Mais oui, one might think to give French bombshell/model/actress Laetitia Casta the starring role in the Dolce & Gabbana Intense campaign. Embracing Canadian model Noah Mills in the ad, she radiates the hot-and-sultry appeal that brought her fame in the ’90s as a Guess pin-up and an original Victoria’s Secret Angel. But what caught the designers’ notice was her risk-taking attitude, on and off camera, a fitting match for the potent orange blossom–tuberose brew.
After gracing more than 100 major magazine covers, including a controversial nude turn on Rolling Stone (there are no strategically positioned limbs concealing her curves), the Normandy-born beauty realized she was unsatisfied with mute posing. She chased acting ambitions, undaunted by her lack of immediate success. “Everybody thought because I was a model I wasn’t smart or didn’t have talent,” Casta recalls.
It took a thick—if always porcelain-perfect—skin, but she graduated from bit roles and established herself as one to watch among French critics, racking up 23 film credits and earning a nomination for a Cesar Award (akin to the Oscars) with her portrayal of another iconic bombshell, Brigitte Bardot, in 2010’s Gainsbourg. “You have to be very strong to be respected in the world of cinema—it’s a man’s world,” says Casta. “But I don’t care anymore what people say about me. I am able to say no if I don’t believe in a project, and I’m not scared to not have a career anymore.”
Casta knows how to master stress the French way. “The kids just came back from the beach now,” the mom of three says by phone from the south of Italy, where she’s filming a French comedy, Les Morues. You won’t catch her looking all I’m so famous and frenzied! in a Cadillac Escalade ferrying her daughters, Sahteene and Athena, and her son, Orlando. “I take the bus to get my kids to school,” she says candidly. “I have a normal life.”
Still, Casta’s “normal” is far from ordinary. “You need to put life in your heart,” she urges, “and heart in your life.”
1. Skin Saver: Dr. med. Christine Schrammek Sun Protect Cream 30 SPF, $52. “I don’t like to get brown, actually. I love pale skin.”
2. Home-Ec Hobby: “I love to cook. I can do anything, pasta and quiche.”
3. The Read: Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. “It’s about the mythology of women and why we should not be scared of our instincts.”
4. Must-have Manners: “I love the conviviality of Canadians. They know how to receive you and invite you in. Sometimes French people are not good at that.”
5. Paris Uniform: “A man’s shirt with jeans or pants, classic but elegant—that’s what I love.”