chiara clemente writes a letter to her younger self
To celebrate 25 years of BE WHO YOU ARE, i-D is collaborating with Bobbi Brown to bring you six women's letters of advice to their younger selves. Here, Chiara reflects on her split Italian-American identity, New York sarcasm, and softness as a form of...
Dear Chiara of the past,
Once upon a time, you wanted to tell stories - and guess what, you'll get to do exactly that for a living, so keep making them up and writing them down. Even if the perfectionist in you won't always like the way these stories read, just keep writing. When you're thirteen you will discover the video camera, and with it, a new way to tell your stories; it will become a natural extension of your imagination.
You will attend a very competitive New York high school and you will have to wake up very early - something you'll never be good at doing. You will also have to work day and night to do just ok, but it will be worth it, I promise. You will get to take a film class and you'll find a great teacher. She will push you to take your stories to a more personal level so you can discover who you are. By your last year of high school, you'll know that film is the only thing you can imagine doing with your life. You'll dive straight into film school and it will be thrilling and all-consuming but you'll also have to deal with being one of the few girls and the youngest in the program. Your soft-spoken voice and delicate manners will feel like obstacles but let them serve you: once you find your own voice and vision, they will be your greatest tools.
After school you will move to your beloved Italy, where you were born. In this moment of your life, Italy will be the only place in your heart that can do no wrong - and your romanticization and idealization of where you come from will clearly show. Embrace these feelings, as later you will have to face a different reality. You'll ignore the people who tell you to be careful. They'll say that what seems like a fairytale can quickly become a disappointing reality but you won't listen - your stubborn Leo ways will always keep you on your own path. Once you're there though, you will start finding faults in everything and everyone, including yourself. Your New York sarcasm just won't translate. More often, in fact, it will offend. You'll question yourself more than ever. But don't give up! - this is the place you had to be to start your real journey. This is the place where you'll be asked to film your first artist, Jim Dine. You'll know to use your instinct, to ask open ended-questions and to draw from your own childhood growing up in an artist's studio. He'll reveal more than he thought he would and by the end he'll thank you and tell you that you are very good at this. This will give you the burst of confidence you need, driving you on to do more.
When New York calls you back you'll realize that it's only through your camera that you'll get to understand who the you of today can be here. You will follow five women artists for two years and through them you will fall back in love with your city. You will also realize that anything is possible here, even if that means fighting hard for what you want. In time, you'll discover that your soft ways and unimposing appearance are your true strengths, that your intimate style of filmmaking is only possible because of your sensitive approach.
It won't be easy being a girl working in film but because the fight is so hard, you'll be reminded every day that it's worth it. A male producer will tell you to get in touch with your feminine side and another will open the door in his bathrobe. Often, on set, you will be asked if you are the intern. You will go home and cry and question if you can really do this, and be scared that you are just not tough enough, and think that maybe there is a reason there are so few women directors. But you will wake up and jump out of bed and want to prove them wrong and you will go out and do it.
Chiara, they might never be able to pronounce your name quite right, and yes, you will always feel more Italian when in America and more American when in Italy, but you'll also come to know this: that it's all part of you and what's more important than where you end up, is the story you can tell about how you got there.
In bocca al lupo ('in the wolf's mouth', or, good luck),
Chiara of today