Marisa Berenson: Local Color
The international beauty at home in Marrakech.
There is a great Slim Aarons photo of Marisa Berenson at the beach wearing a purple turban and black kohl eye liner. I always thought it was from a fashion shoot, but when I asked her about it, she told me, “Oh, no, I was just at the beach after being in India, where I learned to wrap a turban.” And I thought, Of course! She just wrapped up her hair in a purple turban for lunch on the Amalfi Coast. I love that women like her exist!
Sofia Coppola: How did you first discover Marrakech?
Marisa Berenson: I came here for a photo shoot in the ’70s and got my first taste. It was love that brought me back a few years ago. I spent wonderful weekends there with my man—visiting exceptional places, like the luxurious, romantic mountain-hideout Michlifen in Ifrane and Royal Mansour in Marrakech and, of course, the fantastic La Mamounia. I discovered Marrakech when it still looked like it did in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much and have spent many charmed moments here through all of its transformations over the years.
It has always seemed so romantic and magical to me. How did you end up living there?
It is, indeed: the palm trees; the light; the desert; the Atlas Mountains with their snow-studded peaks; mysterious alleys; losing yourself in the labyrinth of the Medina; discovering hidden beautiful riads and exotic gardens. I love the variety of moods in Marrakech and also on the outskirts, in places like Kasbah Bab Ourika. You can take long walks, then have a hot mint tea on a wonderful terrace with a breathtaking panoramic view of colorful trees and flowers and, as night falls, cuddle up in front of a warm fire and enjoy a delicious meal. I also love to check in to a luxurious tent in the guest palace Le Palais Rhoul or go out for a candlelit dinner at Dar Yocout and Dar Marjana.
Morocco has opened up not only romance and family life (my mother lives with us now) but also many business opportunities that have paved a new path for me. I believe that when one door opens, many doors open. When fate moves its magic wand, follow it: Actually, my man, Jean-Michel [Simonian], was building spas in luxury hotels like La Mamounia, and Sofitel asked him to come up with a new concept for its spa. He proposed that we create a very exclusive spa ritual with the Fabulous Oil I created. One thing led to another, and we completely renovated the spa, decorating it with Venetian mirrors and gold-leaf walls and turning it into something out of One Thousand and One Nights—a really glamorous space, an invitation to true well-being. The spa ritual has developed into a complete antiaging line, Sublime Care. It’s all-natural, manufactured in Paris, and distributed in select Sofitels. This spa has become like a showroom for me—and Marrakech my base. I always dreamed of a beautiful place in the sun with a lot of flowers; my own vegetable, herb, and fruit garden; a gentle way of life; a house for loved ones, with all the amenities. This is exactly what we are creating, and my dream is coming true.
“I always dreamed of a beautiful place in the sun, a gentle way of life, with all the amenities.”
What is your daily routine like?
I love to get up in the morning and be greeted by my dog, Happy; have breakfast on my sunny terrace, with the birds chirping; take a walk in the garden; meditate under a cool tree; take a morning swim; and start a creative day. First, I work a lot in the kitchen making gourmet beauty food—gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, but so tasty—such as bread, cookies, chocolate cake, panna cotta, etcetera. Delicious and healthy. Then I work on jackets, jewelry, and fashion accessories. Also I design furniture for my future house. It’s such an opportunity to work with the wonderful Moroccan artisans. After a full day, I come home to a hammam and a much needed massage…sheer bliss!
Can you share some of your beauty secrets?
I have lived my entire life in a holistic and natural way. Over the years, I have searched for the best natural ingredients to keep my skin healthy and beautiful. One day I discovered the incredible virtues of prickly-pear oil. It comes from the tiny pips of the fruit of a cactus plant that grows in the desert, regenerating itself perpetually. I worked with my holistic doctor to create the Fabulous Oil, a true elixir of life. We have also figured out the optimal way to apply the products onto the skin, and I have developed my own methodology. I continue to search for more ways to enhance beauty using prickly-pear oil. When we discovered that it could nourish the scalp and hair as well, I decided to create some hair products. One of them is a mask that mixes the famous Moroccan clay (rhassoul) and my oil. It makes the hair thick and shiny.
You are so sparkly and girly and fun for a grown-up. How have you managed to maintain this? How have you kept bitterness away?
I have a sense of humor…I love to laugh…joie de vivre…I am still in amazement about life. I like people. I’ve been on a spiritual path all my life, and it has given me strength and courage and hope, and a way of dealing with life on different levels. I believe in love and not hate. I believe in putting out positive energies to go forward in life, giving the best of myself. Indeed, I surround myself with positive people—and people I love. The purpose of life—is it not to excel and to strive to better yourself? I love what I do. I have fun. I feel I have a lot to give, and I enjoy giving. I have so many things I want to do and create. I feel blessed, and I am eternally grateful.