-year-old romance with magician David Copperfield ended in fiasco. While their relationship ended in a scandal, it started out in a magical way, literally. The couple met in 1993 at a celebrity gala in Berlin.

Claudia Schiffer and David Copperfield pose together.
Photo by Jean-Pierre REY/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

In fact, they met on stage when Copperfield brought Schiffer up on stage to participate in his mind reading and flying illusion acts. By January 1994, they were already engaged. And if anyone was to benefit from their romance, it was the illusionist, who was propelled into superstar status as soon as he was linked to the supermodel.

Their Romance Made Him a Superstar

Out of nowhere, the magician was on the cover of Esquire (along with Schiffer, of course), being photographed at the Academy Awards, and the subject of paparazzi-heavy outings. He was presenting awards to famous singers at the World Music Awards and performing sold-out shows.

Claudia Schiffer and David Copperfield kiss while standing before a giant poster of David Copperfield.
Photo by Georges MERILLON/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Imag

As Copperfield was becoming the hottest thing in magic, Schiffer was his special guest assistant on stage. She would join him in his illusions as she levitated, was guillotined, and sawed in half. She was even in the 1994 film David Copperfield: 15 Years of Magic, where she played the role of a reporter interviewing him.

He Was Also the Butt of Many Jokes

It wasn’t just Schiffer who was sometimes mocked for her romance with the magician; Copperfield was, too. He was the butt of many jokes, particularly one on Saturday Night Live (“Copperfield, Coppa-feelo. Opera man no comprendo. Il Dorko has hot girlfriend-o”).

David Copperfield's shadow reflecting on a yellow wall.
Photo by Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance/Getty Images

“Oh, you mean that joke on Saturday Night Dead?” Copperfield remarked sarcastically when he was asked about the jab. “When you’re going out with the most beautiful girl in the world, there are some guys who are going to take shots at you,” he said.

One of the more major shots taken was about their relationship as a whole –that it was a suspected illusion in itself…

Was Their Relationship a Scam?

In 1997, both Copperfield and Schiffer sued the magazine Paris Match after the publication claimed that their relationship was a sham. They reported that Schiffer “was paid for pretending to be Copperfield’s fiancée and didn’t even like him.”

Paparrazi spots Claudia Schiffer and David Copperfield as they attend an event.
Photo by Ronald Siemoneit/Getty Images

For a while there, the couple’s romance was considered a fairytale: The model meets the magician. As they were vacationing in Europe, the two were photographed relentlessly – Schiffer carrying around a massive rock on her finger. But when it comes to illusionists, what you see is not always what is real. Before long, the Copperfield-Schiffer union was called out as a scam.

A Devious and Detailed Plan

It appeared as though Schiffer was paid the sum of 12,500 pounds (about 16,000 dollars) to be pulled out of the audience at that Berlin gala. According to the later-sued magazine, their meeting was a carefully calculated stunt – a “devious and incredibly detailed plan” – conducted to boost both Schiffer’s profile and Copperfield’s career in Europe.

Claudia Schiffer and David Copperfield are posing and holding a hula-hoop.
Photo by Fred Duval/FilmMagic/Getty Images

“It was just a plot to dupe their loyal fans, and we’ve got the contracts to prove it,” the magazine reported. Paris Match also published letters between the couple’s agents detailing their “chance meeting” at the Berlin show in 1993.

They Sued for $30 Million

Part of Schiffer’s deal was a first-class ticket to Berlin, a hotel suite, a Mercedes limo and a bodyguard – all paid for by Copperfield’s PR company. The contract was, obviously, meant to remain a secret. Here’s the thing, though: The couple actually did fall in Love.

Claudia Schiffer and David Copperfield are arriving at an event in Monaco.
Photo by Stephane Cardinale/Sygma/Getty Images

While their first encounter was a set-up, their ensuing relationship was the real deal. The couple denied the rumors about their fake relationship and filed a $30 million defamation suit against Paris Match for alleging such a thing. In 1999, the same year the couple split (due to “conflicting schedules”), Schiffer won an undisclosed sum and a retraction from the magazine.

She Was Never Under Contract to Be His Lover

Copperfield’s publicist confirmed that Schiffer was indeed part of a contract to appear in the audience at Copperfield’s show, but he noted that she was not under contract to be his “consort” (which is just a fancy word for companion). The fact that they fell in Love was simply a cherry on top.

David Copperfield passes a hoop around the elevated body of his assistant during a performance.
Photo by Jim Russell/Toronto Star/Getty Images

It’s a wonder that these two even fell in Love, considering how wildly different their lives were, even from the very beginning. In order to understand better, it might help to give a little backstory to this fairytale tainted with scandal.

The Daughter of a Wealthy German Lawyer

In 1970, a girl named Claudia Maria Schiffer was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, to a wealthy family of a lawyer. Schiffer originally hoped to become a lawyer and work in her father’s law firm. Schiffer said that she was shy and clumsy and was terribly insecure of her tall and lanky body.

Young child Claudia Schiffer.
Source: Pinterest

She remembers herself as a “gangly and knock-kneed” with a bum that “stuck out.” But when she was 17 (in 1987) she was spotted in a nightclub by Michel Levaton, the head of the Metropolitan Model Agency. She was at that nightclub with a “far more attractive friend.” Yet it was Schiffer the model agent wanted.

She Had a Plan

A career in modeling was definitely something she wanted, so she cut a deal with her parents. The plan was to postpone her law degree and learn French while she would try to make it as a model. And if it didn’t work out, she would come back home.

A younger Claudia Schiffer on the beach.
Source: Instagram /@claudiaschiffer

After graduating high school, Schiffer flew to Paris for a photoshoot and appeared on the cover of Elle. In 1989, a Guess campaign released her into the world – she was a new, young version of Brigitte Bardot – her poster was on every teenage boy’s bedroom. Schiffer became one of the first-ever supermodels.

A Jewish Kid From Jersey

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a boy named David Seth Kotkin was growing up in a Jewish home of Ukrainian immigrants and his dream was to become a magician. Born in 1956, the 10-year-old boy began practicing magic as “Davino the Boy Magician” around his neighborhood. He played around with magic tricks and ventriloquism.

Young child David is doing a magic trick with two doves.
Source: Pinterest

By the time he was 12, he became the youngest person admitted to the Society of American Magicians. Like Schiffer, the young Copperfield also said he was shy and a loner. Magic was his way of fitting in, and later, of meeting women – even supermodels.

Eventually, He Moved On

It may have taken him some time, but Copperfield eventually moved on from his split with Schiffer. Since 2006, he’s been with another model, this time of the French sort. Chloe Gosselin is 28 years younger than him, but that didn’t stop them from having a child together.

David Copperfield and Chloe Gosselin are arriving at Mac Dill Airforce Base.
Photo by KMazur/WireImage/Getty Images

In 2010, she gave birth to their daughter, Sky. Copperfield has three children in total; two of them – Audrey and Dylan – are from another relationship with a woman named Marie Petlickova-Henderson. Copperfield and Gosselin are currently engaged and have been for a long time. The magician has never been married (maybe marriage is an illusion he’s not fond of).

And So Did She

Schiffer has moved on too, of course, and has been married to Matthew Vaughn since 2002. The couple have three children together – Casper, Clementine and Cosima. What can be considered a jab at Copperfield is what Schiffer said about her loving husband Vaughn…

Matthew Vaughn and Claudia Schiffer are walking the red carpet.
Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images

“I’d never found anyone that perfect and I just thought, oh, there’s no perfect man out there. Then I met him. He had everything I wanted in a man. He completely swept me off my feet.” Wanna hear how he proposed to her? He commissioned one of his favorite artists, Ed Ruscha, to do a painting saying, “Marry me.” Of course, she said “yes.”

People Would Steal Her Bras and Panties

The world of fashion was just as punishing as it was fabulous. There was a time when Schiffer strutted the catwalk so much that she felt like a rock star. And sometimes, being a rock star means people want to take your underwear… apparently.

Naomi Campbell, Valentino, and Claudia Schiffer pose for the press in Valentino's new boutique celebration.
Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The supermodel said her underwear was stolen so often in the ’90s that she had to hire security to watch her bra and panties. As one of the six original supermodels, the level of public scrutiny was “insane.” At the height of her fame, she told Elle that “You couldn’t get to your car unless a path was carved for you.”

Her Stalkers Were Deported

In 2002, Schiffer was being stalked by an Italian kitchen porter named Agostino Pomata, who was later arrested after making nine visits to the model’s mansion in Suffolk. Charges against him were dropped since he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Claudia Schiffer poses on the truck of a car surrounded by a male crowd.
Source: Tumblr

It may come as no surprise once you hear that he believed the Pope had told him to marry Schiffer. It was later discovered that Pomata had previously been deported from America for stalking Sharon Stone. A few years later, in 2004, a Canadian man was accused of harassing her, also at her mansion, and repeatedly left her a letter at her home.

Dear Ms. Schiffer…

Like the previous stalker, this man was later deported after it was discovered that he was staying in England illegally. The 21-year-old French-speaking man named Louis Alexandre Brisette was arrested after Schiffer’s home staff reported him hanging around the estate and giving them letters to pass onto their boss (or master, if you will).

Claudia Schiffer holds her newborn baby Caspar next to Matthew Vaughn / The garden of Claudia Schiffer and Vaughn's English mansion.
Photo by Warren Little, Getty Images/ Architectural digest

Brisette repeatedly came to the estate despite warnings from the police. At the time, Schiffer was living at home with Vaughn and their 14-month-old son Caspar. They had already dealt with a number of stalkers in the past.

The Opportunity She Regretfully Turned Down

She also said that people would cut holes in the fashion tents to try to take pictures of her and the other models. Five of the six supermodels, including Campbell, and Turlington, appeared in George Michael’s 1990 music video Freedom, and they were each paid $10,000 per day.

Turlington sings, wrapping herself in the white fabric in a still from Freedom.
Source: YouTube

But Schiffer wasn’t involved. She later admitted that it was a decision she regretted. “I was working with a lot of high-end brands at that time,” she explained, “and I just thought ‘that doesn’t fit with the strategy right now… It… was stupid.”

One of the Most Expensive Cameos in Movie History

One opportunity she made a point not to turn down was a cameo appearance in the 2003 movie Love Actually, starring Hugh Grant. And it’s a good thing she didn’t turn it down because it might just be one of the most expensive cameos in movie history.

Claudia Schiffer and Liam Neeson stand are staring in a still from Love Actually.
Source: Tumblr

Apparently, it cost well over $100,000 to get her face on the big screen. And even though Love Actually is filled with British stars, the German supermodel was the one who truly made bank on the Christmas movie. Remember the scene after the children’s Nativity play?

She Made $4,629 Per Second!

Liam Neeson’s character, Daniel, tells Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s character, Sam, to go “get the shit kicked out of him by love.” That’s when Daniel bumps into Schiffer’s character, Carol, a mom whose son goes to Sam’s school.

Liam Neeson talks to Claudia Schiffer in a still from Love Actually.
Source: YouTube

In just two scenes that add up to nearly one minute, Schiffer received £200,000, which is about $277,751 in today’s money. To put it in perspective, she made about $4,629 per second! Schiffer’s salary for her 60-second cameo was more than some of the cast’s salaries. Talk about an easy day at work, right? Today, the model’s net worth is $60 million.

A Master Illusionist With Major Accusations

Let’s not forget that Copperfield is a master illusionist. That said, he’s been at the receiving end of some harsh accusations, even while he was romancing the biggest supermodel in the world. Copperfield has been accused of sexual assault more than once, one time while he was dating Schiffer.

David Copperfield and Claudia Schiffer attend a party.
Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

A British beauty queen alleged that the magician “groped her on stage” during one of his acts in the mid- ’90s. She claimed that Copperfield “groped her backside,” and his behavior “progressed” as they performed the trick on stage. That claim came after the magician was accused (in 2018) of another incident, in which he allegedly drugged and assaulted a model in 1988…

He Denies All the Claims

Copperfield reportedly made an advance towards the young model, Brittney Lewis, whom he knew already when she was 17. He reportedly asked her to “find him backstage” at a show of his in Hamilton, Ontario.

David Copperfield performs magic tricks on stage.
Photo by Frank Hempel/United Archives/Getty Images

“The thing about magic is the deception, and that’s what he did with the audience when he assaulted me,” the woman stated. She also said that she didn’t know what to do – she was in shock and froze. The accusation came decades later, and Copperfield denied the claims. The magician implored the public “not to rush to judgment” when these allegations were made against him.

Britanny Lewis’ Story

According to Lewis, Copperfield invited her to accompany him to a show in California that was set for later that year. He had to get permission from her grandmother Patricia Burton since she was a minor at the time.

Portrait of young model Britanny Lewis.
Source: Pinterest

The magician had vowed to “take care of” the young model, pointing out that they would have separate rooms. The Burton took the “charming” magician at his word and let her granddaughter go. Lewis said she doesn’t recall exactly which city it occurred in, but she thinks it was San Diego. The trip started out fine…

He Assured Her That “Nothing Happened”

Lewis said that the trip started fine, but she turned down his attempt at holding her hand, reminding him that they were just friends. After the magic show, they went to a bar, where she allegedly saw him put something in her drink.

David Copperfield smiles at the camera.
Photo by kpa/United Archives/Getty Images

She said she asked him, “What are you doing?” And he said, “Oh, I’m just sharing.” Lewis then asserted that she lost consciousness after a few sips of her drink. Later, in the hotel room, he supposedly assaulted her. The next day, he assured her that “nothing happened” between them since he was wary of her age.

One After Another

Lewis said that Copperfield then pleaded with her to write a letter stating that she was fine. She then understood from her therapist that the letter was essentially a contract to keep her quiet. Lewis informed the FBI about it years later when Copperfield was facing other assault allegations by a woman named Lacey L. Carroll.

A portrait of Lacey L. Carroll.
Source: Tumblr

Carroll accused Copperfield of sexual assault in 2007, only for the investigation to be closed in 2010 without bringing charges. Then, misdemeanor charges were brought against Carroll for prostitution and making a false accusation of rape. Carroll then filed a civil lawsuit against Copperfield, which was dropped the same year.

Living With Years of Fake News Reports

Lewis’s husband, ex-husband, grandmother and friend all confirmed Lewis telling them about the incident more than 20 years ago. The now 64-year-old magician took to Twitter to deny all the allegations against him.

David Copperfield looks at the camera as he poses, reflecting on a mirror.
Photo by Marc Grimwade/WireImage/Getty Images

He spoke of the MeToo movement: “We all want people who feel they’ve been victims of sexual misconduct to be empowered, and as a rule, we should listen, so more will feel comfortable coming forward.” He also spoke about living with “years of news reports” about being accused of “fabricated, heinous acts, with few telling the story of the accuser getting arrested.”

Compared to the Other Five

Coming up with the other five original supermodels, Schiffer was always compared to them and their eventful lives and lovers. “In comparison to the other girls, I was very strange because I wouldn’t speak to anyone much while in the studio,” Schiffer explained.

Carla Bruni, Ines Riveiro, Kirsty Hime, Shalom Harlow, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Nadja Auermann, Naomi Campbell, and Karen Mulder pose next Mr. Valentino.
Photo by Pool ARNAL/PICOT/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

While everyone was chatting and “going crazy,” she was in work mode and admitted that she probably seemed “very arrogant.” People assumed that she wasn’t interested or didn’t want to communicate. But for Schiffer, her nerves about the catwalk were “too intense” sometimes. She said she only enjoyed them when they were over, and everyone was celebrating.

She Was a Real Go-Getter

When asked what she thought her reputation was like, she said “very professional.” She would do her work and go. There were always parties after dinner, but she explained that she always thought, “I must succeed, I must be the best, I must go from place to place and not take time off.”

Claudia Schiffer is getting her hair done while Valentino Garavani talks to her backstage.
Photo by William STEVENS/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

For Schiffer, it was too dangerous to say, “Let’s have drinks” and open that up. What does she have to say to the younger generation of models? It’s a job at the end of the day – “don’t mix it in with anything else.”

She Can Count Herself Lucky

Luckily for Schiffer, she was spared from any form of sexual intimidation during her time in the limelight (which is ironic considering her ex-fiancé’s history of accusations). Still, she noted that she had seen intimidation: “I have seen it, and it’s not nice,” Schiffer said, referring not to sexual assault, but “bullying and exercising of power that you don’t need.”

Claudia Schiffer turns around as she poses for a portrait.
Photo by Stephane Cardinale/Sygma/Getty Images

Whenever she saw things like that, she made a mental note that she didn’t want to work with those people again. “And I haven’t,” she pointed out. She didn’t name any names, though. What she did say was that sometimes they are “not great people, but at the same time the photos are really great, and sometimes you make compromises.”

The Man Makes a Dreamlike Amount of Money

Copperfield might be making headlines more for his accusations than for his actual magic, but let it be known that he is one of the most successful illusionists in the world. In fact, he landed on top of Forbes’ list of money earned by magicians in 2019 – a place he’s held for four straight years.

David Copperfield appears inside a luminous box sitting on a motorbike during one of his shows.
Photo by M. Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

According to Forbes, while in his 60s, he’s been able to bring in more than $60 million in 2019 alone (Penn and Teller made less than $30 million). His days of making the Statue of Liberty disappear may be behind him, but his earnings still amaze people. The magician’s net worth is close to $900 million.

He Was Robbed at Gunpoint but Used Sleight of Hand

In 2006, Copperfield and two of his female assistants were robbed at gunpoint in West Palm Beach, Florida, after one of their shows. The assistants handed over their money, passports, and cell phones. According to a police statement, Copperfield didn’t hand over anything.

David Copperfield does a demonstration of his sleight of hand with a hair tie.
Photo by M. Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The magician claimed that he used sleight of hand to hide his possessions. He later admitted that doing so was “very stupid” – that it was a “reflex that could have got me shot.” One of the two women managed to write down most of the license plate number of the vehicle the thieves were driving. They were later arrested, charged, and sentenced.

Taking a Break From Televised Magic

Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, Copperfield had little to no competition. He was dominating the airwaves with his unique approach to televised magic. But by the end of the ’90s, his fame was dwindling. According to This Was Television, his two mid-’90s TV specials, Fires of Passion and Unexplained Forces, were only so-so.

David Copperfield makes magic in a studio portrait.
Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images

So, he took a break from TV. In 1997, the show Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed debuted. Just like that – magic was back on the map. It was around this time that modern illusionists like David Blaine came out of nowhere and baffled everyone.

A Relic of Magic’s Past

In 2001, Copperfield returned to televised magic with his special, Tornado of Fire, and he suddenly found himself in a whole new world. But his comeback was rocky. He collapsed on stage during rehearsal and was hospitalized for “extreme exhaustion.”

David Copperfield rehearses for 'David Copperfield: Tornado Of Fire.'
Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect/Getty Images

Then there was the incident where one of his crew members was “thrown 10 feet in the air by the power of the man-made tornado” during another rehearsal. The live show went smoother, but it wasn’t well received. It was basically a typical stage show combined with David Blaine-esque street magic, and the audiences were not having it.

One Direction: Las Vegas

For years now, Copperfield has been a headliner in Sin City with one of the most successful shows in MGM Grand history. He performs over 550 shows each year, both in Vegas and around the globe. Copperfield constantly revises his show to keep it fresh and exciting for returning guests.

A giant outdoor billboard near the Airport promotes a David Copperfield show at the MGM Grand Hotel.
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

His Vegas act “elevates the typical illusions and includes a fair amount of sentimentality as well,” according to The Las Vegas Sun. The illusionist is also a major collector of historical artifacts from other magicians and illusionists – a collection he started in 1991 with the $2.2 million purchase of the Mulholland Library of Conjuring & the Allied Arts, the largest Houdini collection in the world.

A Trick Gone Wrong

He may be familiar with the MGM Grand, but Copperfield is still human and has been prone to making mistakes. One unfortunate event brought the magician back into the headlines in 2008. An assistant of his was seriously injured during his show’s final trick and was rushed to the hospital.

David Copperfield performs a trick onstage.
Photo by Robert Mora/Getty Images

“It was reported that someone’s arm was stuck in a fan prop,” the fire department reported. People in the audience thought it was a joke or part of the show, but one eyewitness saw how bad it was. “One of the assistants dropped to the floor,” the witness said.

Pay No Mind to the Blood Behind the Curtain

The witness further described how the curtain came down partially. “Blood was everywhere, and the other assistants dragged the victim back. Then the curtain closed all the way.” A representative of the show explained what happened during the illusion.

David Copperfield poses before a giant poster of himself.
Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

In the act, Copperfield attempts to walk through the rotating blades of a 12-foot-high industrial fan. But this time, the fan and its platform were being rotated by an illusion technician. Just before Copperfield walked through the fan, the assistant was accidentally pulled into the vortex, causing injury to his arm and face.

They Don’t Actually Disappear

Copperfield often involves audience members in his act, and when they “disappear” on stage, they sometimes get injured. One particular audience member, British tourist Gavin Cox, was the victim of Copperfield’s famous “Lucky 13” trick, which the magician had used for 17 years.

A close-up on David Copperfield's hand trick.
Source: YouTube

In 2013, Cox claimed that he fell and injured himself as he was being ushered backstage during the trick. USA Today reported that Cox suffered brain and other injuries in a fall during an illusion that made as many as 13 volunteers disappear on stage and reappear moments later.

Negligent but Not Financially Responsible

Cox and his lawyer sued Copperfield for $400,000 in medical bills. The man also blamed MGM Grand as well as a construction company which apparently left construction dust on the ground where Cox slipped. The jury ultimately found Copperfield “negligent but not financially responsible.”

David Copperfield sits on the stand during his trial.
Source: ABC News

Copperfield’s legal team wasn’t able to close off the courtroom to the media, which meant that the magician was forced to reveal his tricks. And since he exposed his secrets behind the trick, he couldn’t use it again in the future. (Big whoop, though, right?)