By Molly ROSSI
Some faces suit their era, some faces seem to transcend reality for the moment before they are forgotten, and some faces, regardless of time and age, are simply unforgettable. Isabella Rossellini is a woman of many faces, and not one of them is easily forgotten. Her enduring beauty, timeless elegance, dynamic talent and wit, unbridled creativity, and genuine honesty make her a living embodiment of two classic ideals: that of the refined, graceful Italian woman, and the driven, unrelenting American woman.
“I set high goals for myself, I seek perfection, dream of exotic faraway places. But ultimately, what I long for isn’t far away at all. It’s in my own backyard. Imperfection charms me, familiar things move me… a celebration of what we have, instead of what we long for. That for me, is glamour.” Says Rosselini, a model, actress, filmmaker, writer, science enthusiast, UNICEF Ambassador and mother.
From the moment she was born into a family of film royalty, Isabella did not have to look far for glamour. As daughter of parents Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosselini, one of the most legendary unions of the last century, her life became noteworthy from its inception. However, as she proved to be a remarkable film talent in her own right, it is striking that she never sought to reject or separated herself from her parent’s legacy the way many famous offspring have before her and since. Instead, she has lead the celebration of their legacy with a confident dignity that proves she has never shaken the inherent Italian value of ‘familigia.’ Her recent accomplishments include the book In the name of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Spirits: Remembering Roberto Rossellini (2006), which was published as a written tribute alongside her film, My Dad Is 100 Years Old. As a mother, she has made an immense effort to raise her children close to her twin sister’s family.
There was a time when Rosselini’s heritage was more of a hindrance to her own career than a celebrated piece of her own artistic legacy. She once admitted to Interview magazine that her late entry into the family business, at age 31, was partially affected by the pressure of being compared to her mother’s onscreen image. However, she bravely entered the field as an adult, carving a meaningful career by choosing challenging films with consequential themes with stunning performances, such as her role in 1987’s Blue Velvet, for which she won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead. In 2011, she was selected to be the Rossellini was announced as the President of the Jury for the 61st Berlin Film Festival.
As an actress and model, she can now claim a decades-long career of success, such as her unprecedented tenure as the face of Lancome in the 90’s. Proving again to be more than a pretty face, her statements about the somewhat controversial end of her contract resounded powerfully with the public. “The only thing that made me suffer, and it was very painful, was losing the Lancôme contract…I thought that the cosmetics industry finally had the opportunity to break this taboo about women in their forties not being beautiful—that narrow idea of beauty!” she said. In the end, this event was just another chapter in a lengthy and dynamic career.
One of the most interesting accomplishments of Rosselini in recent years was her 2007 enrollment in Hunter College to study Animal Behavior, which she completed concurrently with her guest role on Tina Fey’s NBC smash 30 Rock. Around this time, the Sundance Channel and Robert Redford commissioned her for an educational series about animal behavior. What resulted was the popular online series Green Porno (2008), which Rosselini, writes, directs, produces and stars in. In 2013, the follow up program Mammas (2013), which explores motherhood within animal life, debuted to rave reviews. Her career as been on of fearless risk, and these recent adventures have paid off tremendously.
“I felt I shouldn’t be doing a job that takes advantage of your beauty. In fact, I didn’t even think that I was beautiful.” Rosselini once admitted, reflecting on her early career. Though she never sought to be a role model, her strength, motivation, and endurance has outshined even her own beauty in forming her legacy, which continues to grow and transform as she transforms and, and even destroys, the boundaries that define what it means to be a beautiful woman.
Molly Rossi is an editorial intern for the Italian Journal