Isabella Rossellini’s Son Roberto Rossellini Steps Out of Mom’s Shadow as a Model

The son of the actress, and grandson of the famed director, is a photographer and one of the latest signees of Ford Models. Get to know the rising star behind and in front of the camera.

Photographs by Biel Parklee

Photo by Biel Parklee, Model: Roberto Rossellini at Ford Models.

Roberto Rossellini could be excused for being a bit late on a recent Thursday afternoon. He had been out on Long Island, in Bellport, helping his mother, the actress Isabella Rossellini, bring her menagerie of farm animals indoors ahead of a looming snowstorm. Around this time of year at Isabella’s Farm, as it’s known, they are planting squash, pumpkins, corn, celery, and even purple grapes, a recent addition; there are also rare-breed pigs called kunekune (“they’re kind of like dogs,” Roberto explained), goats, and a host of endangered-species chickens. They used to have sheeps and llamas, but they were just babysitting them for the neighbors.

Roberto spends at least one day a week tending the farm with his mother, but he also has a new hustle, as the most recent signee of Ford Models, the latest in a series of Hollywood scions making the transition to modeling. He signed back in June, but he’s spent the past six months building his portfolio before his debut last week on the cover of At Large magazine.

Rossellini, 23, grew up around cameras. A self-professed “bandwagon baby,” he traveled with his mother wherever a film set beckoned, from the United States to France and Italy. He estimates he spent as many as five years in Europe over the course of his childhood, and he still makes it back a couple weeks a year. (He picked up French and Spanish along the way, in addition to his native Italian and English.) His older sister is the model-turned-food writer Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann; like her mother, Rossellini Wiedemann is also a spokesmodel for Lancôme.

Up until now, though, Rossellini has shown little interest in pursuing a career in front of the camera. He studied marine biology at Stony Brook University for two years before turning to underwater cinematography, finishing his degree at the International Center of Photography in New York. (He’s also an avid diver; he spent four months studying underwater photography in the Bahamas.)

After graduating, he landed a job as an editor and photographer at the stock photo agency BFA, drawing him further into fashion, while his connections in the record industry—he’s friends with Swedish rapper Yung Lean and his Sad Boys crew, and with locals like Rich the Kid and the A$AP Mob—pulled him into music.

Modeling was almost an afterthought. “I never thought about it until literally this last year,” he said. “I’ve always had a thing for fashion. … I’m using this as a way to learn more about it.” (At his mother’s recommendation, he hit the gym for a few months before going in for his meeting at Ford. The agency signed him on the spot.) With his blue-green gaze and teal-dyed dreadlocks descending from a mane of curly—or “crazy,” as he called it—hair dotted with skull beads and charms, Rossellini has a distinctive look, both in person and on film.

He’s quick to differentiate between his own modeling career and those of his mother and sister. “I’m in a different lane than they are,” he said. He’s still juggling various other projects, including his photography, and he acknowledged that the industry treats models of different gender identifications differently. But he’s not entirely immune to a little help from family.

“My mom always gives me tons of advice,” he said. (Welcome advice, he assured me.) “‘Make sure you’re always walking straight; make sure your back is tall; don’t ever look down. … Be normal and be cool. Be happy.’”

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