Vera Valdez: “Sometimes I still feel the cold of the room where they tortured me”

His first nude, in the sixties, cost him a divorce. The last one was 72 years old. She faced the best photographers in the world (Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon …) and a group of men who had been ordered to torture her. She was the darling of Coco Chanel, the first Brazilian supermodel, the mistress of a former French president, the intern of a psychiatric hospital. He has just presented at the San Sebastián festival La abuela , which opens in theaters on 29 October. “Vera has fascinated us,” says the director, Paco Plaza. At 85 he is shooting a short, a feature film and a series. The actress does not think about retiring after a movie life.

Question. Of all that she has seen and suffered, what made her the happiest and when did she suffer the most?

Answer. The theater drives me crazy, working with an audience. What has made me suffer the most has been torture. And now, as I think anyone who wants Brazil, sad because of Bolsonaro. Many people died because he said that the covid was a flu. He doesn’t care about us, he doesn’t like us. He’s ruining the town.

Q. How did it end a model in a torture center?

R. Brazil was then a dictatorship. In my family, leftist intellectuals, almost everyone had been arrested or exiled. One day, coming from Paris, they caught me at the Rio airport with a piece of cocaine in my bag. When they saw which family I belonged to, they took me to a place and beat me. Then the military tortured me, they wanted me to reveal the names of opponents. They gave me electric shocks, they put me in a huge room, like a freezer, full of mirrors. I was naked and freezing to death. They hit me between several, they were never the same. They also left me suspended over a hole in which they said there were snakes … I was there for a month and then about a year in a mental hospital . I was very scared, until I said to myself: “The worst that can happen to you is to die.” Then I blocked the fear, but sometimes I can still feel that cold.

“I was 16 years old and aborting was a crime. I had to do it secretly “

Q. Before that she had become Coco Chanel’s right eye. How did you meet?

R. The first time a man asked me if I was a model, I didn’t know what that was. Ask my mother, who picked up a magazine and said, “This.” We lived there in Bordeaux. Then we went to Paris. A friend introduced me to the dressmaker Elsa Schiaparelli and I started working. We went to London to present a collection. the princesses Margaret and Isabel, it was impressive. I became very close friends with the model Suzy Parker, who one day told me: “I am going to introduce you to a fantastic woman.” It was mademoiselle. She introduced me to her and I started working for her. Chanel loved me like a mother. We always had dinner together and the rest of the models were jealous. She would scold me because I went out at night and was always late. She gave me three o four times, but it always came back. Cr eo that he liked because he was very free, like her.

P. The advantages are obvious, but did the beauty take anything away from you? Innocence, for example?

R. While working As a model I couldn’t get pregnant and at that time abortion was a crime. I had to do it in secret. They put me in a car, lying in the back and took me away, I don’t know where. I then did not want to be a mother [luego tuvo dos hijas], I did not want to get married and I thought that it would not be good for that child. I was 16 years old, but I keep thinking about it.

“Cosmetic surgery takes away expressiveness. I feel sorry for those actresses”

P. Grandma is a horror movie in which the devil is old age. Is it harder to grow old for someone who has been so beautiful?

R. For me it is more psychological than horror. And I have never looked beautiful. Chic, elegant, yes, but that does not age.

P. What do you think when you see actresses deformed by cosmetic surgery so as not to age?

R. Wrinkles are what you’ve experienced. I only had surgery here [señala una papada inexistente]. You lose your expressiveness as an actress. I look at them and I’m very sorry.

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