At 43, Isabella Rossellini was sacked as the face of Lancme. Now, 20 years on, shes been rehired. She talks movies, her father, Ingrid Bergman, and her rollercoaster life
In 1996, when Isabella Rossellini was about to turn 44, she was sacked. After 14 years as the face and spokesperson of Lancme cosmetics, she was told in no uncertain terms that she was past it. Beauty advertising was about the daydream, managers told her , not the harsh reality, and women “ve been dreaming about” being young; the actors face would soon become an unpleasant reminder of the ageing process. And so, despite Rossellinis insistence that eternal youth was neither her dream nor that of most women she knew( she says she told Lancme that the brand-new dreaming was to be independent, to be powerful, to declare yourself ), she was replaced, instead humiliatingly, by the very similar-looking Juliette Binoche obscurity mane, pale skin, full cheeks, high-pitched cheekbones exclusively 12 times her junior. Heartbroken at their chances of losing her errand, her prime source of income and a few seconds house of colleagues, the mother of two expected a elderly executive what she was supposed to do next. He said, Rossellini withdraws, I am not your wet nurse.
It was pretty rough , without doubt, it was difficult to, she says now, as we sit in a magnificent, flower-filled area at the scene of the violation, Lancmes HQ in Paris, where, at 64, Isabella Rossellini is all smiles and once again the star allure. My daughter was 10 and my son was one, and I was a single mum. I cried and was depressed, and I perturbed financially. As a fortysomething single father of two myself, I tell her I can well see. What Im struggling to understand is how, when Lancme called her merely eight months ago to ask her to return to the bend, Rossellini didnt suggest they shove their mascara up their derriere and spin it.
She is unfathomably magnanimous. There was that feeling, when a friend wants to know why I was going back, she admits. I said, Because Im flattered, Im extremely touched, I miss them. Its very personal, but I dont know whether Im being forgiving. Rossellini says the company from which she was exhausted is now very different. When I was here 20 years ago, the secretaries were women and the bosses were beings. The manufacture was one of men forming produces on the understanding that makeup was for seduction, she says. But I set makeup on even if I go out with my sister there is a pleasure in the gesture. I was not understood.
Significantly, the brands CEO is now a woman, Franoise Lehmann, and it was she who formed the recent bawl. Having launched expeditions fronted by Penlope Cruz and Lupita Nyongo, she felt it was high time Lancme celebrated older age, more. As Rossellini justifies, Last year , Lancme turned 80, and we were thinking, what was life like for women 80 years ago? They couldnt vote or own their own accommodation its extraordinary. We wanted to reflect the liberation of women that has been so strong in our century.