ROSSY DE PALMA
Interview by Miguel Figueroa | Editor Marc Sifuentes | Photography by Sophy Holland | Styling by René Garza | Art Direction by Louis Liu
Hat by Stephen Jones | Cape by Joanna Mastroianni | Choker by Laruicci
Rossy de Palma, born in Palma de Mallorca, was originally a singer and dancer before being discovered by filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar in 1986. He cast her in roles based on her unique appearance which are best described as a Picasso come-to-life. In 1988, Rossy de Palma broke the rules of beauty when she starred in Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and became a model and muse for designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler. Her status as an iconic fashion face was further cemented with her role in Robert Altman’s 1994 satirical fashion film Prêt-à-Porter. Today, she is a theater actress, charity spokesperson for the Ghanian Charity, OrphanAid Africa, and the face of luxury fashion ad campaigns.
Hat by Tolentino Haute hats | Vintage Thierry Mugler Jacket | Vintage Dress by North Beach Leather | Belt by Saint Laurent | Shoes by Iris Van Herpen | Earrings by Victoria Hayes | Leather Glove by Elena Benarroch
Some of the roles you’ve played in Almodóvar films include talk show host, drug dealer, a daughter trapped in a small town living with a hysterical mother, a snobby woman from Madrid, and now, in Julieta you play a malicious housekeeper who doesn’t know much of the world outside her own. You’ve been one of the most consistent Chica Almodóvar in the director’s filmography. Why do you think he always comes back to you?
Well, not always. Out of 20 movies, I’ve only been in seven. It’s a pleasure to work with him. I mold myself well, and he knows that with me, he can do whatever he wants. I’m devoted to him and that has its advantages because he knows that I’m effective. I’ll give him whatever he wants.
Do you remember the first time you met Pedro Almodóvar ?
Of course. Legend has it that we met in a bar. But, we met during the years of the Movida Madrileña. I had just arrived to the capital from Mallorca with my music group, Peor Imposible and he used to come to our shows. By that time he was already an underground legend. He had just wrapped What Have I Done to Deserve This? and was beginning to work on Matador. He was casting for that film, but I couldn’t make it because I had a concert in Alicante that same day. He was starting to nag me and I decided to play hard to get. I was going to seduce him from afar. He used to come to a bar I was working at, the King Creole and offered me a small role in Law of Desire. He asked me “Would you like to?” and I responded “Yes, yes; I couldn’t make it to the Matador casting” and he replied, “Ok, well, let’s go.”
He was very happy with me. He wanted to portray who I was in Law of Desire. I did my own hair and makeup; I didn’t allow wardrobe to touch my look. I wanted to immortalize who I was aesthetically at that time. I played a TV journalist; but since I was dressed as myself, I didn’t feel like an actress. But, then, when he wrote me the part of Antonio Banderas’ snobby girlfriend in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown it was much more fun because that was the first time I worked
as an actual actress.
Did you work in any other movies between Law of Desire and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown?
No. In the beginning of my career I only worked with Pedro because I was also focused on my music project. Later on, I started working in more films, but in Italy. I haven’t really worked much in Spain until recently. In Spain I only worked with Pedro.
Hat by Graham Tyler | Cape and Corset Belt by Joanna Mastroianni | Feather Shrug worn as Skirt by Harrison Morgan | Ring by Eddie Borgo | Boots by Pleaser
Did you want to be an actress when you were a young girl?
I’ve been an actress from an early age because I acted differently around each person. I noticed that you had to become a different person. I was conscious that you needed to have a different psychology for each person in order to unite each of your complexities. I was also aware of the simulacra of things. I’ve always felt more of an artist than an actress. I like to keep various creative channels open. I would say that poetry was my first love. The Dadaist poets opened up this whole new dimension of thinking that made me aware that there was another world out there waiting for me. I recently worked in a performance called Residencia de Amor that deals with that: how art helps you survive and how therapeutic it is.
Think of it as being the ugly ducking and suddenly you leave, and in this new world you are a Disney character. Tapping into that place of my consciousness without knowing that there was another world waiting for me really cheered me up. Then, also, you need to have music, art and all sorts of things that lift you in order to live another kind of reality because real life is tough.
Have you always been connected to your voice within?
Yes. I’ve always been connected to that spirit that we all have inside. In fact, I’m very rational; but everything I do creatively I do it from my unconsciousness. I like to surprise myself and see things as if they were the first time I saw them. When I have to interpret a character, I don’t like to prepare and study for it. I like to come from stillness. I welcome and work with accidents and errors. It enriches your life. You can’t think that you can control everything.
You can’t control anything.
No, you can’t. I don’t believe in that vanity that some artists who think they are creators. No. I believe that everything comes from a collective unconsciousness and when we allow ourselves to be receptive we become vehicles for it but we are not the protagonists. We can’t think, “Oh, I’m going to sit down and write a song.” No. That song came to you from the thousands of influences you have. You are a vehicle for art. I don’t believe in painters who are so self-deprecating. I prefer the humility behind being receptors and we are vehicles for creativity. We’re all artists.
Julieta is a great film. His female characters continue to be his strongest suit.
Yes. Isn’t this music very 90s? (Forever Young plays in the background)
My partner says that time does not exist.
My daughter tells me, “Mom, you’re so lucky to have lived in the 80s!” Yes, she’s right. No one can take those memories from me; but especially to have survived that decade, because so many didn’t
make it. If it wasn’t drugs, it was AIDS and also the road. In those days the roads in Spain were awful; many fellow musicians like Tino Casal died in tragic car accidents. OD’s, AIDS and the road. Madre mía. All pathways. (Both laugh)
Dress by Marna Ro | Bra worn on top by Zana Bayne | Earrings by Victoria Hayes
And how did you make it?
I was very mature in the 80s. I was in my 20s. My adolescence was in my 30s. I was serious in my 20s. All of my friends were getting high and I was everyone’s mother. I protected my friends. I was “homeless” but I had a daily planner. Pedro was always mesmerized by this; “look at her, she’s so organized!”
Maybe it’s because you’re a Virgo.
Yes, I am. Perhaps it’s that. But I had also moved from Mallorca to Madrid. I left behind my teenage brother and he needed me. My mother was hustling through the market in order to save enough money to send me 3000 pesetas [about $20] in a money order each month. It was so little and it was all she could. With that in mind, I knew I wasn’t there to waste time. I had to pave my road and if not, I went back home. I couldn’t distract myself. I was very clear with my intention. I also didn’t like drugs. Only weed. I don’t like drugs that affect my mindset and take me to other realities because the reality that we live in is already rough enough and psychedelic itself to take me somewhere else. I mean, back in the day we tried everything but weed, the relaxing kind. Sativa’s great but I’m more of an Indica girl. I didn’t get hooked to anything because I wanted to work and build. Let’s be realistic there is no money when you are starting out in music; so even when I worked at bars, I was a bad cocktail waitress because I wanted my patrons to stop drinking. They drank, and drank, and drank. I would tell them, “listen buddy, you just had one…” and the bar owners would come and tell me “This is not Alcoholic Anonymous, you’re here to sell drinks. Be cool. Don’t be such a…”
Don’t be so conscious…
“Don’t be such a good girl…” I love playing evil characters but in life I’m such a good person. I’m a softy and I’m very sentimental. You know what I mean? That’s my personality. In theatre I like to play the bad girl because I compensate for being so good in real life.
How do you channel it? Your character in Julieta is so malicious.
You can’t judge a character because if not, you wouldn’t be able to interpret them.
In an interview with Almodóvar, they ask him how can he create such evil characters and he says that he humanizes them. He starts living with the characters; what they eat? What kind of music they like?
Yes. Yes. You have to humanize. I already told you that I like playing with the subconscious. I am so at ease to work with Pedro. First of all, he re-enacts exactly what he wants. You have to be careful not to copy him nor imitate him too much because if not, then you look like you’re imitating Pedro. You have to take it to your turf. But, he will do what he wants you to do. Down to a T. He’s very precise.
He knows what he wants. And then you’re at ease because he’s moving you around and if you slip he will say, “No, no I don’t want you standing there.” He’s also obsessed with the tone of voice. “This word is too low. Higher…; This one went too high, I want it lower…,” “This one went too low, I want it higher.” Or “You’re dropping your voice.” Obsessed. He has an ear that works for him and it’s impressive what he can do with it. I let go. I surrender to him.
You’d be surprised… Some can’t do it because they don’t have the consciousness to process that Almodóvar is directing them. The important thing is to flow. Absolutely flow. You have to be at ease. Almodóvar is directing you. He will be precise. Really, you just got to play…
We played a lot with this character because the newcomers, Adriana Ugarte (who plays the younger version of Julieta) and Daniel Grao (who plays Xoan, Julieta’s partner) had never worked with him. Before each take, he’d tell me, “Now, don’t tell them anything but when I scream ACTION! You come in expelling and shouting random things like “You don’t have a bathing suit? Well, I have a pair of old bragas that you could use.” They didn’t know what to do. Dumbfounded, they’d ask, “Is this going in?” They didn’t know what was going on! We had so much fun. Even though there was a seriousness in the character, when we were filming we had a lot of fun.”
What’s the thing you like the most about New York?
It’s that thing I was telling you. That the distance between you and yourself is the shortest one. It’s great to know yourself here. No one looks at you. Everybody minds his or her business. There is a connection between you and your inner self that’s very important to know in order to evolve as a person. To get to know yourself and who you are. I almost moved here before I had my kids, moved to Paris and destiny took me somewhere else. But I almost did it with my friend Dorothy who lives here. We almost bought a townhouse. Back then they were so cheap.
Back to Julieta, it is a movie that touches your core.
It leaves an emotional well. It’s hard to swallow. Three or four days after seeing it you’re getting flashbacks. It’s the kind of movie that leaves a scar. Sort of an echo… don’t you think? A few days go by and boom, another flash. I left in a state of shock. I had to drive after seeing it and I was so worried to be on the road; because the film left me a bit loopy. I was distraught.
It makes you think.
The silence. The secrets. All that is dragged down due to miscommunication. But, it’s a movie that you have to let it breathe. Like in the beginning when you see that red creature and you don’t know what it is just to find out that it’s her breathing through the red nightgown. Everything goes in… smoothly. There’s no need to time stamp “three years earlier” or “two days later”. Everything flows. Time just comes in by itself.
Through her hairstyles.
Well, that towel seen is marvelous. Reading that scene in the script was already a gem. I’d think, “what a beautiful transition”. You were excited by reading it. And the ending, which I can’t talk about you’re like “oh my God” A bit shaken. The way he moves the camera. You need to let it breathe…
Everyone somehow, someway sympathizes with Julieta. We’ve all gone through those moments of silence, assuming situations and changing your life in order to carry on.
Or people who never speak again. It’s what Pedro would tell us in order to understand where he was coming from. Try to investigate what makes two people stop loving themselves. They stop communicating. They can’t look at themselves in the same way. They begin
to have secrets. A black hole comes between them.
Veil by Tolentino haute hats | Gold Necklace by Sarina Suriano | Dress by Christian Soriano | Coat by BCalla | Shoes by Christian Louboutin.
They say that it’s because you didn’t give the other what he or she wanted.
Who knows? Each relationship is unique. I think the root (of couples separating) is misunderstandings. It’s a chain of consequences of misunderstandings and people take it personally when some things shouldn’t be a certain way. And then each one starts to victimize themselves and they start a competition of who suffers the most. Right?
And they don’t sit down to think. “Wait a minute. My partner is suffering too.”
Yep. And then you can’t get close. I am dealing with things in personal life where I cannot tolerate to have my arm twisted any longer. It’s now not a question of “I don’t want to be dominated because I was once a super softy that always ended up forgiving everyone and now I am at a moment in my life where I can’t have relationships that fail me. Know what I’m saying? Even if they are family and people who I’ve loved for years I cannot give them that power any longer. It’s like “enough is enough”. Not even God can fail me now. Anything that drives you forward, yes. Everything that, as the French would say”, baton dans la rue, clipping your wings… I don’t want that.
Even if I adore you; I can’t give you that power. Sometimes if you don’t get to that point it’s like you can’t ever go back but it’s not about that. You need to seal things. Let the other know that you need your space. It’s more of a male to female dominance, patriarchal thing. I’m in another moment of my life. I finally learned to love myself. Just recently, really. To really love myself.
And now I can’t lose any of this gained momentum. I don’t want anything that fails nor hurts me. And if you have to re-enforce yourself, you do. You put on an emotional corset, tighten that shell and “nobody gonna come in there. No more, darling.” No more. That’s it. It’s a way of loving yourself without stopping to love other people; of course.
Of course. You have to learn to love yourself.
Of course. I think you really have to learn to love yourself before you can really experiment love from others and let yourself be loved. If you don’t love yourself the right way, no one will. I’m sorry. It’s the truth.
And especially in an industry like this one.
I’ve always been an outsider in every industry. I’m free and willing; I’m everywhere but I’m not anchored anywhere. I like that thing of not belonging. I’m not compromised to any political party. I’m an individualist and an anarchist. I cut it. I eat it. I don’t know… a little bit of freedom… Just having to answer to one person; yourself.
I’m going through a very similar process.
You see yourself through what I’ve been going through. How old are you?
You’re so young, that’s good! Well, look… it’s better to go through it now than when you’re my age. I’ve taken longer. But the important thing is to make it. I may be 52 but I feel like a young girl.
You need to keep your spirit young.
Absolutely! Curiosity is fresh and although we’ve all suffered and everything; my innocence is still
It’s in your eyes…
…of a child. Yes, yes. I can’t stop being a little girl. When we’re children, that’s when we’re more authentic, when we really get to be our genuine selves. You can’t ever lose that. Ok?
It’s so challenging to live in a world that doesn’t want us to be our true selves.
They want us like cattle; all the same. That’s why you always have to rebel.
How did you start?
I mean, let’s start with my nose… Would you like some? How about a nose and a half! Although, it did help me hide that part of me that was more complex, no one could really see me and they just focused on my aesthetic.
I meant to ask you about that.
Talking about my nose is cliché, but we can talk about it if you like. Beauty is so relative. What is really beautiful is nature; flowers… How can there be evil in the world when we have flowers? A thing as beautiful as flowers.