Cuyana Woman Series: Elettra Wiedemann & Isabella Rossellini
Elettra Wiedemann and Isabella Rossellini
reflect on past memories and future identities
Amidst canopying trees and wild grass in Bellport, Long Island, Elettra Wiedemann and her mother, Isabella Rossellini, share with us a glimpse into their world. The duo muses on the topic of change, self-discovery, motherhood and their relationship with each other.
Isabella came to this stretch of the island to connect with nature and pursue her childhood passion—a degree in Animal Behavior and Conservation. After years of acting and posing in front of legendary filmmakers and photographers, Isabella is now an artisanal farmer, supplying her local community with fresh produce.
Like her mother, who instilled in her daughter the notion that happiness is a discipline that requires one to look at what they have and feel grateful, Elettra spent a decade orbiting the model world before pursuing her true passions. Leaving city life to join her mother on the farm, Elettra has realigned her life and career to enjoy more of the simple pleasures—nature, quality time with family and the freedom to shapeshift.
This commitment to continue to learn and evolve, illustrated by both Elettra and Isabella, speaks to every woman’s freedom to live life on their own terms, a hallmark deeply ingrained in the DNA of Cuyana.
Elettra Wiedemann (EW) and Isabella Rossellini (IR)
Can you tell us how you ended up in this wonderful place?
EW: I really wanted to cultivate a life where I had my own life, my own identity, but could be around my son as much as I needed to be. There's so much to do at the farm and my son is more interactive now and I’m very grateful for it, but it wasn’t always like this.
When Ronin was little, I had specific priorities and they were shifting because of this new role as a mother. At the same time as my son was developing his, my own identity also went through a transition.
IR: I didn’t know it when I had Elettra but I think you cannot describe how consuming it is to have a child and how suddenly, all of your life changes. Before children, you are the most important thing in your life. You decide, “I want to do this, I want to read, I want to take a walk.” Once you have a child, you don’t have that freedom anymore.
EW: I had to change my entire life, leave my friends, my career behind and learn how to build a new identity as a mother.
I went to college, I did modeling, and then I went into food and now I’m farming—all of these things fit together in my story but they feel like different kinds of manifestations of myself. My desire is to live as many lives as I possibly can in this one life.
I live for those different metamorphoses and changes. I just really love discovering new things and new capabilities that I have that I didn’t know I had. I'll never forget this time of my life—it’s probably my favorite so far.
What about you, Isabella?
IR: When I turned 45, there wasn’t much work as a model or an actress, so I went back to university. I got a degree in Animal Behavior and started to farm. This was something I wanted to do as a teenager, but there was no career, no money-making in Animal Behavior back then.
But as you grow older, you acquire a certain amount of freedom. You do less what you think you should do, what society imposes on you, and you just say, “You know what, I want to do this because I like it. I’m going to buy chickens.”
Maybe you would make more money if you worked on Wall Street or in a bank or in a business, but at least you live your own lifestyle and maybe having less, not having a big car or lots of jewelry or not traveling as much, but at least every day, you are surrounded by what interests you.
EW: Living in [New York City] was like being at a fair. There was a lot of entertainment, but at the end of the day, I don’t think I was as happy or grounded as I am now.
IR: I like the city because I’m also interested in art—there are more possibilities to see films, theatre and ballet, but I’m happier in the country than in the city. We also try as much as possible to also bring art here with a lot of events for theatre, music and poetry.
“As you grow older, you acquire a certain amount of freedom. You do less what you think you should do, what society imposes on you.”—Isabella
How do you find your center—mentally, emotionally, physically?
EW: I go for a walk. I lean on nature to take me away from myself and remind myself that everything changes, there’s a flow and I won't always understand everything and I don't have to.
IR: You can’t try to command nature. It commands you and you just have to work with it and adjust.
EW: There's something about being surrounded by trees and birds and bugs—your own self kind of dissolves into a bigger thing. You realize how small you and your problems are. It really opens up your perspective. The light is different here every day and that's such a special thing to see—it looks like a different painting every day.
Speaking of paintings, how does art play into your home and life?
IR: I surround myself with arts that are related directly to my life—whether it’s a photo of my mother [the actress Ingrid Bergman] or a poster of the first film she did with my father [the neorealist Italian director Roberto Rossellini], Stromboli.
EW: My home is more minimal than my mom’s. Since my life is so busy and cluttered, I enjoy coming home to an empty space with specifically curated items. I feel like home is the gallery of your life and the exhibits change over time but ultimately it’s telling a story about your life, your interests and the people you love.
IR: I surround myself with things that are meaningful and very personal to me. I paired down the furniture. But the memories, the photos—those are harder. My grandfather was a photographer, my mother was an actress and I was a model, so photography is a big part of my life. If you live long enough, you end up with objects—souvenirs of time.
EW: Objects tell a story of someone’s life. Their choices are part of their soul. It's nice to know that Ronin has that connection to my grandfather, whom I was very close to, through his spoon collection. You know, he went somewhere and saw that spoon of all the ones that they had at the market, he chose that one, so there’s something—
IR: Of him.
EW: Yes, of him in it. Every time I lift a wooden spoon to cook or taste, I feel his presence in that fleeting second. That’s what I look for in my house, an intimacy with the objects that are there.
IR: It’s a connection. Everything I have here has a meaning. Nothing is there just to decorate or to state something. Everything is very personal and as my life evolves, some things become important, other things become less so—and I let them go. It’s never-ending editing. It’s an ongoing process...but I don’t try to be minimalistic or restraining, it’s just what I like.
How would you define your personal style?
EW: I like to dress up, but I like to be comfortable too and it’s really hard to find clothes that are a balance of those two things. I think there’s a soothing sentiment in simplicity and that’s what I identified with when I saw Cuyana’s pieces. They’re very simple, but beautifully, thoughtfully made and sourced. I like things that make my life easy.
IR: Mine, I would say more practical. I like to have a kind of a uniform, mostly black pants with a white shirt. I get dressed fast with the basics and decorate with a few accessories or flares. It’s paired down to something that I don’t have to think about every day so I have more time to do other stuff.
“My desire is to live as many lives as I possibly can in this one life. I live for those metamorphoses and changes.”—Elettra
What do you admire in one another?
EW: I admire my mom’s creativity, and resilience, and generosity. Three qualities of my mother that I think are really wonderful. I had a difficult birth with Ronin and when you’re that vulnerable and weak, it’s a luxury to have your mom around to take care of you again and help you learn how to take care of somebody else. Now my life is very intertwined with my mother’s—all of ours, my boyfriend’s, my son’s. We’re all together and I can tell it just makes my son so happy.
IR: With Elettra, I never have to worry about her, she is so resilient and incredibly capable. When she does something, she does it thoroughly, in a way that is very deep and that I admire a lot, because it's not easy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photography by Martien Mulder
Film by director Amilcar Gomes in collaboration with Martien Mulder