AP PHOTOS: ‘Imperfect’ models in Italy redefine beauty

A project on Instagram to highlight ordinary women and their imperfections has transformed into a modeling agency that aims to redefine notions of beauty in Italy.

The Imperfetta (Imperfect) modeling agency, started in 2020 by Carlotta Giancane, has a casting book full of models who defy the industry’s pre-established standards of beauty. They are of all sizes and ages, spanning the gender spectrum, some with disabilities or medical conditions like alopecia or vitiligo, visible scarring or who have lost limbs.

Such agencies have existed elsewhere in Europe and the United States. This is the first in Italy.

Sonia Spartá is one of the models. A 28-year-old from Sicily, she has heard adults whisper to children that she was from the circus when they saw the dark spots on her face and body, the result of a form of hyperpigmentation. While she once tried to conceal her condition, she now is conscious of her beauty.

“I changed things so that my weakness, or how I perceived a weakness, became my source of strength, my distinctiveness.” she said.

During a recent photo shoot in Rome, models of all shapes posed in underwear, wrapped in sheer organza.

“I feel like a revolutionary because I realize that around me all this did not exist before L’Imperfetta,” Giancane said. “It feels like a revolution, a battle to fight hard, because there are so many difficulties.”

The agency counts more than 140 models. They are both in Italy and abroad, but it is focusing its work in Italy “because this is where we want to change things,” Giancane said. Her models have appeared in advertising campaigns for cosmetic brands, fashion retailers and supermarkets. Much of the work is in online advertisements, but there have also been calls for models in television commercials. Two have appeared on the Milan fashion runway for designer Marco Rambaldi.

Lucia Della Ratta, a university student in Rome, hid her albinism for most of her life, coloring her pale hair darker shades and using tanning lotions on her skin. Under the pandemic lockdown, she let her natural hair color grow out and began posting photos on Instagram.

“I felt beautiful for the first time,” Della Ratta, said during a break in the photo shoot. The shift still brings tears to her eyes, which she brushes away. “I felt it was my essence, as though it is me, as I really am.”

Desireé D’Angelo has had alopecia since she was 10 years old. At school she wore a hat to hide the baldness, but bullying classmates would yank it off. At age 15, a dance teacher persuaded her to accept her condition and stop hiding it.

Since then, she has become a successful dancer, performer and model.

“I like my body, I like my peculiarity. In the end, I have accepted it,” she said.

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