Isabeli Fontana one of the Brazilian supermodels that gained international fame when she moved to New York at 16-year-old and was photographed by Steven Meisel for an ad campaign of the iconic Italian fashion house Valentino. Was a Victoria’s Secret Angel for six years and appeared five times in the Pirelli calendar. Now the model share with Vogue UK her love for her country.
We are a passionate race, we dress sexily, we like to live well, we’re not workaholics and we have fun. Brazilians love being in love.
I lived in New York for 12 years but I didn’t want to continue at that frantic pace; it felt right for my two sons to be schooled in Brazil, to grow up speaking Portuguese. We moved back to São Paulo five years ago and we love it. My grandmother is here every day, and my family pops round for black bean stew and barbecues on Sunday nights. We spend weekends and holidays at my beach home in Floripa; it’s rustic and unique – much like Curitiba, the rural village I grew up in – and there is nothing to do but hang out on the beach and cook huge meals. My boyfriend, the Brazilian pop star Diego Ferrero, sings for us after lunch, and we all join in – badly!
In Brazil, you feel like you live with your body, not against it. We are always outside, we work out a lot, stay fit, we embrace an open life. São Paulo style is easy. I have a hippie feel for day – cut-off jean shorts with loose shirts and caftans, or long skirts with a bunch of jewellery from Brazilian designers Ara Vartanian and Carla Amorim, and Havaianas, of course. At night, I go more rock glam: I’d wear Dolce & Gabbana for a smart event, or simple, sexy pieces from Tufi Duek. Brazilian women love to feel and look sexy.
I shoot a lot of fashion in Brazil as I don’t like to travel much any more. I started modelling in Milan, aged 15, after being spotted in an Elite talentcompetition in Brazil. I was pregnant at 19. By my late twenties, with two children, I realised we needed more balance in our family life. My fashion friends, Donatella Versace and Riccardo Tisci, come to visit, and I still have flats in New York and Miami. Now we’re planning to move to Rio. I love São Paulo but it’s crowded, and the traffic and crime can be bad. Life is not perfect in Brazil – we still have many challenges to overcome, from poverty to pollution, but I think Rio will be a better environment for my boys.
Brazilians live life to the full and this is what I try to achieve every day: it’s important to let things happen naturally. There is no point constantly chasing a far-off dream when everything you love is in front of you.
Isabeli’s Address Book
• I go on shopping sprees at Morena Rosa, for her beachwear, and the Morumbi Mall. I get bikinis from the Jo de Mer boutique on Rua Oscar Freire, a tree-lined street in São Paulo known as Brazil’s Rodeo Drive. It’s perfect for walking and shopping.
• Florianópolis beach, in the south of Brazil, is one of my favourite places. In the north, I love the islands of Fernando de Noronha and Fortaleza.
• Lunch on Arabic food at Almanara (you’ll find one in every São Paulo mall): the best dish ispintado na brasa (white river fish cooked barbecue-style). For dinner, I like Japanese. My favourites are Benihana (517 Rua Amauri), where they cook in front of you, and Sushi Bar at Empório Santa Maria (790 Avenida Cidade Jardim).
An article from Vogue.co.uk