Though she grew up knowing that her grandmother was a film and style icon, Emma Ferrer (granddaughter of the legendary Audrey Hepburn) is a product of self-discovery. Today she is a model, artist, dancer and spokesperson for UNHCR. Emma was born in Morges and spent her first year at La Paisible, the Hepburn family's country house in the Swiss village of Tolochenaz, near Lausanne. At the age of 14 Emma moved to Florence, Italy with her parents - the birthplace of the Renaissance, the center of art and culture. Emma is a graduate of Florence Academy of Art. She recently moved to Manhattan to pursue an acting and modeling career. We caught up with Emma for a chat during New York Fashion week.
Joliegazette: What were you like as a child and how did it shape to who you are today?
Emma: I have always been shy and introverted. I was a book worm from the day I learned to read. I would drown myself in books and stories, and stay in the library during the lunch break. I loved to do ballet and to paint. I would often do these activities alone. I used to think this was a bad thing- that I needed to be like other kids: more social, and with more friends. Today, I am learning to accept who I am…and to love myself for being a little different!
Joliegazette: You lived in Italy for some time before moving to New York. What made you make the move?
Emma: I have always been attracted to the energy of New York. It’s magnetic. There is so much to become involved in here. For someone my age looking to experience life, it’s the best place.
Joliegazette: When did you become passionate about art?
Emma: I think I was born passionate about art
Joliegazette: Who are some of the artist you admire?
Emma: Giorgio de Chirico, Rembrandt, Arnold Bocklin, Klimt, Magritte, Jules Bastien Lepage, Zurbaran, Mark Rothko, Van Gogh…to name a few!
Joliegazette: What is your favorite place to see art?
Emma: In New York: The Met or the Neueu Gallery. In Paris: Musée d’Orsay. In Florence: The Palazzo Pitti or the Uffizi.
Joliegazette: What inspires you?
Emma: Dreams, the metaphysical, meditation, the 4th dimension, The Sublime, daily life, daily activities, ancient Greek poetry, Plato, Orpheus, Dionysus, Autumn
Joliegazette: How did modeling start ?
Emma: With a cover story I shot with Harpers Bazaar. It was totally a fluke, the editor at Bazaar tracked me down…I was just an art student living in Florence, Italy, and all of a sudden they wanted to shoot me for one of the world’s leadin fashion publications. At first, I was hesitant, but my curiosity gave in as I am always up for a new experience. I was shot by Michael Avedon, who happens to be the grandson of Richard Avedon, an iconic fashion photographer in the 60s and 70s. My grandmother was his muse, so there was a great parallel story. Michael and I are best friends to this day. And the rest was history.
Joliegazette: What do you like about modeling?
Emma: Meeting creative minds and talented artists. When photographers have their own vision and are true to it…the model is taking part in this incredible moving production. Then become involved the stylist, the makeup artist, the hairdresser, the men working the lights, the camera crew, even the catering guys…everyone is an inextricable part of giving birth to the vision as it unfolds. I love that so many people are involved and contribute their ideas and perspectives. In that sense, it’s an artistic community. I thrive on art and community…so I guess modeling, when at its best, can let you be part of something quite special.
Joliegazette: Like your grandmother you love ballet. Did you ever pursue a career in ballet?
Emma: Definitely. I trained rigorously until about the age of 12. I danced with multiple professional companies. My dad likes to say that, like my grandmother, I’m too tall to be a dancer. This simply isn’t true. Ballet is a beautiful art form, but it demands a lot of sacrifice from the individual. I guess I realized at a certain point that I had to choose a life dedicated to becoming a dancer, or a life dedicated to exploration and experimentation. There isn’t much room for mistakes as a dancer. Today, I’m all about making mistakes. About falling down. You can’t fall down as a dancer. It’s just a different approach from what I’m going for right now.
Joliegazette: Do you ever think about becoming an actress?
Emma: Shhh…a little secret: I’ve recently enrolled in acting classes.
Joliegazette: Why do you continue your grandmother's Audrey Hepburn's charitable work with Unicef?
Emma: I am a spokesperson for UNHCR- the United Nations agency for refugees. In a broad sense, I continue the humanitarian work of my grandmother, like most members of my family. I have felt a great philanthropic urge since I was tiny. When I was 5, at school we had to write a little blurb about ourselves accompanied by a self-portrait. One of the prompts was, “I am good at __”. I wrote, “I am good at** ‘feeling other people’s pain’. I recently discovered this little project, framed by parents, in an old filing box at home. It was a surreal moment for me…I guess I realized, ‘Wow-I’ve been doing this since before I even knew who my grandmother was, or what it was to be a ‘humanitarian’.’ Anyways, today, I feel deeply moved by the refugee crisis. It highlights so many ethical issues with our world. The growing gap between East and West can be felt in standards of living, economy, religion... We, as a society, have double standards. I can’t help but feel that we live in a society that values the life of one over another. We are all guilty of practicing unconscious prejudice. Working with refugees gives me the chance to check in with myself everyday. It helps me understand where I stand in relation to every other person on this planet. **
Joliegazette: What does it mean to you today having a grandmother like Audrey?
Emma: The world. I can say I am proud and honored. I am fortunate.
Joliegazette: Do you feel that you carry her spirit with you today?
Joliegazette: What is next for Emma Ferrer?
Emma: More discovery!
Joliegazette: Any valuable advice you'd give for girls your age?
Emma: The sooner you learn that you are beautiful just as you are, the closer you are to being the best possible you. You are enough, and if you accept that, you will shine brighter than any of the models, actresses, or icons in the ads. Believe me. We are all deeply, deeply insecure. Even the most beautiful women you know of feel they aren’t good enough. Believe me, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Beauty is about being true to your deepest self. There is only one of you. People are drawn to this truth. Be generous with yourself and be generous with others. Little acts of service will make you happier. Meditate. Don’t do drugs. Create things. Let the world know who you are!
Photo by Megan J Merkley.
Text by Juliet Belkin