Photography Roberta Krasnig
Interview by Renata Gorreri
Travel, discovery, roots. These are the keywords for Elisabetta Marra, Global Communication Senior Manager – Celebrity & Entertainment Industry Relations, Philanthropy at Bvlgari (LVMH Group).
Born in Rome, she would return to Budapest just a few days later where her father’s work took the entire family, then on to Moscow. Simple traditional wooden toys, Russian dolls, races in the snow, the domes of Red Square that look like meringues, their dachshund Arcibaldo, there was everything needed to develop the imagination of young Elisabetta and her – slightly older – brother Andrea.
Then came the transfer to Dakar. A house by the ocean, two parrots, seven cats, and extraordinary nature in its wild state, yet also her first epic movies at the cinema.
Later, the entire family would leave for Stockholm. This design city saw Elisabetta grow up with TV series and forays into the antique stores of the city centre.
Then came Tel-Aviv, with its scents, old city, grapefruit and oranges. Caracas would follow, awash with colour. Her teenage years were spent watching TV series, cultivating a passion for Hollywood stars and attending international American schools, which led to her obtaining two diplomas, an American high school diploma with honours and a Swiss baccalaureate.
Yet, things have a way of coming full circle, and Elisabetta would choose Rome for her university studies in Political Science, which would culminate in a dissertation on the History of International Relations. A position at The Economist as Events Manager and her current prestigious role at Bvlgari would follow.
Renata Gorreri: With such an eventful life, full of change, where is, and what is home for Elisabetta?
Elisabetta Marra: Home is our sanctuary, the place where we feel and cultivate love: that of the people who love us and who we love, our personal items, from moments in the past that we want to remember. It is also the place that is free from everything we don’t want. However, home is not a trap. Those walls aren’t forever. It is a little paradise, which we leave infinite times in our lives, both physically and in our thoughts, to then come back, always. Every day, the best part of the day is when I return home after hours and hours of work.
I love art and design and I live in a building that was designed in the early 1950s by the architects Vincenzo Monaco and Amedeo Luccichenti in the Italian rationalism style. It has long ribbon windows and a view of the Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill, so I’m surrounded by the light and boundless energy of Rome from the early morning. Rome is my home.
R.G.: Was becoming Global Communication Manager for Celebrity Relations the natural progression of your studies and your personal development also?
E.M.: Yes, however you have to excel at it and it takes a lot of passion and dedication. I not only deal with stars, but also the entire star system: agents, stylists, managers, publicists, costume designers. I start working with my colleagues in Korea, Japan and China very early in the morning, and often end up taking calls with New York and Los Angeles after dinner. I work with extremely talented people, yet I also like to use my intuition to discover new talent.
R.G.: You’ve always travelled a lot. You’ve gotten to know extremely diverse countries, cultures, and artistic expressions. I would think that you have a lot of memories and also a lot of objects that represent these places.
E.M.: At home, I collect items that touch upon all the stages and passions of my life: vinyl records of new wave and dark music from the 90s, my malachite boxes, opals, Italian and American films and comics, my partner’s manga collection, books, candles and photographs. Vintage dresses from the 70s, 80s and 90s, floral robes, sequins, velvets, lace, silks, ranging from solid colours to floral and animal prints. I love fashion, for me it is intimately connected to my personal pursuits. I also collect jewellery, including the pieces that were gifted to me by my family and extraordinary Bvlgari pieces that I will never part with. I love rings and I like to mix rings of different shapes and materials and with different colours of stones on several fingers, even layering them.
R.G.: What have been your most significant encounters, with people who have been important for your development?
E.M: I have always been surrounded by charming women, starting with my mother Maria, my greatest muse and a strong, intelligent and generous woman. And my grandmothers: Eva and Anna. As well as my nannies: the Indian Blossom, Clava who would come to our house in Moscow, and our Senegalese nanny Josephine. Then there was my English literature teacher at the American high school, Mrs. Smith, who introduced me to and cultivated my love for Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein, the poems of Musa McKim and Mary Oliver, as well as Baroness Maria Concetta Bosca di Roveto, my partner’s mother.
I’ve met a lot of celebrities in my job: Madonna – at Art Basel Miami for the gala event that we collaborated on with our iconic B.zero1 jewellery collection for her charity Raising Malawi –, Julianne Moore and Lenny Kravitz for the Bvlgari Charity Gala for Save the Children, Jessica Chastain who wore Elizabeth Taylor’s Bvlgari necklace during the presentation of the restored version of “Cleopatra” at the Cannes Film Festival, Faye Dunaway, Laura Dern, Naomi Campbell, Elton John, Zendaya and Lisa from Blackpink. A thousand encounters with extraordinary people.
R.G.: What challenges have you had to face in your life and work?
E.M.: Every day is a challenge that must be faced with optimism, positivity, energy, passion and vision, both in my private life and at work. My own life experience has made me extremely flexible, and very good and used to being a fast and daring problem solver. It all begins with a dream, but then you have to have the courage and discipline to believe in yourself and make that dream come true.
R.G.: Are there scents and aromas that have stayed in your heart?
E.M.: Definitely Ngor Island, the sea-scented island that you can glimpse from the beach of Dakar. It is a little gem and a World Heritage Site. As well as the coconut-flavoured rice of the Vietnamese restaurant in Dakar, the bougainvillea, the incense and frangipane that surround you as you enter the villas of the Bvlgari Resort in Bali, cinnamon biscuits in Sweden, the lime and papaya of Venezuela, the salt of the Lac Rose in Senegal, the smell of snow in Moscow and the citrus fruits of Jaffa and Tel-Aviv. Not to mention the scented “Alessandra Candle”, which is the signature scent of the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, where we would stay with our celebrities during award shows, from the Golden Globes to the Oscars.
R.G.: What about new fragrances and scents that you love now?
E.M.: I am a big fan of flowers and fragrances. I love the scent of roses from Turkey and Bulgaria. My dream is to go to the Rose Festival in Bulgaria in June, in the magical valley of Kazanlak. In Rome, my secret, magical place is the Rose Garden, the Municipal Rose Garden, where the scent of around 1,100 species of roses from all over the world, even from China and Mongolia, is released between the end of April and mid-June. Of course, I collect all the Bvlgari perfumes, which are olfactory marvels as well as wonders of design. The last Bvlgari Allegra Collection – which I adore – lets you customise the fragrance and make it exclusive and one-of-a-kind.
R.G.: What is luxury to you?
E.M.: Luxury is research, the possibility to take new routes, to find the right balance between traditional and innovative solutions, even experimental ones, with a focus on sustainability and philanthropy at all times. To give you an example, there are some clothes that really exude the feeling of luxury because of how they are made, of the quality of their craftsmanship, the creativity and the design that has gone into them, while others that are just as costly and hand-crafted are merely lavish. The same is true for jewellery, watches, shoes, accessories and fragrances. A product is luxury when it has been thought out and made by hand, when it is sophisticated, bespoke, for connoisseurs of quality.
R.G.: What is freedom?
E.M.: Freedom is in our heads. We must always feel free and move forward with our dreams, our passions, using the means we have available, despite the difficult moments. Freedom is also simply taking a stroll from my house, through the Circus Maximus, to look at Palatine Hill and pass by Largo Argentina, towards the Pantheon, down Via della Scrofa and arrive to the office on foot. Freedom is in each of us. It is taking what makes us feel good, energised.
R.G.: If you were an animal, what would you be?
E.M.: A cat. In Italy we say that cats have seven lives! Ancient philosophers and mathematicians thought that seven was the number of perfection. There are seven notes and seven days, as well as seven seas, according to the ancient Greeks. And I have lived in seven cities.
R.G.: If you were a piece of music, what would it be?
E.M.: I would be a long medieval ballad, as rousing as Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 performed by Rufus Wainwright and Florence Welch. A ballad about optimism, hope and self-motivation.
R.G.: If you were a flower, which would you be?
E.M.: If I were a flower, I would be a rose because it inspires love and because it is a symbol of beauty. Roses inspire me a lot. Their scent, the texture of their petals, the thorns protecting them, represent the various spiritual layers of each of us.
Time flies speaking with Elisabetta and I feel light and alive as though I’ve walked through a magical stargate and completely immersed myself in her travel experience. And then it’s time to go home. Always.