Not your usual style icon: Marisa Berenson

by Maje Pérez-Ramos

Before Kendall Jenner, the Hadid sisters or Cara Delevigne, there was Marisa Berenson. A quintessential It girl, she is one of those living legends that any fashion lover or professional must, simply, know. Born in 1947, the story of her life includes some of the greatest names in fashion, art and Western culture of the last 100 years. Myths such as Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Roy Halston, Studio 54 and Karl Lagerfeld, to name just a few, have blossomed and withered before her eyes. Today, at 74, she reigns serenely from her home in Marrakech like an ancestral goddess of Fashion. Because Marisa is like God; she has seen it all, and yet she is still smiling.

She was born predestined for art and celebrity: her father was the diplomat Robert Berenson and her mother, Gogo Schiaparelli, daughter of none other than the revolutionary designer Elsa Schiaparelli. At 16, she began her modelling career under the protection of the ineffable Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of Vogue America from 1963 to 1971, becoming “the face” of Vogue at the time. In those years Marisa would forge her supermodel status, bringing her innate beauty and elegance to countless editorials in front of the lens of photographers who are now History: Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton… Those were years of impossible tans, huge hairpieces and endless eyelashes for her serene green eyes that competed with Twiggy’s goofy blue gaze.

By the seventies, Marisa’s beauty took on its definitive features. Her slender figure, wavy hair and eyebrows kept to a minimum (as was fashionable then) earned her the title of “the girl of the seventies”, coined by her friend Yves Saint Laurent. As with all good models, her own style has not endured as much as her talent for mimicking the aura of each designer, each photographer or even each era. Marisa’s je ne sais quoi and her entrepreneurial spirit soon spread to other fields: She made History in Cinema thanks to her roles in Barry Lindon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975), Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971) and Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972); in 1995 she published an autobiographical book and in 2015 she launched her own cosmetics brand; she has done theatre, and is the author of Marrakech Flair (Assouline, 2020) her contribution to the glamorous Travel Series collection by the American publisher, where she reveals the most seductive places in this city that has captivated her.

Today, what is truly inspiring about Marisa is that she was one of the first voices in the fashion industry to point out the importance of mental health. According to an article written by Eduardo Verbo for Vanity Fair in 2018, at the age of 18 she discovered meditation in India and since then, spirituality and the search for balance have been a constant in her life. She makes no secret of the fact that this has helped her not to get lost in the whirlwind of glamour, parties and occasional misfortune that has been her life (her father died in her teens, she has been divorced twice and lost her only sister in the 9/11 attacks).

Last but not least, she is a living example that a woman’s influence does not end at 40, not even in a world like fashion, which, until recently, seemed to glorify youth above all else: who else would have walked the runway for Tom Ford in 2010 at the age of 63 or gone on stage to perform the provocative musical Berlin Kabarett (Stéphan Druet, 2019) in Montparnasse at the age of 72, no less? Today Marisa Berenson continues to prove that you can be beautiful at any age, and although youth vanishes, what matters is that talent and intelligence are forever.

Images: @marisaberensonofficial

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