BEHIND THE SCENES, FIRST KISS EDITION: NATALIA BONAFACCI
My long time Los Angeles friend and, Natalia, answers my questions…
1 Anything fun or cool or interesting come from being in the video?
I guess getting a lot of love from friends and family from all over the world: to have them touch base with me, to hear how much they liked ‘First Kiss’ and how happy they were to find me in it, well, it felt quite special. At the same time there are a lot of jokes floating around. Last weekend I went to a party and this friend of mine, Lukas, had the “brilliant” idea to introduce me to everyone we met as the “kissing strangers gal”. I wanted to kill him, but it was endearing and funny at the same time. It’s actually a good conversation starter, until they actually do think you want to kiss ANY stranger. None of my old lovers has reached out to me commenting about it, but I did get funny proposals from old buddies of mine being like ‘Now I want to kiss you too.”. About some I didn’t care so much, but some messages made me blush. It’s weirdly flattering. WEIRDLY flattering. You might not believe me, but usually guys don’t really hit on me very often, so I had my “prom queen” moment. Although I DID freak out a bit about messages from strangers. I’m not a huge fan of chatting with people on the web without knowing them in real life. It’s just out of my comfort zone, I’m not made for that, I love a face to face.
2 Have you been recognized by anyone from the video or any funny stories related to that?
Mhm… Yes and no. I mean, my friends, or people that know me, have seen it. So they recognized me because they actually are my mates. Some of them really love to really tease me about it. It’s nice to hear that the people that know me really well tell me that I was really myself in the video, with no filter. Besides that, so far, not really, yet there are two episodes of strangers actually recognizing me. One was a bartender at a bar the other night in Silver Lake. The other was this woman at a party. She was staring at me for quite a bit before finally coming up to me and deciding to introduce herself. “You look so familiar, have we met before?” I told her “Maybe socially?”. She followed up with a million potential scenarios of where we had met. I’m usually coy about these things, but the conversation didn’t seem to have an ending, so I told her “Well, you know, there is this video going viral…” And calling her boyfriend she yelled “OMG! This is the girl from that kissing video we watched all morning!” I did wish Lukas could have been there for that.
3 Have you seen or talked to anyone else that was in the video since? Your kissing partner or otherwise?
I texted with Soko about it a bit, she’s a friend, and I ran into Justin (Kennedy) at a party last weekend, I’ve known him for years: we made jokes and we laughed about it and talked about the fact that none of us expected the phenomenon that followed the release of the short. That’s it, I think, as of now? As far as Karim (Saleh), my kissing partner, I haven’t seen him since the shoot. He did friend request me on Facebook though and we chatted a few times since.
4 What was the experience like being on the set / filmed?
Well, you know, when I first got asked to be part of the project I was sooooo into it, it’s ridiculous. I mean, my nature is kind of instinctive to begin with. I just thought “I am not in a relationship, I love making out, who doesn’t? How hard can it be to kiss someone? YES, of course I wanna kiss a stranger!” Ok. At the time I didn’t realize that kissing an actual stranger is not the same as kissing a stranger that you picked yourself at a party after talking to him for a little at least. Also, I have kissed men on set in the past, but always for acting purposes, which is also waaaay different: you are protected by a different identity when you act. I did find that out the day of the shoot. The night before the shoot I was sharing the project with my mates over dinner and they all told me I was crazy. “What if you don’t like him?” “What if he’s 80 years old?” I told them to stop it and that I was cool with it. Well, I didn’t end up being as cool as I thought I was. The day of the shoot I woke up wanting to cancel because I just realized that I was incredibly nervous. The reason why I didn’t flake is because I like both you and Tatia so much, I had a commitment with you guys… Also, I guess, I really enjoy overcoming fear… In the end Karim had forgotten about the shoot, so he ended up showing up over an hour late. I’m really punctual, so I had a good amount of time to get more nervous and shy and giggly. He showed up and we introduced one another on set in front of five rolling cameras with a deep conversation: “Hi.” “Hi.” “I’m Natalia.” “I’m Karim.”. The rest of it you see it in the video: I kept laughing, and talking, and I was barely looking at him, and then I realized I had completely forgotten his name. It was nerve-wracking. Eventually, I was the one who leaned in to kiss him. I did feel really good afterwards though, I love feeling bold.
5 Why do you think people like the video so much?
You know, it’s hard to figure out exactly why we were able to touch people’s hearts to such an amazing degree. It is true that all the “strangers” are pretty much good looking. It is true that Soko’s song ‘We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow” and the lyrics are very touching. It is true that the black and white of the video makes it both nostalgic and romantic. I believe though, generalizing if I may, that in a world where people communicate via ‘whatsapp’, where people screen their phone calls before calling you back, where people flirt through Facebook or text-messaging, but then ignore one another face to face… In a world were we all tend to protect ourselves from a deep human contact, I imagine, that seeing vulnerability, true and pure vulnerabilty, because that is what it is portrayed in ‘First Kiss’ in the end, can be very touching. Maybe it gives hope? Also, a first kiss is something that we can all relate to. Most of us have given a first kiss. Many dream of it. Besides the people critiquing it insinuating it was a fake, there have been a lot of really nice words about the film. Someone even said “It made me believe in love again, it gave me hope.” And just because of that, I feel incredibly lucky to having been part of such an intimate project. It also really represents my own way of going through life, I’m the worst: I make a fool of myself ALL the time. Some people might think it’s embarrassing, but to me, it’s really the only way: being vulnerable it’s very different from being fragile.
6 What are you up to next? Any work or personal stuff you feel like mentioning.
I’m a full-time model, I’m Italian, but when I am not traveling around the world, I live in LA, a city I love. Since January I’ve been taking acting classes, I’m studying the Meisner Technique twice a week. I really love acting. I’m the perfect LA’s walking cliché, model/wannabe-actress!! Besides that, I write. I have two interview columns for Milan based online magazine RedMilk Magazine, it’s bilingual (Italian/English). One is called A BEAUTIFUL TANDEM: it’s a window into the world of creative partnerships through video portraits. The other one is NATALIA MEETS: I have intimate Q&A’s with creative people I like. I just interviewed Tatia (Pilieva) for it, of course! My instagram (natalia_grazia_it) is connected to Italian magazine Grazia.it, where they feature my day to day visual diary. I also write articles for them every once in a while.