You may know Isabella Rossellini from feature films like Blue Velvet and Death Becomes Her, but there’s more to the talented – and beautiful – woman than meets the eye. The daughter of famous Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and Italian director, Roberto Rossellini, Isabella is known for her quirky personality and classic looks. In the 80s, Rossellini became a model and in 1983, was named the exclusive spokeswoman for Lancôme, where she helped the brand develop the best-selling Trésor fragrance. Decades later at the age of 63, she’s been re-appointed the face of Lancôme by the brand’s new female CEO, Francoise Lehmann to represent beauty and grace at any age. Here, the worldly actress dishes on style, family, favorites and what it’s like to be a beauty ambassador in her 60s.
When Lancôme contacted you in 2016 to become its Ambassador, were you surprised?
Yes, I was! Extremely! Our collaboration was interrupted twenty years ago. The tendency at the time was to consider women past forty as no longer desirable… So, when Françoise Lehman, the General Director of Lancôme called me, my first reaction was to tell her that I had not gotten any younger! Quite the contrary, a few years had been added! But I was very impressed by the intelligence, the modern approach of her discourse. Is it because she is a woman? Male leaders tend to focus on the notion of seduction. Françoise spoke to me about sensitivity, energy, ‘joie de vivre’, femininity not linked to age but to pleasure… A femininity aimed at women and men in equal measure…
In what way does beauty matter at 65? Do you feel freer?
It all depends on what you call ‘beauty’. In the long run, elegance and the mind are what give certain women their beauty. I am thinking for example of Maria Callas and Frida Kahlo. At 20, everyone is beautiful, and you can settle on jeans and a t-shirt. At 65, beauty becomes a matter of elegance, individuality, details, personal combinations. Today, I no longer seek to be sexy but to find the best expression of myself. At my age, I no longer dread how others view me so it’s truly liberating to be myself, to have fun.
What is the most important thing you have learned through the years?
When we mention age, we also speak of wrinkles, of weight and never of the freedom acquired with time. And yet, it’s the most important: I feel freer, funnier! The past is the past and from now on, it’s simpler, more joyful!
What is the first thing you notice in a woman?
Humour, for sure! And then a certain originality, a personal, genuine touch. As I said, that for me, is elegance.
In one sentence, what is your message for women in their sixties?
We are used to saying and thinking that women sacrifice themselves throughout their lives. With time, we understand that it is better to do things for oneself. So, seek pleasing yourself rather than youth!
What do you feel regarding your skin’s own evolution?
The only thing that bothers me is my neck! With regards to the rest, you know, we look at ourselves every morning in the mirror and do not see ourselves age! As far as I am concerned, I feel no nostalgia; what matters is not regaining youth but being well. In that respect, I am happy that Lancôme has removed the terms ‘anti-wrinkle’ and ‘anti-age’ for there is not the question.
In just a few words, what is your definition of happiness?
Affection for my family and friends.
What is your relationship with Rénergie?
It’s for me a very special skincare since I have always used it, since it’s very first formula. My skin could no longer live without it. From that perspective, embodying its image corresponds to the truth, which I like. I consider this cream a pleasure, a gift to my skin and to myself.
Talk to us about Rénergie multi-glow. How does this skincare affect your skin?
I love this new formula! It’s more delicate, perfectly penetrates the skin; its pinkish hue is very pleasant and it smells good. My skin is well moisturized and feels better: it’s both an interior and exterior sensation. Moreover, I ask to visit the laboratory where the skincare is conceived. I like listening to the professionals, the researchers, the dermatologists, the perfumers. Even if obviously I don’t understand everything, it helps me better communicate afterward.
What do you think is the role of beauty in women’s lives?
It’s very important. Incidentally, modeling is one of the rare fields where women are better paid than men! But I think that things have evolved. Today, we increasingly expect from a beautiful woman that she also possesses depth, personality, intelligence… Look at Rossy de Palma, she is not a classical beauty and yet…
Please describe your personal style.
I would say simple and direct, I like minimalist pieces that I accessorize with hand-crafted details, for example a collar, a sleeve. I have a passion for the crafts, its know-how, fabrics, shawls… Nazzy, one of my Iranian friends, is a specialist, and I get a lot of items from her.
You recently shared the runway with your son (model and photographer); is it important to work with your children?
For me it’s important, but most probably much less so for them! They are adults, have their own lives, it’s normal! My daughter is involved with cuisine, my son is pursuing his photography and modeling career. I support them, delighted that they are passionate, and we remain very close.
Do you think that your approach to beauty has influenced your daughter’s?
What confounded me a few years back was the huge importance Elettra and her friends bestowed to physical appearance. I thought that after so many years of feminism, that the new generations, moving far beyond simple measurements, would have redefined beauty first and foremost as the expression of one’s self… Which for me constitutes elegance and therefore beauty. I believe that women and their place in society continues to evolve. Things are improving; my return to Lancôme is tangible proof of that! It’s not only positive for myself, but for all women. And one of my greatest joys in my new role as ambassador is precisely to be a witness to this evolution at the heart of an industry dedicated to femininity, its dreams and desires. As a matter of fact, my daughter has also worked for Lancôme. Actually, it’s during one of her shoots that she met Caleb Lane, her baby’s father. It says how much more than just a job Lancôme is to us!
What is your discipline, your lifestyle?
I have always had a very delicate back and therefore cannot practice any sports. But I walk a lot, four, five kilometers per day including indoors if the weather does not permit it. And here again, the countryside is very restorative. It lets you slow down the rhythm, isolate yourself whereas New York is full of temptations.
Your beauty routine?
Rénergie in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon if my skin feels tight, sunscreen always as well, and in the evening the richer night time cream version.
What matters most to you when choosing a skincare?
You don’t change skincare so easily after all that time! When you have found the right one, which is not simple, you remain faithful.
Why would you recommend Rénergie? And to whom?
I would recommend Rénergie to… everyone! My daughter, who is half my age, really likes it as well. It is a very good cream. At times, I have been suggested to use natural skincare instead, but I respect large brands above all. Lancôme works with the greatest laboratories, is increasing research, technical advances, inspections, testing. The regulations for entering the international market are extremely stringent. For me, it’s a sign of total confidence.
What is something always in your luggage?
Having always traveled a lot, I know that bringing simple and easy to combine pieces is key. Everything must mix and match so as to not take up too much space. On the beauty side, always a touch of cheerfulness on the lips with L’Absolu Rouge, a true red – like shade 132 – and of course… Rénergie.
In terms of your career, of what are you most proud?
My mother-in-law used to tell me that ‘in life, some chapters open and some close’. I am proud of having well managed my consecutive chapters. Modeling, films, returning to school to study animals and films again, and now the monologues which I write and perform on stage with the desire to transmit, to tell… I go from one chapter to the next with the feeling that each one is thrilling to experience.
What is the difference, if there is one, between a Lancôme ambassador 20 years ago and today?
At the time, women were only required to inspire dreams. For example, during photo shoots, I always removed my wedding band. It was not about having an identity but of embodying beauty. Today, it’s the opposite! Complexity, personality and individuality are all at the forefront.
A precious memory you keep tucked away?
My parents, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. They never leave my mind. They were so full of joy! How we laughed together and really, nothing compares to laughter.
What is your favorite destination?
Paris is, and remains, dearest to my heart.
Heels or flats?
Flats of course! Comfort above all!
Trouser suit or dress?
A short while ago I would have replied trouser suit without hesitation! But for the past year or so, I find myself wearing more and more dresses. Not long ago I sorted through my wardrobe and gave away my masculine jackets. The time for dresses has arrived… I prefer them a little longer.
Red or nude lips?
Red, without a doubt!
Best beauty trick?
Rénergie and lipstick.
Your guilty pleasure?
A very hot long bath.
Two words to describe yourself...
‘The Circus” by Charlie Chaplin. I watch it at least once a year.
Azzedine Alaïa who just left us. I have a great admiration for designers who remain faithful to themselves, to their vision. It takes true courage.
What talent would you dream of possessing?
What is your greatest fear?
Losing my children.
Photo shoot or film set?
Strangely, I have always preferred photo shoots to film sets. A photograph is a greater challenge: you only have a short instant to find the right attitude and convey the emotion.
1983 or 2018?
My daughter was born in 1983 and my grandson on January 2nd, 2018. So I’ll take both!