At 43, Isabella Rossellini was sacked as the face of Lancme. Now, 20 years on, shes been rehired. She talks movies, her mother, Ingrid Bergman, and her rollercoaster life
In 1996, when Isabella Rossellini was about to turn 44, she was sacked. After 14 years as the appearance and spokesperson of Lancme cosmetics, she was told in no uncertain terms that she was past it. Beauty advertising was about the dream, administrations told her , not the coarse reality, and women dreamed about being young; the actors face would soon become an unwelcome 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 daydream was to be independent, to be strong, to assert yourself ), she was replaced, preferably humiliatingly, by the very similar-looking Juliette Binoche darknes whisker, pallid skin, full cheeks, high cheekbones exclusively 12 times her junior. Heartbroken at future prospects of “losing ones” responsibility, her primary source of income and two seconds lineage of colleagues, the mother of two asked a senior administration what she was supposed to do next. He said, Rossellini recollects, I am not your wet nurse.
It was pretty rough , no doubt, it was hard, she says now, as we sit in a magnificent, flower-filled room at the vistum of the crime, Lancmes HQ in Paris, where, at 64, Isabella Rossellini is all smiles and once again the sun magnetism. My daughter was 10 and my son was one, and I was a single mum. I wept and was depressed, and I worried financially. As a fortysomething single mom of two myself, I tell her I can well imagine. What Im struggling to understand is how, when Lancme called her just eight months ago to ask her to return to the crimp, Rossellini didnt suggest they jostle their mascara up their derrieres and construction it.
She is unfathomably magnanimous. There was that tendernes, when a friend wants to know why I was going back, she relinquishes. I said, Because Im flattered, Im exceedingly stroked, 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 most varied. When I was here 20 years ago, the secretaries were women and the leaders were souls. The industry was one of men developing concoctions on the understanding that makeup was for seduction, she says. But I introduce makeup on even if I go out with my sister there is a pleasure in the gesticulate. I was not understood.
Significantly, the labels CEO is now the status of women, Franoise Lehmann, and it was she who made the recent summon. Having launched expeditions fronted by Penlope Cruz and Lupita Nyongo, she felt it was high time Lancme celebrated older age, too. As Rossellini interprets, Last year , Lancme grew 80, and we were thinking, “whats being” life like for women 80 years ago? They couldnt vote or own their own suite its phenomenal. We wanted to reflect the release of the status of women that has been so strong in our century.