* What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Alessia: to lose someone you love. And to be afraid to change, mentally or physically.
Valentina: not being able to provide for myself and having to rely to someone else to have money, especially my husband. My priority has always been to be indipendent from anyone else: this, among other things, I try to teach every day to my daughters.
* What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Alessia: some people are unable to be just happy. Moaning about how life has been unfair to you sometimes it’s easier. To me happiness is a choice as well as something to fight for every single day. The biggest achievement in life is to be happy when you have nothing to be happy for. To be happy everyday, is the biggest gift you can give to yourself.
Valentina: for myself, an island where I can live with my close family, away from the world but at the same time really well connected to the web! For humanity, to stop children suffer: it would be so amazing if pain and disease were only related with the grownups.
* Who are your favourite heroines of fiction?
Alessia: today I must say Margaret Schroeder in the tv series Broadwalk Empire (Nucky Thompson’s girl). A strong, clever, lowborn woman, seizing Atlanta during the Prohibition Era. I’ve always loved Violetta from the opera La Traviata: she fights for her lover’s good till death. And Violet Baudelaire from the Lemony Snicket children’s book A Series of Unfortunate Events: such a positive example for young girls!
Valentina: Marguerite Gautier from The Lady of the Camellias for sure. She seemed so weak but she had extreme strength in her and at the same time you couldn’t help but love her. Viola of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night kicked ass as well (and she was the reason why I called my second daughter the same name).
* Who are your favourite heroines in real life?
Alessia: wow, I’ve got so many! Above all, Kate Moss and Courtney Love: I’ve been loving them from the early 90s. So different but so style-trading. Then P. D. James, my favourite writer, still rocking the world at the age of 91. Last but not least, Alda Merini, the poetess, the artist: one of the strongest and self-conscious women I’ve ever seen.
Valentina: so many! Vanessa Redgrave for her beauty, Luciana Litizzetto for her humor and Germaine Greer for her strength. The late Anita Roddick for her entrepreneurial vision and Oriana Fallaci before her late mad days. In the younger generation I really appreciate the integrity of Sophie Dahl, Nigella Lawson and Bella Freud: women that show themselves as what they are, with defects and weaknesses, and do not compromise to the stereotypes about women.
* What is your most vivid memory of the 90s (from music, fashion, politics, culture)?
Alessia: dancing indie music at the Basement Club in Brighton, as well as at the Faster in Turin. Me and my sister dressed in tracksuit jumpers, bell-bottom jeans and Adidas trainers, stalking Liam Gallagher’s house in London. The media fight between Oasis (my team) and Blur (hers). Pulp, Menswear, Ash, Shed Seven, Verve (and many more) concerts. And a lot of wrong, dirty and wannabe Beatles boys!
Valentina: the Brit Pop era, Blur vs. Oasis, we were all mad for it. The model Tatjana Patitz: I was sooo convinced I was her best friend, even if she didn’t know anything about it. And hearing on the news the announcement of the death of Kurt Cobain, live. The 90s were my era and sometimes I realize that I am stuck to it in so many ways.
* What does “feminism” mean to you?
Alessia: the power and beauty all women have. The power and beauty a man will never reach. Even if I like men pretty much.
Valentina: it means to stand up for your rights and make yourself heard independently from what is your sexual orientation, your background or culture. As women’s economic independence increased, their tolerance of infidelity, cruelty, neglect and emotional and physical abuse from their male counterpart has become stronger and defines what feminism is for me.
* Have you ever given an active contribution to the feminist cause?
Alessia: not at all. I won’t really describe myself as a feminist, if you’d ask. I just think girls are better than boys (more versatile, more caring, more multitasking…) but I don’t need a man to tell me so.
Valentina: not really to a specific cause, no. But I struggle every day at work to make my girl collaborators to stand up for themselves because they have brains and not tits!
* Have you ever experienced sexism?
Alessia: in my job (I run my own graphic studio) sometimes I can’t scare debtors enough. But I’m not sure if it’s a question of being a woman or just that I dress like a fifteen-year-old girl.
Valentina: every day at work. There is The Engineer, The Doctor, The Technician and Valentina. Nothing special but it is always in the air, always. This is particularly frustrating when you realize for sure that the men talking to you have no charisma or professional knowledge and that you are so much better than them, whatever side you look at it.
* The quality you most admire in a man?
Alessia: honesty. The capability to say “Sorry” or “I’m wrong”, as well as “I don’t love you anymore”. Most of the men I know don’t have this capability. Women mostly do.
Valentina: intellectual and physical loyalty. And big arms to give big hugs.
* The quality you most admire in a woman?
Alessia: strength. The ability to go on even when you have been kicked down thousand times. The ability to rise a good child even in the worst conditions. To read him a story at bedtime even if you just want to cry in the bathroom.
Valentina: strength in her professional life that does not involve compromising with private life. I see too many women at work forced to juggle between family and business, pretending it’s normal to be able to work 10 hours a day, plus being a excellent mum and a wonderful housewife when it is clearly impossible.
* What is your motto?
Alessia: “It’s only teenage wasteland” taken from Baba O’Riley by the Who, released in 1971. It’s my own “Panta rei” mantra. Everything, good or bad, will elapse one day, so hold on.
Valentina: “I live my own life and nurse my own wounds. It’s not the best way to live. but it’s the way I am”. This is taken from a book that talks about gender issues of a female adolescent (so basically nothing to do with the real me) but I think it fits me perfectly.
* What is the object that represents you most?
Alessia: all the framed postcards of paintings hanging in my bedroom’s wall, bought from all the museums me and my husband went to, during our 14-year-old love story.
Valentina: my camel/pink camellia flower brooch.
* Who would you have liked to be?
Alessia: I’d have liked to be Pamela Des Barres in the 60s and 70s. That girl must have had some serious fun. And she kissed Jim Morrison, for God’s sake!
Valentina: Queen Victoria. She was surely a feminist ante-litteram.
* Could you put your identity into a few key words?
Alessia: You love me even when you hate me. (cit.)
Valentina: blonde on the outside but determined and strongly opinionated on the inside.
* How do you imagine your identity changing in ten years? Or twenty?
Alessia: those are times of changes for me and my family. I don’t even know where on the planet I’ll be in 6 months. In 20 years I hope to be wiser and to have a larger family. But I hope my own identity will remain the same.
Valentina: I will be wiser and surely blonder. With 2 more kids, hopefully girls!
I hope you’ll agree with me in finding these questionaries particularly inspiring and interesting. I wish I had known Alessia and Valentina back in the 90s – I would have shared my obsession for British culture with them – but I’m happy to know them now: both of them have taught me that every cloud has a silver lining, an important lesson for a pessimist at heart like me.