Cynthia Altoriso Greg Gubransen interviews
February 14, 2018
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photography by GREG GULBRANSEN
style & production by CYNTHIA ALTORISO
hair & make up by JERRY LOPEZ
photography assistant BILLY JIM
production assistant YACHI GAULT



On the morning of our shoot with Barron Hilton, he arrived at the studio all aglow.​ He shared with us his excitement of having proposed to his love the evening before. The sentiment he expressed was so refreshingly romantic and nostalgic. From this came our inspiration to make a portrait if his ladylove.

CYNTHIA ALTORISO: Describe your grandmother’s castle in Germany.

TESSA VON WALDERDORFF: Schloss Höfling was built in the late 18th century, as a four-story Baroque mansard roof construction just outside the old medieval city of Regensburg. It is situated at the terminus of a long, winding meadow road. For miles, all you can see is forest and rolling hills until you reach a pond surrounded by wild greenery, large weeping willows, and apple, plum, and pear orchards. Peering out from the very top of the trees is this vast edifice of warm yellow stone, powerful yet elegant, lavish yet wholly inviting. Once you arrive through the gate, and into the courtyard, there are several portals leading to different outdoor areas of the palace: the rose and vegetable garden that my grandmother tends to so lovingly; the park, inside which pine and walnut trees soar and a family of mythological limestone figures pose; and, by way of a tall stone arch, the pools and tennis court followed by a field of grazing sheep. Inside, along the walls of the grand sinuous stairway, hang portraits of my great grandfathers dating back to the fourteenth century. From secret passageways, to the old church plated in gold-leaf, to my grandfather’s enchanting library – we never ran out of things to do.

Moose von Walderdorff
Pillow courtesy of abc home
Moose’s neckpiece by Yachi Gault

CA: What language is spoken ‘at home’, meaning when amongst your immediate family?

TW: My first language was French, then English, followed by German. I remember when I first started school I would try to speak to other kids in French and they would run away, thinking I was some sort of alien. That’s when I made a real effort to learn English fluently so at home we spoke a mix of English and French. When we would visit my family in Germany, my grandfather would pretend like he didn’t understand me when I spoke to him in English, so this forced me to learn how to communicate in German pretty quickly. Today, I still speak mostly in French with my mother and German with my father. When it’s the four of us, however, we speak in English. It’s fun, especially when we get together for dinner with my mother’s side of the family, not only are we passing a medley of food across the table but also a whole array of languages.

Dress by Maggie Norris Couture
Cuff and earrings courtesy of Verdura
Shoes courtesy of Christian Louboutin

CA: Do you have any immediate plans as far as a career?

TW: Yes, in fact I just got my real estate license and have started working as a salesperson for Hilton and Hyland. On the side, I’ve been doing some editorial work as well as some djing. I’ve recently started producing some of my own music and hope to soon share it with the world. When I was living in Berlin for a year, music became an integral part of my life. I’ve been playing the piano since I was a little girl but when I discovered the complex and experimental sounds, the seemingly infinite combinations of tones that the Moog synthesizer had to offer, production and sound design became a whole new language that I readily wanted to learn.

CA: A previous article mentions that, ‘other than journalistic writing, that you focus mostly on historical fiction’. Please name some of your favorite authors and/or books.

TW: The Question of Bruno: Stories by Aleksandar Hemon, Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolfe, In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert, The Swimmer by John Cheever, Rabbit Run by John Updike, The Bhagavad Gita.

Negligee by Stella McCartney courtesy of Journelle
Pillow courtesy of Maggie Norris
Earrings courtesy of Verdura

CA: As a history enthusiast, tell us what era you would like to revisit.

TW: The Roaring Twenties in Paris or Chicago!

CA: From past, present or future, who would you like to meet.

TW: Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka., Dr. Seuss.

CA: You were working on a compilation of short stories. How has that developed?

TW: Yes, I’ve recently finished my second compilation of short stories, all of which focus on the idea of duality, identity and lack thereof. I am currently working on a series of children books which are being published with Full Cycle Publications.

Earrings by Estyn Hulbert
Fur by Helen Yarmak
Bench by Agostino Antiques

CA: Do you consider yourself a ‘girly girl’ as far as fashion and cosmetics, or are you more practical and down to earth?

TW: I’m not the type of girl that needs a lot of material things. I used to work in Production for New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, which I enjoyed, but couldn’t see myself doing it forever. I enjoy following certain designers like Kenzo Takada and Yohji Yamamoto – cutting edge, thought provoking, versatile. I hardly ever wear makeup, mostly because I don’t know the first thing about it. Whenever I try to do it myself, people look concerned and ask, what happened? So the only time I really have my makeup done is when I’m shooting or on set, but never for everyday life.

CA: You are engaged to Barron Hilton. Was it love at first sight?

TW: Yes, it was. I met him a little over two years ago at this cabaret-style restaurant in St. Barth called Le Ti. I’ve been going to the island since I was a baby, and lived there for about two years when I was a little girl. It’s always been my happy place. I would have never imagined that one day too the island would introduce me to the love of my life. Laying eyes on Barron for the first time was so surreal, almost like a dream. He was sitting there, next to me, and it was as if someone had all of a sudden pressed “mute” on the remote control to silence the movie around us. We shared this silence, amidst all the dancing and music and conversation, it felt like it was just the two of us floating under water. Shortly after in the car, he took my hand and said “you know when you just know?” We had this unexplainable connection. From there on, I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

CA: What are your wedding plans?

TW: We are getting married in St. Barth this June. It will be an intimate wedding, with our closest family and friends.

CA: What is your dream in this life?

TW: To be present. Always. That’s when you can truly feel.

CA: What do you wish for this earth?

TW: For a true awakening. Ego has grown way too large in society. A universal shift is taking place and Mother Earth is speaking out.

CA: What makes you laugh?

TW: Jim Carrey. He’s a genius.

CA: What makes you cry?

TW: You know in a film when a baby is born and the mother gets to hold him/her? Gets me every time.

CA: What is your notion of freedom and how do you exercise it?

TW: To be the witness of your life – this is freedom. To be able to watch your emotions, without attachment to them, and see them as they come and go, like clouds in the sky. The sky is always blue, clouds float by, without ever affecting its true color. It is the same for our higher selves. Self-realization leads to ultimate freedom. I constantly search deeper within, through meditation, breath, and stillness to answer the ultimate question “Who am I?” To free ourselves from the shackles of the human condition – this is the fundamental goal. The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level.