At 70 years old, Italian-American actress and model Isabella Rossellini is thriving. Her zest for life is contagious. I’m not surprised in the least that Lancôme revived its contract with her after a 23-year hiatus (she was a mega model for the brand in the ’80s), though it was a big surprise for Rossellini. Here, my conversation with the icon and long-time brand ambassador about Lancôme’s new campaign (my personal favorite to-date), as well as her favorite products, makeup tips, thoughts on TikTok, and more.
The new La Vie Est Belle campaign just debuted and it’s beautiful. What can you tell me about your experience?
“This campaign was a very big production. I had already met some of the other women [Lancôme ambassadors Julia Roberts, Penélope Cruz, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Aya Nakamura and Hoyeon Jung] because we’ve done other photo shoots and gatherings together. I love that Lancôme is communicating the message of La Vie Est Belle ‘Life Is Beautiful,’ rather than restricting us to fit a stereotype where we have to be a certain height, certain weight, with blonde hair and blue eyes, or whatever. They open up to ‘Life Is Beautiful’ and whatever you make of it. I love this message of positivity and inclusiveness. The slogan isn’t seductive, which is a campaign that’s used often in cosmetics. The brand gives you the instruments—makeup, perfume and skin care—to be frivolous and fun and playful in life.
The song What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong is part of the new ad, and it’s been stuck in my head. It’s such a beautiful song and it represents what Lancôme is trying to convey: Life is beautiful; life is wonderful. In the ad, they wanted us to continue the phrase, ‘Life is beautiful because…’ and I said ‘surprising,’ but also ‘adventurous.’ Every day is an adventure. Guess where I am right now?”
“[Laughs] I’m in Long Island on my farm. You know I ran an organic farm…but I’m sitting in a shed with two baby lambs that just arrived yesterday. Life is adventurous and unpredictable. I am wearing lipstick, but I’m also with the lambs.”
Speaking of lipstick, is that the one cosmetic you always have with you?
“Yes. I’m devoted to cream and perfume. But, I generally wear less makeup in my private life because as an actress, I wear a lot of makeup. I spend hours and hours in the makeup chair, and not always to be beautiful—sometimes it’s to be a witch and be green. I’ve also worked with the great makeup artists and I’ve gotten tips from them, but I’ve also gotten lazy.
One tip they gave me that I’ve followed is to wear makeup every day, but without spending 30 minutes in front of the mirror. They taught me to pick one feature that I really like on myself and then make it bigger. I chose my lips, which is why I always wear red lipstick. So sometimes I wear just a little base, a little mascara and red lipstick. Even now when I’m at the farm working with the animals, I have lipstick in my purse. Generally the burgundy color called Isabella, along with another shade called Mademoiselle Isabella [these were both named after her of course].”
What do you do to relax?
“I actually don’t like to relax so much [laughs]; I’m very super active. Sometimes I’ll go for a massage or a facial. I also do water exercise or Tai Chi, but that’s more for my well-being. I have a small indoor swimming pool at my house—I live in the country—and I swim almost every day. I do some meditation to relax, but also some to concentrate. I do it before going on set or on stage because it focuses you—it stops the chatting in your brain, like ‘I have to do this,’ or ‘I forgot to do that.’”
Do you have any favorite skin-care or body-care products?
“Because I swim every day, I need a good body cream. The water really dries my skin, especially in the winter. On my face, I love the Rénergie Serum. It’s the best. I use it night and day—I’m addicted to it. My skin feels so different. Though all the other Lancôme products are fantastic, there’s something about this one I love a little bit more. I also love the Absolue Cream.”
I know you’re on Instagram, but what are your thoughts on TikTok?
“[Laughs] I’m laughing because I don’t even know how to use Zoom. I am on Instagram, but I’ve never posted on TikTok. I’ve never been on Facebook or others. It’s very difficult to maintain social media. I like Instagram because somebody explained it like this to me: ‘Instagram is like a postcard.’ My old mind thought, ‘Oh right. You send a picture of where you are, like Rome, or the farm, or a fantastic party, or a red carpet.’ I understood what I could share with the people who are following me. I’ve also noticed that when you look through Instagram, you instantly know whether a post was done by a team, or a PR person, or directly by the actor. I do mine myself and I keep it very personal.”
“My father was born in 1906, and he always told me he saw the first lightbulb in his house, the first car, the first plane. I would say, ‘I’m so jealous of this industrial revolution my father lived through. There was a medieval world that was changed at the beginning of the century. And for sure we are in a new beginning of a different world—the automic world—and there are worries and concerns.
I even see my grandson, who is five years old, wanting to take my phone when I visit him in the evening. I see there is an addicting quality because when I take the phone away, he is upset. It’s fantastic for communication; it’s fantastic that I can talk to my friends and fans directly through Instagram. I also love that I can follow what the other models are doing. I haven’t seen them in a long time and we shared so much of our lives together.
All of this is great, but I do know that there is also a dark side. I don’t have a strong opinion because unfortunately I’m not very skillful at it, which is also a problem. Social media does cut out a lot of older people. I think that everyone of a certain age has trouble being familiar with the computer and all these programs. It’s not only my problem. I’m of another generation.”
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