A Woman Seizing Her Future
June 9, 2022
Isabella Rossellini was born to movie royalty in Rome on June 18, 1952. Her mother was Ingrid Bergman, the famous Hollywood star of such films as “Casablanca,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Joan of Arc,” and three Hitchcock films. Her father was the Italian neorealist filmmaker and intellectual, Roberto Rossellini. Isabella is known around the world as a global citizen, actress, model, environmentalist, and humanitarian. After her parents separated, she, her sister and a brother lived in hotels in European capitals. She later worked in New York as a translator and a journalist for RAI.
In 1977, Isabella Rossellini interviewed the film director Martin Scorsese. They became involved and married in 1979.
She soon began her modeling career that led to her becoming the face of the French perfume and cosmetics company Lancome, and the world’s highest paid model. In 1982, Rossellini and Scorsese divorced, the same year her mother died. She married fellow model Jon Wiedemann in 1983. Their daughter, Elettra, works with her mother at Mama Farms in Bellport, New York. An adopted son, Roberto, joined a few years later.
The decade from 1986 to 1995 became crucial for Isabella. She made two films with director David Lynch: “Blue Velvet”, playing sexual victim, Dorothy Vallens, in 1986, and in 1990, “Wild at Heart,” in the role of bad girl Perdito Durango.
She also began a relationship with David Lynch and was cast as Lisle von Rhuman in the Robert Zemeckis film, “Death Becomes Her.”
Rossellini’s world of glamorous model and admired actress came crashing down as she approached her 43rd birthday. Lancome cancelled her, saying she was too old to be the dream of women buying their products. She argued she represented a bigger dream, the independent and accomplished woman. She expressed her vision of beauty as defined by the individuals perception of self, not some standard set by others.
Notwithstanding her great love and admiration for her mother, Ingrid Bergman, who died in 1982, the central figure in Isabella Rossellini’s life was her father, Roberto. She was by her own definition, a “Dad’s Girl.” She called his death in 1977 as the worst day in her life, measuring her life thereafter as before Roberto and after Roberto. She made a film honoring him, called “My Dad is 100 Years Old.”
With fewer modeling and acting opportunities, Rossellini made a midlife correction and at 55 enrolled in Hunter College in New York City, earning a masters degree in animal behavior and conservation.
She has employed her education and passion for animals in two very interesting ways. In 2008, she created “Green Porno” in which she dressed up as all variety of animals, exploring their mating rituals in detail and uniqueness. It became a television series and a touring stage production. Then in 2013, she bought a 28 acre farm in Bellport, which had been her home for years, and subsequently the home of her children, Elettra and Roberto.
The farm is her passion. It is home to all variety of animals and plants and is an environmental showcase. She calls it Mama Farm. She is the chairwoman, her daughter Elletra is executive director, and artisans with different skills harvest and produce products for sale and consumption.
Like the humans who make it happen, even the animals are almost all female. No roosters and no rams. It is a feminist collective.
While Mama Farm grows, so does the world’s interest in what she can do. Twenty years after firing her when she was almost 43, Lancome, which has a woman as head of global brands, came back with a new contract buying her idea of what beauty is, saying, “Isabella embodies the idea of an accomplished beauty.” In 2020, in the midst of COVID, she produced “Sex and Consequences” from her home, a virtual production where she talks and shows her videos about the animal kingdom. She is at heart an entertainer and now she has become a teacher.
As productions gear up post-COVID, there are other acting roles with larger parts like the HBO series, “Julia,” in which Isabella plays Simca, Julia Child’s good friend. Those roles help pay for the farm as it grows and becomes more of a distinct place.
On the verge of her 70th birthday, which is June 18th, Isabella Rossellini is a model for self reliance, pushing boundaries, believing in yourself, always learning and always exploring. She is a role model for humanity and a role model for women to seize their future.
See more about Isabella and watch my full conversation with her at charlierose.com.