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Roberta Mancino: the high fashion BASE jumper
Roberta Mancino grew up in Anzio wanting to be a fighter pilot. “Sadly that is still a man’s job in Italy,” she says, so she tried BASE jumping for the same thrill. She loved it and quickly progressed to competitive freestyle skydiving.
Roberta’s videos (you can see one here) soon got her noticed. With 58,000 likes on Facebook, 4,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel and nearly 5,000 Twitter followers, she was approached by TV stations and magazines. Playboy offered her a lot of money to skydive naked. “I wouldn’t do it again,” says Roberta. “For one thing it’s very cold up there. Also, the parachute harness is not made to be worn on bare skin and when I deployed my chute, it hurt a lot.”
Nevertheless it raised her profile even more and she met her current boyfriend, the American BASE jumper Jeb Corliss. Now Roberta became even more daring. She would fly using a wingsuit or jump off cliffs and buildings, filming as she fell.
“The cameraman has to stay really close when you’re BASE jumping,” says Roberta, “ideally within a meter or so. He can’t watch the terrain as he falls because he has to focus on me. If I get too close to the terrain, he won’t realise until it’s too late. To add to the pressure, my cameraman is my boyfriend!”
The first sport cams Roberta and Jeb used weren’t really suitable for these stunts: it’s no good having a heavy device strapped to your wrist when you’re manoeuvring in mid-air by a cliff face. It was only when camera-makers GoPro approached her with the Hero3+ that she was able to make insane but beautiful modelling videos, for which designer Roberto Cavalli loaned her clothes worth 60,000 Euros. “We were allowed to keep the clothes but sadly they were all destroyed,” says Roberta. “This was the most dangerous jump I’ve done, purely because of the high heels. One mis-step as you jump off the cliff could be fatal.”
It was the first of Roberta’s videos to get over half a million YouTube hits and inspired her to start directing her own short films, like 2 Elements which uses an underwater GoPro Hero2 and has been viewed 400,000 times. “Swimming with sharks in a bikini is not a good idea as they tend to mistake white flesh for a fish,” she says. “I was rushed by a tiger shark at one point but I put my hands towards his eyes and that scared him off.”
Roberta’s next film will be a BASE jump over Panama City at night, with lights in her wingsuit. Her ultimate ambition? “I want to be the next Bond girl,” she says. “I can do the stunts for real, in the air or underwater. I’m just waiting for them to call.” On this evidence, she won’t be waiting long.