Monday, June 6, 2011

Beauty/Fashion Icon: Marisa Berenson

A natural in front of the camera, it was clear that Berenson was a born muse. When she was just 13, the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí asked to sketch Berenson in the nude, telling her that she had "hipbones like cherrystones." Marisa's mother politely declined the offer.

As her career blossomed, Marisa rubbed elbows with the style and art set's major players. Valentino, who designed her wedding dress in 1976, called her "very human, very humble, and a very strong and touching woman." He forgot to mention stunning.

In the swinging sixties, when free love and face paint ruled, Berenson followed the international party scene straight to spiritual enlightenment, holing up at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi along with a certain quartet from Liverpool.

Berenson's über-chic grandmother often disapproved of her getups as the decade's nonconformist frocks—and headgear—took hold of her wardrobe. "I was wearing the shortest miniskirts, a bohemian-hippie look, lots of transparent clothes. She was horrified," Marisa recalls. How could anyone be mad at a face like this?

Even before she stepped onto a film lot, Marisa was hobnobbing with the era's brightest stars at New York's melting pot of cool, the Factory. In addition to looking equally fabulous in flares and wide-brimmed hats, Berenson and Easy Rider actor Dennis Hopper both made cameos in Andy Warhol's Screen Tests.

Berenson's big break came in 1971 when Luchino Visconti offered her a part in Death in Venice, a classic tragedy of old age worshipping youth. "He believed in me. He didn't know whether I could act or not!"

The following year, Marisa snagged two Golden Globe nominations for her performance in Cabaret as well as the National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actress.

A starring role in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon followed in 1975. Moving at a stately pace, the costume drama served Marisa well; very few actresses can pull off such big hair and still look so dignified.

Hollywood may have been a-calling, but Berenson never abandoned her New York fashion roots, calling Halston one of her besties and Studio 54 her home away from home.

In 1982, Andy Warhol honored his friend Marisa with her very own silkscreen and acrylic portrait, which was estimated at $350,000 to $450,000 by Sotheby's in 2006.

This October will see the release of Marisa Berenson: A Life in Pictures (Rizzoli, 2011), but before she adds book subject to her list of credits, Berenson plans to play beauty guru. Her prickly pear-based natural skincare line, Sois Sublime, makes its debut at the spa at the Sofitel in Morocco later this year. Once a member of the jet set, always a member of the jet set.


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