written by Monica Camozzi
Photos by Luca De Nardo
Looking at Justine Mattera’s CV leaves one impressed.
Perhaps it is because the stigma of Marilyn, a character she has always been considered to resemble, leads the perception to the aesthetic of blonde shrouded and distances the thought from the archetype of the athlete -what she is today- of the theatre actress but above all of the star of musicals.
Justine’s career in fact began when producer Joe T. Vannelli noticed her in a disco. They recorded the single Feel it, which sold 24,000 copies. Then came Baby hold on, with Bidibodi and her italodance climbed the charts all over Europe.
Music-cinema-theatre: what enraptures your heart the most?
It would be impossible to choose. I have had satisfaction in everything. The important thing is to do everything in life with conviction and great passion.
You came to Florence to specialise in art history: if you had not been spotted in that disco club, how and where would you see yourself now?
Actually, I came to Italy in my third year of university. I was majoring in Italian literature and my university (Stanford) had a campus in Florence. To supplement my income and travel on weekends with my friends, I danced in discos. I had a scholarship and consequently, for everything extra, I had to work.
‘Who knows where I would be today if, instead of having agreed to record a record with Joe T Vannelli, I had come back to NY’?
Was your resemblance to Marilyn an advantage or a disadvantage?
It was an immediate advantage, making me immediately recognisable to the whole of Italy. The problem was later. What to do afterwards? Everyone only saw me as a look-alike.
“It took me years and effort to be seen differently and appreciated for myself. How? By diversifying myself’
Your career is a whirlwind, a slalom between plays, films, dance hits…if you stop and look back, what are the best memories?
Open applause. 60,000 people shouting and singing your song. Working with Willem Dafoe. The smiles on my children’s faces when I get home. The podium after a tough race.
You once wrote on social media, as a caption for a photo of you naked, ‘why should we women deny our femininity?’ Why do you think nudity still provokes such controversial reactions?
“I find it ridiculous that a woman of a ‘certain age’ cannot be proud of her body.”
I don’t see an expiry date for femininity and sensuality. Maybe nudity provokes controversial reactions because most people are not comfortable with their bodies. Maybe they don’t accept themselves.
“For me, imperfection intrigues much more than perfection. From my flaws I find my strength”
You are a Triathlete: is sport now your new challenge? Have you been dreaming of it all your life or is it a passion that has recently arrived?
“In my opinion the most beautiful job ever is the professional athlete”.
I have always done sport and when I was ‘rediscovered’ as a model at the age of 45, I thought that sport could be a natural evolution of my character and also an inspiration to women of my age. It all started after I took part in the ‘beyond the limit’ programme where I did my first half marathon. I was 45 years old.
What is beauty for you? What has it represented in your life?
Beauty for me is not about appearances. It is more a beauty of the soul. I have always been an aesthete, attracted to art, nature and balance.
‘I find beauty in honesty and truth’
I find physical beauty much more trivial although I do not deny that it has always helped me. I actually find beauty now with my children and family time. Time flies so quickly.
What dreams do you have now? What would you like to do that you haven’t done yet?Who wouldn’t want to do a Netflix series? (laughs) I am a curious person, I hope to continue doing what I like (a great fortune – a luxury I would say). And then follow my children, doing everything to help them realise their dreams.