Swanepoel's resume includes covers for Australian, Brazilian, Mexican, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Italian Vogue, Brazilian, British, German and South African ELLE, British, South African, Romanian, Mexican and Chinese GQ, American, Turkish, Spanish, Czech and Argentine Harper's Bazaar, i-D,Lush and Ocean Drive (U.S.) and advertisements for Nike, Diesel, Guess?, Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford, Prabal Gurung, Swarovski, Colcci, True Religion,Ralph Lauren, Miu Miu, Juicy Couture and Versace. Swanepoel has walked the runway for Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce and Gabbana, Michael Kors, Donna Karan,Giambattista Valli, Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung, Rag & Bone, Oscar de la Renta, Fendi, Chanel, Elie Saab, Diane von Fürstenberg, Sportmax, Betsey Johnson,Stella McCartney, Viktor and Rolf, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior, Blumarine and numerous other designers, as well as for Victoria's Secretsince 2007. In addition to appearing in the lingerie brand's commercials, she was a featured model in the 2010 "SWIM" catalog, along with Lindsay Ellingson,Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Behati Prinsloo and Erin Heatherton.
In 2010, Swanepoel became a Victoria's Secret Angel. Swanepoel modeled for the Kardashians' 2010 swimwear line. On 12 August 2010, Swanepoel officially opened the first Victoria's Secret retail store in Canada, at West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton. In 2013, Swanepoel was named the cover model of the coveted Victoria's Secret Swim Catalogue. Swanepoel was chosen to wear the "Fantasy Bra" in the 2013 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. The 10 million dollar bra, dubbed the "Royal Fantasy Bra," was created by Mouawad. The bra and its matching belt featured over 4,200 precious gems, including rubies, diamonds and yellow sapphires set in 18 carat gold with a 52-carat ruby at the center. The "Royal Fantasy Bra" is the most expensive Fantasy Bra since the 2005 "Sexy Splendor Fantasy Bra" worn by Gisele Bündchen.
Swanepoel made her debut at No. 10 on Forbes' The World's Top-Earning Models list, with estimated earnings of $3 million between 2010 and 2011. She was ranked No. 9 in 2013 with estimated earnings of $3.3 million.
Swanepoel was born and raised in Mooi River, South Africa, to an Afrikaner family of Dutch origin. At age 15, she was spotted by a model scout in aDurban flea market. She is fluent in Afrikaans and Portuguese, which she learned from her boyfriend, Hermann Nicoli, a Brazilian male model. She has been dating him ever since they met in Paris when she was 17. She is close friends with fellow African and Victoria's Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo and British model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.