At 43, Isabella Rossellini was sacked as the face of Lancme. Now, 20 times 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 times 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 fantasy, executives told her , not the harsh world, and women dreamed about being young; the actors face would soon become an unwanted reminder of the ageing process. And so, despite Rossellinis insistence that eternal youth was neither her daydream nor that of most women she knew( she does she told Lancme that the brand-new reverie was to be independent, to be powerful, to assert yourself ), she was replaced, rather humiliatingly, by the very similar-looking Juliette Binoche light hair, pale surface, full lips, high-pitched cheekbones merely 12 times her junior. Heartbroken at their chances of losing her activity, her prime beginning of income and two seconds clas of colleagues, the mother of two questioned a senior manager what she was supposed to do next. He added, Rossellini recalls, I am not your wet nurse.
It was pretty rough , no doubt, it was difficult to, she tells now, as we sit in a magnificent, flower-filled room at the site of the felony, Lancmes HQ in Paris, where, at 64, Isabella Rossellini is all smiles and once again the sun 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 baby 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 crease, Rossellini didnt suggest they shove their mascara up their derriere and spin it.
She is unfathomably magnanimous. There was that mood, when a friend asked why I was going back, she admits. I replied, 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 ejected is now most varied. When I was here 20 years ago, the secretaries were women and the superiors were men. The manufacture was one of men forming concoctions on the understanding that makeup was for seduction, she answers. But I place 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 moved the recent call. Having launched campaigns fronted by Penlope Cruz and Lupita Nyongo, she felt it was high time Lancme celebrated older age, very. As Rossellini explains, Last time , Lancme switched 80, and we were thinking, what was life like for women 80 years ago? They couldnt vote or own their own accommodation its breathtaking. We wanted to reflect the liberation of the status of women that has been so strong in our century.