Isabelle Barciulli was born in Florence 28 years ago, but lives in Rome where she’s doing a degree in psychology. She’s a model, (being one of the ‘Next Door Model’ chosen by the photographer Emanuele Ferrari for GQ), and works in a pub; but in her spare time, keys in hand, foot on the pedal and gear selected, she’s a successful rally driver.
Isabelle is one of the few women to have scored points in the FIA Alternative Energies World Championship both as a driver and navigator. Over the last two years she has excelled in the female category rankings, beating other representatives of the fair sex to finish ninth in 2012 and thirteenth overall in 2013.
So Isabelle, women and cars – more joy or sorrow?
«Lots of pride! I’ll never forget the day I had my debut as a navigator. When they saw me get out of the car the other competitors were grinning; as if to say they couldn’t believe I’d be capable of doing it. Imagine a girl, and a cute one to boot, giving them a hard time. As it was, we came second that time – within just a few hundredths of a second from first place! I therefore feel a lot of joy and satisfaction. And a lot of commitment is required».
Since August 2012 you’ve been with Sansepolcro International Imega team. How did this passion get started?
«Like many good things in life, it was sheer luck. Guido Guerrini, the driver of the Imega team, who’s now become a close friend, was looking for someone to go with him to one of the FIA Alternative Energies Italian Championship races. His trusted navigators were all out of the game, due to work or travel. He asked around friends and acquaintances, including me. I thought for a good minute and a half before I said I could do it! »
Speed and women: how do you get on with the other women drivers?
«I meet more and more of them at races abroad, where they often don’t speak good English, so communication is difficult. However, we’ll often exchange complicit looks. We’re rare specimens after all, and competitiveness gives way to mutual support».
How did you start modelling?
«I grew up in Florence and by the age of six my mother was taking me to do catwalks for Pitti Bimbo. She used to take me out of school before it had finished to do auditions or photo shoots for catalogues. I hated being coiffed and made up, and, even more, being made to pose. I wasn’t a tomboy, but equally I wasn’t a particularly vain child who liked being decorated with bows. I remember it as if it were yesterday – after an afternoon of doing a catalogue shoot I plucked up the courage to tell my mum I didn’t want to do the catwalks or photos any more. She understood and accepted my decision».
What woman has inspired you?
«I was once told that I am like Amelia Earhart, the first woman aviator in the United States to attempt the circumnavigation of the globe by plane, and who achieved many firsts in aviation. Then, political spectrum aside, I admire the work of Oriana Fallaci. Some of her most personal writings resonate inside me as if they were mantras. I also admire strong and tireless women; like my mother, who has reinvented herself numerous times in her life, and Lorella, my former employer, who’s like a second mother. The latter two particularly deserve my praise».
What do you see for your future – model, psychologist, mother or driver?
«I love psychology and I’m fascinated by people’s behavior. Being able to treat emotions is the activity that satisfies me most of all. I want to become an accomplished psychologist who, when she gets home, has a rather large family waiting for her. Without doubt, I’d like to be a mother».
What would you never give up?
«The sense of insecurity and anxiety I’ve felt since I was little. In small, manageable doses it’s the drive behind my choices, the push that makes me move, the yardstick of my joys and sorrows. A life of just safety and lightness scares me. Cheerful suffering is my rhythm».
What song represents you the most?
«’Thirty-three’ by the Smashing Pumpkins. It sums up all the essence and nostalgia of being in the world. In my opinion it’s like poetry».
photography: Emanuele Vanni – design: Giovanna Rossi