Photography by Samantha Casolari. Styling by Delfina Pinardi. Hair by Martin-Christopher Harper for Davines at Kate Ryan, Inc. Makeup by Lisa Aharon at Kate Ryan Inc using Laura Mercier. Coat, Missoni. Jewelry (throughout), Bijules.
Half Italian and half American, Jennifer Missoni is a sweet mix of New and Old World zest. She is the granddaughter of dream weavers Rosita and Ottavio Missoni, and possesses her famous family’s signature demure style. At the same time, she has cultivated a creative career far from the realms of fashion, on the big screen.
The 27-year-old actress has appeared in several TV shows, ranging from Law & Order to Gossip Girl, and just starred in Playback next to Christian Slater. With a few flicks on the works, she sat down with Dossier to talk about her passion for the craft and her secret to living in the present.
Giovanna Maselli: You started acting at a very young age. What is your first memory of being interested in the craft?
Jennifer Missoni: As a kid, I was always finding a way to put on a show and to perform. In the house I grew up in, there was a big forest in the garden and I spent a lot of time there just creating my own movies and stories. I watched a lot of American musicals because we didn’t have TV—my parents didn’t want us to have television, so all we had were VHS tapes. I didn’t know who Pippo Baudo [a famous Italian television host] was until I was 17 years old. [My husband] Tommy is always like, “Where the hell did you grow up?” It’s such a weird background and cultural mix… It’s bizarre.
Giovanna: Did you have any favorite movies?
Jennifer: There were three movies that really moved me as a kid: Strictly Ballroom by Baz Luhrmann, A Little Princess by Alfonso Cuaron, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers by Stanley Donen. But even Back to the Future made me want to be an actress.
Jennifer: The characters in those films… As I got older, I started to understand myself better and realized that I wanted to play women who are fighting a system of oppression—then I started really becoming more passionate about films like Erin Brockovich, Children of Men—the role that Julianne Moore plays in that movie—or the work that Charlize Theron did in Monster or North Country. That’s ultimately what I want to do. But when you’re young and you watch Back to the Future, there is so much joy in those performances.
Giovanna: It sound like you always had the idea of turning acting into a profession.
Jennifer: It wasn’t even an idea, it was just like I always knew that’s what I was going to do.
Giovanna: As an adult, what does acting mean to you?
Left: Dress, Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci. Right: Dress, Stella McCartney.
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Jennifer: It really goes with my life philosophy. I am 27 years old, I am trying to figure it out more and more every day… I was talking to my friend recently about how when we were 20, we didn’t have any problems. What did we do? We would just hang out and laugh and talk about life and have the best time. As you get older you’re trying to find your independence, your meaning. You start asking all these questions like: Who am I? What am I doing here?
And then everything just started coming together for me and making sense. You’re on this quest your whole life, which is what is so exciting. You don’t know what to expect. But I found true happiness to me is about being in the present moment and that’s what acting is: Acting is all about being in the moment. You are present, you are there, you are in the moment and no one can take that away from you.
And it’s one of the most amazing art forms. I mean, you can be a mountain climber, you can race cars… They’re all very mentally challenging activities in the way that you have to be present, otherwise you’ll die. Acting is not like that, but it can take you there! It can take you to a place where you’re completely conscious. That’s something I struggle with every day. It’s a struggle to stay present with our minds and our feelings… It’s really easy to be thrown off center.
Giovanna: Yes, it’s like we constantly think we have to meet certain expectations.
Jennifer: Expectations are shit. And that’s another thing about acting: It’s about doing it with no expectations in mind. You can’t set yourself up with an expected result. But in terms of: How do you see yourself and your career? I am not concerned about the future. I don’t care; it doesn’t exist. What I am is right now: That’s all I can focus my attention on. I spent a long time not even being aware of the fact that I was really thinking about the future a lot. And it’s OK to have goals and dreams, but to a certain extent I felt like it was more wanting recognition. I am not talking about fame, or people knowing who you are, but doing something of value that people notice and respect you for. And I really don’t care, you know? I just want to focus on being happy right now.
Giovanna: Does it sometimes bother you to have such a recognizable last name?
Jennifer: It’s how you choose to look at it. On one hand, you’re born with this name so what do you want to do about it? When I was younger, I was like, ‘I want to be known for me…’ Yes, OK, but I am me. That’s who I am; I am Jennifer Missoni. I am not my grandparents. I am me, so what’s the big deal? When you’re younger you’re kind of struggling to find your own identity. Even in high school it bothered me so much what people would say. Then you get to a point where you just really don’t care about things like that. It’s funny because [I'm] connected to [the fashion business] but, again, I’m not interested in being involved in it. Then again, I carry that name and it’s a name I’m proud to have because of what my grandparents did and where they came from. I am very proud of my family: I think we are an amazing family.
Giovanna: I will admit Samantha and I have a crush on your grandfather. Every interview he does is simply amazing.
Jennifer: (Laughs). Yes, some of the things he says are just mind-blowing to me. One of his philosophies is: Why do today what you can do tomorrow? You think we live in this world where you need to cram everything into today, but why? He’s one of those people who’s so charismatic that you’re captivated by everything he says. And he’s so relaxed—he’s so causal and cool. He doesn’t care… I think we’re kind of similar in that way. I don’t really care either… I really don’t (laughs). But at the same time, we really care about the things that really matter.