Germany’s Next Top Model has licensed tracks to use as its theme song from name acts like Rihanna, Britney Spears, The Weeknd and Bruno Mars. For the 17th season, producers stayed in-house by asking longtime host and executive producer Heidi Klum to take a spin at the mic.
The result is “Chai Tea With Heidi,” a dance track from DJ duo WeddingCake featuring rhymes by Snoop Dogg, a man who seems to be everywhere as of late (including a surprise cameo at the Golden Globes nominations announcement to next month’s Super Bowl). The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the ever-busy Klum to find out how it all came together, whether it signals more music to come for the multi-hyphenate and how Rod Stewart ended up in her spam folder.
Anyone who has seen your “Santa Baby” performance on America’s Got Talent knows you can carry a tune. Why did you decide to take a new step and put out a single?
Last year, after we finished the season of my German TV show, Germany’s Next Top Model, the producers and I were sitting around after the three-and-a-half-hour live show. We were discussing what to do for next year, what guests we should have and what the theme song should be. Someone said, “Why don’t you give it a go, Heidi?” I said, “Yes, I would love to try.” I’m always up for a challenge, to try something different and step outside of my comfort zone. I even suggested a duet, and they asked me if I had any ideas who that would be. I said, “Well, Snoop Dogg, of course. Who else?”
I’m a huge fan of Snoop Dogg and I have the utmost respect for him. I mean, 17 albums, seven of those albums went platinum? I grew up listening to Snoop Dogg, and I’ve always been a huge hip-hop fan. I’ve met him over the years, and I felt like I knew him well enough from seeing him in various places all over the world over the last 20 years that I could ask him. I told the producers, “I feel confident enough to just pick up the phone and call him.” If you don’t ask, how will he know that I’m into his music and that I would love to do something with him? So, I got all my courage together and called him up.
How did it go?
He was like, “Oh my God. This is so exciting. Let’s make it happen. Come to Inglewood.” I just said, “Really?” It was so great. Obviously, a few weeks went by before I could go see him because I was shooting and he was busy. While I had the time, I worked with the DJ duo WeddingCake, and we worked on the music. Then, I got in the car and drove to Inglewood. We got in the studio and played it for him, and he said it was dope that it was an EDM track. He’s so open-minded, as you can see by his latest album, Algorithm. He’s doing so many different things with different genres. It’s not just hip-hop — he’s into what other musicians are doing. He was really into the track, and he immediately just went into the vocal booth and started rapping right there on the spot. It was the coolest thing that has ever happened.
I had to ask myself, “Am I dreaming?” I couldn’t believe that I was in Inglewood with Snoop Dogg putting a track together. He then said he was going to work on it a little more and then send it to me later. Literally, the next day there it was, like, boom. He was so excited, and we integrated his rap into the melody and the song, meshed it up, and three days later, it was done.
How did that feel?
For me, it’s one of the most exciting things that I’ve ever done in my life. I mean, I’ve traveled the world, been to the Great Wall of China, been to Africa and all over Europe. I have the most amazing husband and four beautiful children. I have so much to be grateful for already, but to do this, record a single with someone of Snoop Dogg’s caliber, is something I would say has always been on my bucket list. And it happened. I was super stoked about it, and as you can tell, I still am.
So, this is the show’s new theme song?
Yeah. We’ve had Britney, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars. Every year, we have so many amazing artists, and this year is Snoop Dogg and me. It’s so funny. I sing all the time — in my head, in the shower, everywhere — and one of the songs that I’m always singing is this part from Rod Stewart’s “Baby Jane.” I suggested that we put it in there because I thought that people would respond to it because everyone is always looking for their forever love. Everyone loves falling in love. It is a beautiful melody and text. But when you use a sample, you have to ask the original writer if they would allow it. That was probably the hardest thing of everything. Finding Rod Stewart was so hard because he had just left his management team and I couldn’t find him anywhere. I went through my entire Rolodex asking everyone, “Do you know Rod Stewart?” Everyone kept saying, “No.”
I was literally at the doctor’s office asking my doctor, “Do you happen to know Rod Stewart?” “No.” I was getting highlights done at the hairdresser asking my stylist. “Do you know Rod Stewart?” She said, “No, but I know his daughter.” So she gave me his daughter’s phone number and I contacted her and she gave me his email. I emailed him and sent him the song, writing, “We can’t do this if you don’t love it and agree to it.”
I didn’t hear anything for four weeks. I just thought to myself, we did this all for nothing and he probably hates it, which is why he’s not getting back to us. Then someone asked me, “Have you considered that maybe his reply is in your spam folder?” Oh my god, no way. I checked my spam folder and sure enough, there was Rod Stewart sitting in my spam for four weeks. His response said, “I love the song. This is so exciting, go ahead.” Boom! Everything fell in place and here we are.
Let’s talk about the music video. As someone who has worked so much in visual mediums, what was your vision?
There is no deep message in the song, it really is just about having fun, having a good time. Everyone has been stuck at home and cooped up for so long and I thought, what a great way to kick off the year with something fun that gets everybody going. That is exactly what we intended with the video. Since it’s an EDM track, the video is me and Snoop and we’re having a fun time and I’m dancing, we’re in the studio, we’re driving around in his car, and I’m on the beach, running around in super sexy outfits. A lot of dancing — dancing our little booty off — because we all need to dance more and have more fun.
It’s a great moment to be on a project with Snoop Dogg as he prepares for the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Does being on the single with him automatically get you on the list for the big game?
Obviously, I want to go so I can see him, but I will be there anyway. I’m actually filming something for a German network at the stadium. I’m so excited because the game is here in Los Angeles, so it couldn’t be easier. I can roll right out of bed and get over there. Who knows? Maybe they will need an extra performer and I can sing “Chai Tea with Heidi,” no problem. I just need something to wear and I’m there!
Now that you know what it takes to put together a single, do you have plans or aspirations for more music? Maybe an album?
I mean, who knows? This is not going to be the next path of my career, but I’ve always done things that didn’t seem like they were on my path, and those are sometimes the most fun. For example, acting was something that I never really intended to do, but then I did six episodes with Michael J. Fox on Spin City. I was on Sex and the City with Sarah Jessica Parker. I’ve done little parts in movies. I never switched gears and said, “I’m now going to become an actress.” It’s just fun to put your feelers out and try new things. I love painting, and I’ve always been a creative person, so I like to express that in many different ways. I feel the same about this single. I hope people listen to the song and really love it, but I think, in a way, the fact that it’s me should be secondary in a way. I want people to say, “Wow, this is a really cool dance track.” And it just so happens that it’s me.
Music is in your children’s DNA. Do they have any talents or aspirations to do anything on the music side?
My youngest daughter, Lou, plays the piano and the ukulele. She was actually onstage once with her dad, performing in front of something like 15,000 people. It was insane. She just stepped right out onto the stage and did her thing. All the fear that I have when I go on stage, the kids don’t have that. But she goes back and forth between, “I’m going to be a pop star, the president of the United States or a veterinarian.” She’s not really sure yet but out of all my kids, she’s the one who is most into music so we will see where it goes. She also takes dance two times a week. I don’t ever want to force them into anything. I let them do their thing and experience as many different activities as they can, and they will find their path eventually all by themselves.
Leni seems to be finding a path by following in your footsteps as a model. How are you helping her navigate that?
It’s so different for her than it was for me because I didn’t grow up in this industry, but Leni has always had a camera in her face. Her entire life, she would always come with me to various film, TV and photo shoot sets. So my kids feel very at home in that kind of environment. She has a very good head on her shoulders. She knows what she wants to do when different offers come in. She knows when something doesn’t feel like her. She will say, “No, I don’t want to do that because it has to be authentic and something I really believe in and something that I really love.”
I let her really take the lead on everything, and I help to oversee to make sure that everything is kosher and people are good to her. But at the end of the day, it’s her path and I let her do what she wants to do. She’s already doing a bunch of different [partnerships and campaigns]. She did something with the hair tool brand, ghd, and she signed with Fila. What I love is that she also wants to break the mold, and she says that she can change the industry with her height because she’s not very tall. There’s always been these rules about height, weight and measurements and Leni says, “I can change that for other people who are my height, and so we can all get to work.” She has such a good head on her shoulders.
Are you a New Year’s resolution person? Did you set any for 2022?
To honestly have more fun, to kiss more, snuggle in bed more with my loved ones and tell them that I love them more. There’s so many negative things happening in the world all the time, so I feel like now is the time to grab every opportunity to celebrate, put a smile on your face and give love to all the people around you. I always try to be more positive in life, and that’s really the goal for 2022.
Listen to Klum’s “Chai Tea With Heidi” here.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.