All curves and pouting lips, it is no surprise that Italian-born Monica Bellucci was chosen to be the face of Dior’s cosmetic campaigns at the ripe age of 40. Four years on, the seductive beauty is still fronting its campaigns along with fellow ambassadors Sharon Stone and Charlize Theron.
The award-winning actor and Cannes Film Festival judge was born in Italy and, although not yet a household name outside Italy and France, her long list of international films prove her ability to act. Fluent in three languages (English, French and Italian), Bellucci is best known for her César-nominated appearance in L’appartement, her role as a prostitute in Shoot ’Em Up (opposite Clive Owen), as Mary Magdalene in The Passion of the Christ and also as Persephone in the dual sequel The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Bellucci’s most recent film, Rebecca Miller’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, saw her acting alongside Robin Wright Penn, Julianne Moore, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves and she is currently filming opposite Nicolas Cage in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, set to hit cinemas in 2010.
As a child, Bellucci idolised screen icons Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida and fantasised about becoming a movie star, yet becoming a lawyer seemed a much more realistic and achievable career. However, while she was at university in Perugia, she was scouted by a modelling agency and soon landed so many jobs that she had to give up her studies. Bellucci’s lucky break came when Italian film director Dino Risi spotted her photo in a magazine and cast Bellucci in his film Vita Coi Figli. Two years later, Francis Ford Coppola did much the same, selecting Bellucci to play one of Dracula’s brides in the 1992 film Dracula. Bellucci has now been quoted as saying she is glad she never became a lawyer, because her large personality is best suited in front of the camera, not behind a desk.
Bellucci is married to French actor Vincent Cassel, with whom she has appeared in several films, and has a five-year-old daughter, named Deva. In 2004, while pregnant with her daughter, Bellucci posed nude for the Italian Vanity Fair magazine in protest against Italian laws that prevent the use of donor sperm.
Having one of the best pouts in the business, it was no surprise when in 2006 Dior announced that Bellucci would be the face of its new lipstick collection, Rouge Dior, following in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest actors, Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall, Charlize Theron (for J’Adore fragrance) and Sharon Stone (for Capture Totale skincare). Bellucci’s latest campaign for Dior has been the launch of its revolutionary anti-ageing lipstick, Sérum de Rouge.
“When Dior contacted me to become the face of Rouge Dior I was very touched. Representing a symbol of beauty, especially a house like Dior, is very flattering,” says Bellucci.
Three years on, Bellucci describes her adventure as “magnificent”. Magnificent because it has been a very interpersonal experience, one where she has been able to meet people who she enjoys working with.
One such person is Tyen, the artistic director for Dior since 1979 and photographer for the Dior make-up campaigns. “I have been working with Tyen for several years now. We knew each other before we started working for Dior. He knows my face well and he knows how to bring out my best side,” Bellucci explains with a smile.
Bellucci has also enjoyed working with John Galliano, “I love working with John. We started working together in 2003 when I was mistress of ceremonies at Cannes, where I opened and closed the festival. That was the first time I decided to wear Dior at a public event. And I liked it very much. Ever since, I often wear Dior.”
When Dior contacted Bellucci, she had just turned 40, and had also just become a mother. “It was a very special time in my life – the happiest. When I was 20, I never could have imagined that the happiest time of my life would be at 40! When you are 20 years old and you think of being 40 years old, it seems so far away. But in reality, time goes by very quickly. But it is true that, for me, 40 was a very important age. I think that when a woman becomes a mother, it’s as if she crosses a bridge, entering into a new world of maturity and responsibility, but it also allows you to discover more about yourself.
“I think it’s wonderful that a house of beauty may call on a woman when she has reached her maturity. Generally speaking, 40-year-old women are not usually used as the faces of beauty. I never thought that I could be the face of Dior make-up.”
Now that Bellucci is in her 40s, she has a whole new outlook on life: “I am a woman who has lived life; I have been married, divorced, then remarried and have a child. I have been in movies. I have modelled. I have a past. And I am glad for that.
“I think that today, a 40-year-old woman is a woman in a very powerful place. As I always say, 200 years ago women didn’t live that long. However today, at the age of 40, you can have a child and see them grow up, since we are, in general, living a lot longer than our ancestors. We have a lot of time ahead of us, and we should use that time, otherwise we will get bored,” says Bellucci.
One of the reasons why Dior chose Bellucci is because, as an actor, she can reinvent her image. On her time at Dior, Bellucci says, “It’s a magnificent game of fantasy and it starts with the chemistry between the photographer Tyen and me. I find it fun to play the game of femininity in all its splendour. Women’s moods are always changing. One day you feel more or less feminine, more or less sensual, more or less cheeky, and more or less childish. I think that you need to use all those diverse facets of your own personality and put them into the image.”
Tyen has created images for Dior for more than 30 years, so he knows the demands of this magnificent house. For Bellucci, it is an honour to be one of his inspiring muses. “When we work together, it is about chemistry, symbiosis, and a human relationship. It could not be any other way. When we do a photo shoot, we don’t focus on the finished product – it’s really a form of artistic expression,” she explains.
For the Dior shoots, Bellucci leaves everything up to Dior and Tyen. “I do the modelling and then I let them make all the choices. I never become involved in choosing a photo because I am confident that they will choose the right one and every time an image comes out, it is very beautiful. I have never been behind the final decision. As a model, you have a sense of relinquishment, of giving up your image and not inspecting or monitoring everything. I like that. Afterwards, they are the ones who make the decisions. It’s also a form of freedom. And I also like being seen through the eyes of others, because personally, my opinion of a photo would undoubtedly be different than that of Tyen or that of Dior. I like being seen by others and I also like being judged by others, because it’s an objectiveness that I would never have,” explains Bellucci.
The actor and model enjoys playing with seduction and femininity. “If I didn’t like seduction, I would not be in this line of work. Being an actress is a very feminine job,” says Bellucci.
She is also a believer that beauty has to come from within. “If you don’t feel good, it’s impossible to look good,” she adds.
And as for the actors who have inspried her, Bellucci says Claudia Cardinale, Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren all made an impression. “And, of course, Marilyn Monroe. She was so delicately feminine. Her femininity took on such an extraordinary dimension that it’s incredible how all the other actresses, even the most beautiful ones and the most feminine ones, they all seemed a little less feminine when they were around Marilyn, because she was truly femininity incarnate, she was really something else.”