Interview with the storyteller Sara Melotti

by Erica Surace

1. Can you introduce yourself in one sentence?

It’s always hard answering these kinds of questions because I am and I do so many different things. Usually I sum it up by saying that I’m a storyteller in love with the world and its people.

2.Do you think it’s important for young people to explore the world and get to know new cultures in order to create a more inclusive society?

I think it’s important for everyone. Travelling- when done with an open heart- pushes you in a new reality, making you confront new worlds that are different from yours, opening your mind towards new horizons that you couldn’t even imagine before, eliminating the fear of the unknown.

Being in contact with people and cultures that are completely different from yours, you inevitably enrichen yourself, and you understand that no matter the diversities- that after all are a beautiful thing- we are all similar one to the other. In order to kill the cancer of racism there is no better cure than travelling.

3.Is there a place that taught you something in particular? Something you wish everybody knew?

Every place always leaves a special sign but India it’s the country that left the deepest holes in my opinion. Every trip I’ve taken in India has been a slap of awareness. In India spirituality is part of the culture and everyday life, there’s a different energy, you can feel it, and if you stop and you try to understand it, questions start to arise, that you would’ve never asked yourself before, and life gets a whole new meaning. Like Tezani said: “In India you never feel alone, never completely separated from the rest. And here is its charm. In India you are different from anywhere else. You feel different emotions. In India you think different thoughts”.

4.Where does your love for the USA come from?

It comes from simple superficiality and the need to escape from the reality that surrounded me. Italy didn’t offer me the stimulus I needed, America was the land of possibilities; plus I had my head full of Hollywood movies and American Pop Stars. I thought the US was what I’ve seen in The OC, and I wanted to live it, I wanted to live there so badly. I have found many of the opportunities I was looking for when I was there, but after living there for 8 years I understood that the USA we see in the movies it’s only one of the million sides of a very complicated country, the real America is a whole other thing, and I didn’t like it at all.

5.In your book you mention meditation referring to it as something that helped you a lot. Who introduced you to it and how do you think it helped you in your journey?

Steve introduced me to it, he’s one of the people in the book- a man in his sixties, former heroin addict, collector of street art. He lives a super interesting life. It was 2014, I was living in NYC, I started to practice as constantly as possible and today meditation is a part of my everyday life, I couldn’t live without it.

Meditation has completely changed me: first of all it helps me feel myself and understand me a little bit better: it creates space in between my thoughts and me and it has helped me to see reality in a clearer way, and to connect with my true self- to my essence and my soul- to trust my instincts and to follow my gut wherever it takes me.

We live in a world where everyday we are filled with so much different information, covered from all of the noise around us, that brings so much confusion with it. Meditation helps in not absorbing all the mess and staying in contact with the voice inside of you, so that you can live the best life for yourself, like a pilot instead of a passenger, without suffering the judgments of others.


6.If you could go back, would you choose to work in fashion again?

With the knowledge I have today of course I wouldn’t work as a fashion photographer anymore. However, if I could go back I would do it all over again, exactly as it has been. Because everything I have done- even the worst thing, the most painful- had a very precise goal, a lesson to teach me to make me become who I am today and to lead me on the way I am going through today, that is exactly where I should be.

7.Everything you talk about in the book is the truth or you made it more into an entertaining story?

No, everything is based on real facts. To protect the privacy of some people I mention in the book I’ve changed some names and moved a couple of cities somewhere else. A character is actually the fusion of two people, but everything happened just like I told it, my life has been a little like a movie actually!

8.Travel, beauty, writing and photography: how did you get to this mix and how did you get close to each one of these words?

The complete answer can be found in my book, the short one is that everything happened for a series of chances not connected between them but that have brought each one of these words to mix together giving life to what I do today.

9.What made you want to write a book? How did you decide to tell about yourself, letting the barriers down?

I was already used to writing without any filters and being real on the page, I’ve done it for years on my blog, complete honesty (towards myself first) has always been the only way to make art for me.

The book has been in my mind for years, but the main reason that pushed me to write it is that every day I was asked the same question: “How did you get to where you are today? How can I also do it?” and often people wanted a magic formula as an answer, something to follow step by step. The truth is that there is no magic formula: every journey is unique and unrepeatable and full of obstacles… It took me ten years to get “here”. Then, writing page after page I ended up answering a question I’ve been asking myself for a very long time, a question that I hope everyone asks themselves, “What the hell am I doing here?”.

Sharing this journey- of which I tell the good but also the bad parts, that are often left hidden- I hope to give a different reading perspective to everyone who is going through a hard time and needs to overcome the same difficulties I have.

10.Often you mention this voice inside of you, that we could interpret as your consciousness. How is your relationship today?

The Voice and I are in perfect harmony, I learned to listen to it, always, there is no other way of existing for me.

11.Your relationship with Instagram has never been idiliac, how did you manage to take out something positive from this media that ‘created a monster’?

Actually the monster has been created by us with the use we do of this app!

I have learned to take some distance from social media in the past years, to not have them suck me in their vortex of emptiness and superficiality. Today I simply use it as a shop window and a megaphone: it’s the medium through which I tell my stories- and where I can give a voice to who does not have one- to whomever wants to listen. But once I have done everything I need to, I leave the virtual world to go back to the real one, that is far more interesting!

12.Now that we are leaving a hard couple of years spent in lockdown where social media and Internet were the only way to stay in contact with others, has your opinion on social media changed?

Maybe it’s even worse: the pandemic locked us inside our screens even more making us lose contact with reality, yes, we were able to “stay in contact” during the lockdown but we were taken away from those face to face conversations that are the only one that can go in depth, the only ones where you can actually confront yourself with others. Human connection is not born from emojis and comments under a post. And if you also add to the mix the polarization that has been created- thanks to the algorithms that lock us up in bubbles that make us believe everyone has the same opinions as we do- we find ourselves with a cocktail in our hands made of loneliness, isolation and separation.

I don’t doubt that social media have a positive side and that they can be useful, but the negative aspects look so much more important to me at the moment: I feel that the direction we are heading towards is dehumanization.

13.In your opinion, where does this ‘fear of diversity’ that Italian people have come from?

From ignorance, meant as not-knowing what is different. Italians are not the only ones with that fear, it’s pretty universal: when the human mind enters in contact with something unknown it usually expects the worst. This is because of fear- that technically should be there to keep us alive- but that is usually a liar: fear has nothing to offer but complete immobility, but if you stay where you are you live a non-existence incredibly limitating, and we are here to live, to learn, to explore.

14.How would you describe your experience on the Kalimangiaro in three words?

Marvelous illuminating agony.

15.What mountain are you climbing now?

My today’s mountain is simply to keep doing what I’m doing but on a bigger scale, maybe with a little bit less of fatigue, and being able to have my work- it being my documentaries, my pictures or my books- reach the furthest possible, because I know that some good can be done.