Isabella Rossellini on Her Return to Lancôme: “I Feel Energized, Delighted, and Surprised”

Thirty-five years since she first became the face of Lancôme, the actress, model, and artist is back, and reflecting on her past and present.

by SunHee Grinnell

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Known globally as Isabella Rossellini, the actress, model, filmmaker, and artist, actually came into the world with a much more elaborate name—Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini. “In Italy, we don’t have middle names, but only on the day of baptism, they call the name of a grandmother, a godmother, and a saint,” she explained in a recent interview. “My mother [Ingrid Bergman] chose Saint Joan (Giovanna) because she played Joan of Arc—so it’s only in that moment, you see. But in all my other documents, I am Isabella Rossellini.” And though many people may never know her full name, it’s on Wikipedia for a very specific reason: “David Letterman once said my full name on his show, and so, it’s the power of television.”

Sitting in the Baccarat Suite at Midtown Manhattan’s Baccarat Hotel in early April, Rossellini radiates sheer positivity and gleaming elegance, albeit her hectic schedule. “Yes, I have been extremely busy lately,” she admits with her brilliant smile. Rossellini has been on a global tour with her one-woman monologue act, Link Link Circus, inspired by her heady Green Porno videos, a study on animal behavior re-enacted with much humor. She also has a role in the upcoming Rudolph Valentino biopic Silent Life, in addition to lending her voice to the long-awaited Incredibles 2in June. She also stars in Vita and Virginia as Baroness Sackville, coming out later in 2018, then finally, Naya Legend of the Golden Dolphin due out next year. Oh, she just published a book, too, My Chickens and I, inspired by the chickens she raises in her farm out in Long Island.

 Left, courtesy of Lancome; right, by Peter Lindbergh/Courtesy of Lancome.

Left, courtesy of Lancome; right, by Peter Lindbergh/Courtesy of Lancome.

On top of all that, Lancôme has come calling again, after 25 years. “I didn’t expect Lancôme to come back or the films to come back, a lot is happening at the same time,” says Rossellini, who first became the face of the brand at the age of 30 in 1982. She’s gracing the beauty giant’s campaign for Rénergie Multi-Glow cream out next week at Ulta nationwide. When she first started with Lancôme, “I used to do three campaigns for the same cream, one for the American market, another for Europe, and third for Asia. Then, the globalization happened.”

For the campaign for Trésor Eau de Parfum, which launched in 1990, Rossellini became a key part of the scent’s development process. “They had three different versions of the scent, and according to market research, they all tested equally throughout,” she remembers. “So they asked me, ‘Which one?’ ‘Oh, well, then I like this one!’” The final version that’s been selling out for years. “Because I was a part of the process, people read through it, I don’t know how but they knew it was genuine, and they felt the enthusiasm and made the personal connection,” Rossellini says.

Her Lancôme deal came to an end when she was 42, and she’s been been frank in interviews about the reason why. But when the company approached her for another contract, it was immediately clear from the start of her meeting with general manager of Lancôme International, Françoise Lehmann, that things had changed. “I’m waiting at a café in Paris, and this motorcycle pulls up, then this tall rider takes off the helmet and her long blonde hair falls out! And I thought, oh my, how times have changed . . . ” she recalls. “Changes are good and for the better.”

 By Peter Lindbergh/Courtesy of Lancome.

By Peter Lindbergh/Courtesy of Lancome.

“Beauty is how you define it for yourself and what is it that you want to present of yourself,” Rossellini says with conviction. “The evolution of the story, then and now, things change and change for the better. It’s not only inclusive in the sense that I’m 65 but the cream, too, the innovation of it all in the formula and also the ad language speaks of sophistication—it is communication that is positive and happy. Therefore, I feel energized, delighted, and surprised, not just because it’s happening for me, but for everybody.”

It’s clearly a full-circle experience for Rossellini. “It’s wonderful to be back, to be a part of women’s emancipation, and I just happen to represent it through Lancôme.” And with that, I took this opportunity to play one-word (or two) association game relating back to her Blue Velvet days and the present. You won’t want to miss this.

sunhee grinnell