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I’ve always wanted to close a show with the song “Rumore” by Raffaella Carrà. I almost did it with my fall-winter 2015 collection. The “beat” is perfect as for a Roman legion of models marching along the runway, but at the time of finalizing the soundtrack I felt that the lyrics did not go with the concept of my collection and – as I am a fan of coherence in my work – in the end I leaned towards a remix of Madonna’s Living for Love. Coincidentally I started yesterday with that remix on my social networks, just remembering the collection that I mention, whose main mottos were “Living well is the best revenge” (quote from the Welsh poet George Herbert) and “Life is a party.” As I did so, I drew energy from the weekend review with more social encounters that I have had so far, to start the week strong, but fate had other plans for my state of mind when notifying me of the sudden death of the artist Italian.
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Although in the last two years death is a subject that we keep in mind more than usual, losing an artist like Raffaella Carrà it additionally represents the extraction of a piece of jenga from our mental and emotional collective. When reading and then corroborating the news to my disbelief, the feeling that invaded me was the same as when I learned of the death of George Michael or David Bowie, the death of a character that one feels will always be with us. The magnitude of what Raffaella represents for many of us is particularly interesting if we see that she is not an artist who came to captivate our senses through the dominant Anglo-Saxon entertainment industry, but is precisely one of those personalities that are practically unknown in countries like the United States. She is also perhaps an artist who could coexist in the category of the “camp” with Amanda Lear and the also disappeared Dalida, strong and independent women whose careers have become a source of worship. When the annual gala of the Metropolitan Museum of New York was organized dedicated to this type of aesthetic and attitude, I was left thinking that she must have been invited. If we review Raffaella Carrá’s wardrobe mentally (or with the help of our cybernetic tools) we can find really fantastic pieces that rival those of Cher’s television stage but that hold a category of their own and that I hope at some point can be present in some exhibition of a museum.
Raffaella Carrá It also represents to me how essential it is to be authentic. I have a particular admiration for those entertainment artists who were not trained to be so by their environment, those who were not born with godparents in the music industry or parents who have pushed them down that path. I am even more moved by stories like those of Raffaella, someone whose internal motivation moved her to leave her native Bologna and deviate from the future that her mother expected for her: to study and marry an architect or a doctor. A person who started her career in the cinema despite wanting to be a ballet choreographer, who went on to act in Hollywood alongside Trevor Howard and Frank Sinatra in The Von Ryan Express (a movie that my mother likes a lot), but who knew staying true to her ambitions and she understood that this was not what she was looking for. “I am too Latin”She said in an interview for Spanish Television in 1981, and that the United States was not for her, but that she did admire the order for the work that she witnessed there. For me, the latter reveals another of the reasons for her success: discipline, something that I feel – as with Madonna – stems from her training as a dancer.
Speaking of my greatest idol, when two years ago Madonna premiered the video for her song God Control, more than one shouted “Raffaella Carrá!” seeing her look. This would not be the first time that the Italian-American singer had emulated her quasi-compatriot. During the MDNA Tour, in the section that sings Erotica, Madonna performs a choreography with one of her dancers (and then boyfriend) where they take turns touching each other in a series of movements identical to Tuca Tuca, a 1971 song by la Carrà that was censored by the Vatican, 19 years before Ciccone was faced with the same kind of rejection during its Blond Ambition tour in Rome. If being censored before Madonna by the same entity is not synonymous with being a pioneer, I don’t know what is.
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I suppose that female freedom has always represented a threat to the status quo, and more so if this freedom is linked to the sexual and that a woman can be in control of hers, something that was clear with each presentation of the Italian artist who additionally touched on topics considered taboo such as masturbation and being gay in happy and “light” songs, perhaps making them more digestible by not being shown in such a confrontational way.
If she seems to be a reference to Madonna (she has never mentioned her but it is inevitable to make more parallels than those I mention), it remains to ask what are the references of Raffaella Carrà? On the one hand, we know that there is a “concept” reference in Hair, the musical work that he saw for the first time in France and that always made him appreciate and defend freedom (how nice how art always opens our minds, right? ). Perhaps there we can find the root of the hallmark of his choreographies that Mosa, the mother of my friend Paloma, imitated so many times, who told us that in her youth she sang “03 03 456” when she went out to dance but with her own phone number if she saw a boy she liked. Those wild-looking but perfectly planned head shakes to be accompanied by his iconic mane, the one that was born from the only other reference that I have heard him mention in terms of his look. Thanks to my friend Richard Lingua – with whom we mourned yesterday – I learned that the inspiration behind the haircut with which we most identify her comes from a reproduction of a painting that was in her house by the Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca. How important it is to observe and nourish yourself with what surrounds you.
It is difficult to include in a text everything that an artist means as Raffaella Carrà, just as it is impossible not to sigh all the time while I write. It is news for which he was not prepared, having celebrated his birthday just a few weeks ago, witnessing his agility and formidable physical condition in recent interviews, but above all because of the progression in his extensive professional career. A person in constant movement (who at the same time knew how to take the necessary pauses so as not to be a slave to an industry that can take as much as it gives) who kept us curious as to the next step he was going to take. We didn’t know that that was going to be immortality.