Rossy de Palma has to be one of the world’s most frighteningly beautiful women.
“In Spain, I have always been known because of my looks,” she points out. “People say, ‘Oh yeah, she’s the one with that strange face Almodovar loves.”‘
Her left eye is green, her right eye is hazel and one eye is rounder than the other. Full lips barely close over a mouthful of teeth, and her most dominant feature is that nose. It seems to start up above the eyebrows, takes in a big bump, then drops down sharply to finish with a flourish just above her mouth. Not your typical Spanish beauty, she looks more like a contorted Cubist portrait by Picasso.
And yet those looks have made her one of director Pedro Almodovar’s favorite actresses, and she’s back in his latest, “Kika,” opening this week in New York. She also shows up regularly on the runways for Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and Sybilla, and she is currently filming “Pret-a-Porter” with Robert Altman.
“Perhaps I’m very pretty to some people, and very ugly for others,” she says matter-of-factly. “But that’s their problem, not mine.”
The 29-year-old actress was born in Mallorca, where it was quickly clear she was not quite like the other girls.
“At school, everyone talked about my nose,” she remembers. “The feeling was, ‘Rossy is very sympatica — Rossy is very fun — Rossy dances so well — but Rossy has such a big nose.’ I was bothered at first, but at one point I looked in the mirror and for me it wasn’t a problem.”
De Palma began to turn what was a disadvantage into an advantage. Instead of hiding what others saw as defects, she flaunted them, and she developed a quirky sense of style to call attention to herself.
“I don’t just love fashion,” she says, “I devour it.”
She soon came up with an eccentric mix of clothing, including second-hand finds, the few designer pieces she could afford and clothes she had sewn herself. Then, as though a logical next step, she and some friends formed a rock group, El Peor Impossible (The Worst Possible). By boasting that they were bad, the group turned its lack of experience into a plus through excessive camp — much as de Palma had done with her looks. She sang, danced and played electronic drums for the group, taking on her stage name for just a little flair. “I call myself Rossy de Palma because the town I’m from is Palma. It’s not like Brian De Palma, or anything,” she points out, politely refusing to give her real name because doing so would spoil the fun.
By the early Eighties, she and the group had made their way to Madrid, attracting the attention of that camp connoisseur, Almodovar. He offered her her first role, in “The Law of Desire.”
Almodovar then cast her in “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and brought her back in “Tie Me Up/Tie Me Down.” This time out, she has her largest part yet in “Kika,” where she plays a lesbian maid with a dark moustache who is a little too aroused by the mistress of the house.
Her brother in the film, a porn star whose rape of Kika turns the dark comedy darker, is her boyfriend of seven years, Santiago Lajusticia. His role as Paul Bazzo (a play on the Spanish expression for someone who’s good in bed) is short but steamy — and there is talk that he could be the next Antonio Banderas.
Whatever the future brings de Palma, it’s certain she won’t be changing her looks. “With all the incredible things you can do with plastic surgery, I could change my face, but I’m very happy with it. And it’s not like I feel marginalized,” she says. “My family and friends care about me, and I have a boyfriend who loves me: my face, my nose, my body, everything.”
De Palma has made it work. Why fix it?