AP PHOTOS: ‘Imperfect’ models in Italy redefine beauty

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

The Imperfetta (Imperfect) modeling agency, founded 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 conditions such as alopecia or vitiligo, visible scars or having lost a limb.

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

Sonia Sparta is one of the models. The 28-year-old from Sicily has heard adults whisper to children that she’s from the circus when they saw the dark spots on her face and body that were the result of a form of hyperpigmentation. While she once tried to hide her condition, she is now aware of her beauty.

“I changed things in such a way that my weakness, or how I perceived a weakness, became my strength, my specialty,” she said.

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

“I feel like a revolutionary because I realize that everything around me didn’t exist before L’Imperfetta,” said Giancane. “It feels like a revolution, an uphill battle because there are so many difficulties.”

The agency counts more than 140 models. They operate both in Italy and abroad, but focus their work on Italy “because we want to change something here,” said Giancane. Her models have appeared in advertising campaigns for cosmetics brands, fashion retailers and supermarkets. Work is done in online advertising, but models have also been sought in TV commercials, two of which can be seen on the Milan catwalk for designer Marco Rambaldi.

Lucia Della Ratta, a university student in Rome, hid her albinism for most of her life by dying her fair hair darker and using tanning lotions on her skin. During the pandemic lockdown, she let her natural hair color grow out and started posting photos to Instagram.

“I felt beautiful for the first time,” Della Ratta said during a break in the photoshoot. The layer still brings tears to her eyes, which she wipes away. “I felt it was my essence, as if it was who I really am.”

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

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

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

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