At 43, Isabella Rossellini was sacked as the face of Lancme. Now, 20 times 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 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 daydream, administrations told her , not the coarse actuality, 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 fantasy nor that of most women she knew( she says she told Lancme that the new dream was to be independent, to be powerful, to say yourself ), she was replaced, instead humiliatingly, by the very similar-looking Juliette Binoche twilight whisker, pallid surface, full lips, high-pitched cheekbones only 12 years her junior. Heartbroken at their chances of “losing ones” undertaking, her primary informant of income and a second family of colleagues, the mother of two expected a senior executive what she was supposed to do next. He said, Rossellini recalls, I am not your wet nurse.
It was pretty rough , without doubt, it was difficult to, she says now, as we sit in a grand, flower-filled room at the scene of the violation, Lancmes HQ in Paris, where, at 64, Isabella Rossellini is all smiles and once again the hotshot attraction. My daughter was 10 and my son was one, and I was a single mum. I wept and was depressed, and I obsessed 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 simply eight months ago to ask her to return to the bend, Rossellini didnt suggest they jostle their mascara up their derrieres and twisting it.
She is unfathomably magnanimous. There was that affection, when a acquaintance wants to know why I was going back, she concedes. I said, Because Im flattered, Im very 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 very different. When I was here 20 years ago, the secretaries were women and the superiors were servicemen. The industry was one of men establishing commodities on the understanding that makeup was for seduction, she says. 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 brands CEO is now a woman, Franoise Lehmann, and it was she who built the recent request. Having propelled expeditions fronted by Penlope Cruz and Lupita Nyongo, she felt it was high time Lancme celebrated older age, more. As Rossellini explains, Last time , Lancme turned 80, and we were thinking, what else is life like for women 80 years ago? They couldnt vote or own their own accommodation its staggering. We wanted to reflect the emancipation of women that has been so strong in our century.