She has paraded on some of the most important catwalks in the world and posed for some of the best photographers. Yet she still found time to be the mother of two boys. Now, with a dream career, she talks openly about motherhood and what it’s like to bring up teenagers.
By Adriana Santos with Bárbara Perino
Photographs Timur Emek, Marcio Amaral and D.R.
LEMON Mag – We all know Isabeli Fontana the supermodel with an amazing career. But who is the Isabeli behind the model?
Isabeli Fontana [I.F.] – Out of the spotlight, I’m a mother, a wife and a woman. I’m a private person and prioritise family moments and my own individuality. These days, I live a centred, balanced life and pursue self-knowledge. I have worked hard since I was 12 years old and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m able to focus more on myself, with more time to get to know myself.
LEMON Mag – Isabeli, you are the mother of two boys, Zion, 16, and Lucas, 12. You became a mother very young, at 19. What has it been like to reconcile a successful career with motherhood over the years?
I.F. – I needed the support of the people around me, but I knew it was the right moment for me to be a mother. I felt an indescribable connection with Zion while I was pregnant. I was sure that he would be a great life companion, someone I would learn from and grow up with. The same happened with Lucas, with the difference that I was a bit more experienced. Motherhood brought me a lot of wisdom and I believe it positively influenced my professional career.
LEMON Mag – You said in an interview that you always dreamed of having a family. Do you remember how you felt when you became Zion’s mother? And Lucas’?
I.F. – Those are hard feelings to describe. The pregnancies happened at different times in my life and each gave me a new perspective. I grew stronger. Tougher. People started to respect me more after I became a mother.
LEMON Mag – How did motherhood shape you as a person and a professional?
I.F. – I became a stronger and firmer person in my decisions. I had to grow up quickly from a girl into a woman with responsibilities, bills to pay, children to feed. I see myself in my children. They are reflections of my better self, though each has his own personality and individuality of course. A modelling career also requires you to grow up fast, to learn how to manage yourself and your fears and insecurities.
LEMON Mag – Do you feel any need to protect Zion and Lucas from the public glare?
I.F. – We are quite a reserved family. The boys have their own daily activities: they go to school, they go out with their friends, they play sports… of course there is a certain level of exposure as the children of people with a public profile, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
LEMON Mag – You’ve mentioned that you were very strict with Zion. In what way? Were you like that with Lucas too?
I.F. – They were different periods. With Zion I was a first-time mother and just learning how to deal with motherhood. Everything was new to me. We were both learning to be mother and son. With Lucas, I knew what it was like to be pregnant. Lucas’ wisdom and empathy are admirable. He always has a kind, affectionate word for everybody. Today, I know I don’t need to be strict with the boys, but firm. Whenever I say something they don’t agree with, we sit down, we talk, and I explain why I’ve made a certain decision.
LEMON Mag – What were the most important values and lessons you tried to pass on to your children?
I.F. – Respect and empathy for others. They’re what I value most in their education and also what I try to follow in my own life.
LEMON Mag – What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a mother?
I.F. – I think one of my greatest challenges as a mother – especially the first time – was to prove that I could be both a model and a mother. A lot of people thought that my career would end, but I’m still active today. Motherhood has had a huge impact on my life, even just in terms of getting to know my own potential and strengths. I’m a tougher woman as the mother of two boys. I often say that after having children, you learn to be less selfish.
LEMON Mag – What is it like to be the mother of two teenage boys?
I.F. – I worry about the quality of their diet, their education and their daily habits. Becoming the mother of teenagers has meant I need to work extra hard to maintain an open channel of dialogue. It’s all about mutual learning: they share their points of view and I share mine, we have a discussion and together we make a decision. Of course there are times when I need to be more assertive, not as a show of authority, but because I have more life experience than they do. I’m very concerned about the ethical formation of the boys and their character.
LEMON Mag – Do you consider yourself a powerful mother?
I.F. – I think it’s not so much a question of power as of security. I’m a secure woman and that is reflected in my actions and performance as a mother, a professional and a wife.
LEMON Mag – Do you need help to balance your private and professional lives?
I.F. – I have people who work with me who help me to organise my daily life. I believe more and more that you can’t get very far alone.
LEMON Mag – You are married to singer Di [Diego] Ferrero. Is he a great support?
I.F. – Diego is a great companion, an important extra someone in my life.
LEMON Mag – Looking back, what’s been the most important moment of your career as a model? Which moment are you most fond of?
I.F. – I’ve had so many amazing experiences. One that really affected me was when I went to shoot the Pirelli calendar in Botswana. We did the shoot next to elephants and one of them started to cry. It was so moving!