Elisabetta Dessy intervista
Elisabetta Dessy

Our journey to discover women with Myclahttitude continues.

What is it? It is the natural predisposition to positive thinking, to concrete action, to the desire to do well in order to generate the beautiful and the good.

This week it was really nice to get to know a very unique woman: Elisabetta Dessy. Elisabetta has a very interesting and engaging story that has distant roots and many different scenarios from sport to fashion, areas where she has equally left her mark. I asked her, among other things, about her secret to continue to always be so beautifully charming. Curious right? I just have to wish you good reading. Claudia Gatti

Elisabetta you were a successful sportswoman, you also participated in the Olympics as an Italian representative for swimming. After leaving sport, you launched into fashion and you are still a coveted model. As always, however, I start from the origins. How was the child Elizabeth and what dreams did she have?

I have great memories from my childhood. I have always had an excellent relationship with my parents in particular with my mother but I was her desperation. I was a hyperkinetic child, always in motion. Out of desperation, my mother took me to a doctor who advised her to ‘throw me in the water’. I was 7 years old and thanks to the doctor’s advice we were able to drain all my energy right into the pool. Swimming immediately revealed my innate talent for this sport. Skinny with very long arms and legs, I flew on the surface of the water. In short, my natural skills emerged and at 10 I was already called up for the national team for the youth swimming teams. As a pre-adolescent, however, I began to accuse all the fatigue and sacrifices of competitive swimming. Despite the consistently positive performances I was on the verge of wanting to give up everything already. So my parents took me for the first time to see the absolute swimming championships in Rome. I was completely fascinated by these very good athletes who competed. The whole context, the competitions, the awards, the atmosphere of tension and celebration struck me so much that I understood that I too wanted to reach those levels and all the sacrifices and efforts no longer seemed so in vain.
Competitive swimming is a very tough sport. In the water you can also cry for fatigue and think that you will never be able to find the strength to complete the last few kilometers of training left. The only way to overcome is to set goals, European, World, Olympics. This is the only way to overcome certain mental barriers even before physical ones.

You have traveled extensively first as a professional swimmer then as a model. Do you have a place of the heart?

Elisabetta Dessy
Elisabetta Dessy

You have traveled extensively first as a professional swimmer then as a model. Do you have a place of the heart?

There are some places of the heart like Osimo, in the Marche region, which refer to my family, to my childhood and to which I always think with immense pleasure.
However, the place that most evokes me good memories is Japan. I love Japanese culture made of respect and education. I visited Japan for the first time in 1975. I was with the national swimming team for a sports competition. It was an unforgettable time. Kyoto is a wonderful city with its gardens, the golden temple and its deep culture.
The anecdote for which, however, my former teammates still make fun of me is rather unique. Upon returning to Italy, upon my arrival at Haneda, Tokyo’s airport, I was suddenly surrounded by a dozen female police officers and taken aside for questioning. I panicked and did not understand the situation. The policewomen didn’t speak English and no one was really explaining this detention to me. Fortunately, an interpreter arrived, in the meantime my return flight had departed.
In short: the (Japanese) police believed that I was one of the founders of the Baader Meinhof gang, a German terrorist group, which in those years bloodied Federal Germany. They actually showed me the mugshot and it was quite disconcerting to see that this terrorist was my double. Fortunately, after a few hours, everything was resolved. Today we laugh but in that moment I really feared the worst. Despite this episode, I returned to Japan several times in the following years for fashion shows and trunk shows for the Gucci brand; a country that has remained in my heart.

elisabetta dessy and son Aldo
elisabetta dessy and son Aldo

From the 80s to today you have been riding catwalks and six testimonials for the most important international brands. What is your personal relationship with fashion? Do you have a garment you are most fond of or that could never be missing from your wardrobe?

I was very lucky to have my mother as a model of elegance. With an innate class, my mother – Amalia Acqua, Countess of Osimo – was a noblewoman from an ancient Marche family, always impeccably dressed, with an unmistakable style and a refined and not at all obvious beauty. My very long legs are a gift from her. From an early age my mother educated me in the philosophy of taking away rather than adding; today we would say ‘less is more’. For her, true elegance consisted in being sober and certainly not in getting noticed for excesses. Growing up her style has also become mine. I love fashion, it’s a world that belongs to me. Certainly what interests me most about fashion is interpreting it and I wear clothes that make me feel appropriate and at ease with the passage of time. There is a dress, for example, by Valentino Haute Couture in my wardrobe that I am particularly fond of and that reminds me of exciting moments in my life. Every year, for 25 years now, I try to wear it for a few occasions. It is a truly incredible garment and which, despite the years, always remains very current.

For work you expose your person constantly. Your confidence shines through in accepting the passing of time while leaving your charm unchanged. You are a beautiful woman who loves herself with her signs and the peculiarities of her and for many women you are definitely a beacon. Tell us about the relationship with yourself and with other women.

I have great luck: I like and accept myself as I have been and as I am now. My wrinkles are my memories of crying and laughter. I accept the passing of time and I am not saddened by it. Of course, I also do enough to support myself. 13-14 kilometers a day of running or walking, the outdoor pool in summer, I don’t drink, I eat what I want but always healthy food. I am very dynamic, the child always on the move has remained in me. I have a good relationship with myself which is also reflected in other people. Despite being competitive in sport, I have never been competitive with other women. I have several friends and one, Marina is my best friend since she was very young.

Your sports life has been studded with many successes. You were Italian champion in the 100m freestyle in 1974, 1975 and 1976, in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay in 1972 and 1973 and in the mixed 4 x 100m relay. Then D Management offered you a contract and your life changed from day to night. You were the muse of all the hottest designers and still today they call you on the catwalk and for the covers of fashion magazines. To be successful in such different fields, physical skills are not enough. What idea did you get?

In life I have had two important allies: humility and a sense of sacrifice. Sport has shaped me physically and mentally. I have developed a very high sense of endurance. This mindset I have carried over into every activity of my life. Nobody gave me anything. Over time I have understood that discipline and effort can lead to important goals.

A little frivolous curiosity: you walked with models of the caliber of Iman and Jerry Hall and Pat Cleveland. Were you able to establish a friendship with any of your colleagues?

The late 1970s and early 1980s were fabulous years for me. We had formed a quartet of models then became dear friends over time. Barbarella, Heidi, Gianna and me. The center of fashion was Rome and we rode all the catwalks of all the designers of the time, sharing emotions and life. It was the golden moment of Italian fashion. Everything was growing. The dresses of Roberto Capucci, Valentino, Fausto Sarli, Andrè Laug, Mila Schon, Gattinoni … unrivaled elegance. In the last career period of those years I also shared many wonderful moments with Simonetta Gianfelici, one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen and who, even today, is a friend of mine.

Finally, as I always do, I ask you what plans do you have for the next months of 2021?

These are difficult times for everyone. I’ll be honest, after deciding to return to the catwalks in 2018, I must admit that I have begun to be requested by designers and brands with a certain consistency and this gives me a lot of satisfaction and joy. I am at an age in which it is good to get vaccinated against Covid as soon as possible and therefore I am, impatiently, waiting for my turn, also to work in a more peaceful way.
In the meantime, however, I work safely by making swabs upon swabs. I just finished a job with the talented Fausto Puglisi for Roberto Cavalli. Now I will leave for Paris for a photo shoot for a French company and on my return I will stop in Milan for a beautiful project with one of the most important Italian brands about which I cannot say anything yet.



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