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Getting to Know Clarissa Burt: from Super Model to Multi-Media Entrepreneur

Clarissa Burt is an award-winning actress, multi-media executive, internationally known personality, author, speaker, and super model. She was born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey. From there she moved to Paris, France then she followed her modeling career to Milan, Italy where Clarissa became a household name.

Attributing “blind faith, desire, and tenacity” to her success, Burt shares details from her life in her exclusive interview with Mary Kovach, Ph.D. for Italy USA magazine.

You have had a truly exciting life with multiple accomplishments many of us can only dream of experiencing. Please share your top three moments (so far) of your life with us.

Without a doubt, my crowing moments were the two private audiences I had with Pope John Paul II for my social work. It was an amazing experience, and I keep one of the pictures from that experience displayed in my In The Limelight studio. Certainly another one of my crowning moments was helping African women when the Nobel peace prize in 2011. It started out as a campaign called Walking Africa that was organized by Solidarietà e Cooperazione CIPSI in Italy. Another unforgettable experience was when I was the first American to present on live Russian Television from the Kremlin's main stage.

You went from super model, to actress, to news anchor, to creating your own multi-media platform. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur, and what do you think is the best way to achieve long-term success?

I would have to say passion was the main driver for me because loving what you do is paramount. Secondly, you want to be the best at what you do. You need to be constantly motivated to be at the top of your game. In order to do that, you must constantly stay ahead of the curve by educating yourself. Know what the latest and greatest software, trend, book, or course is in your genre. Thirdly, again, tenacity, because it's not going to be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?

Both Oprah and Martha Stewart as they, too, have a multi-media platform (television shows, podcasts, and magazines), and they are women that other women admire. In the next 5-10 years I will have my own global multi-media network for women. Empowering them is my goal.

In addition to your multi-media platform In The Limelight, you have a number of exciting opportunities in the pipeline – a book, a television channel, and more. Can you tell us a little more about them?

The Self-Esteem Regime manuscript was just handed off to Roman and Littlefield publishers in New York City. This book is my life's work and greatest joy! I am extremely passionate about the position and condition of women globally. This for me is more than a book; it's a mission and a movement. My greatest dream is to see every woman lives in esteemed being. The In the Limelight TV Channel has launched first with my show, and I'm now onboarding other TV shows that give entrepreneurs that possibility to be seen on Roku, Amazon Fire, TV, Apple TV, and over 100 SmartTV apps.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?

Just do it! There's never been an easier time to start a business and learn how to do it from the comfort of your own home.

If people want to learn more about you, where can they find you?

@clarissaburt on mostly every social media platform. My website is where you can find my shows, podcasts, magazine, a cookbook I co-authored, information about my travel club, and details from my news desk.

An interview with Marco Marcantoni, CEO of SharkNet

Mosquito nets are certainly not the first piece of furniture that comes to mind when we think of a house design, or when we have to furnish it. Nevertheless, it is one of the objects we feel the lack of - when it isn't there. By keeping insects away, they allow us to sleep peacefully, avoid bites and annoyances (try watching a movie with a fly buzzing around the house ...). However, not all mosquito nets are the same. Among many models, there is SharkNet, an innovative mosquito net with an all-Italian patent. Let's find out what it's all about and how this product was born with Marco Marcantoni, CEO of SharkNet, leader and inventor of the pleated insect screen.

When was your company born?

Our story begins in 1979 thanks to the inventive spirit and commitment of Sergio Marcantoni. The DFM company, which he founded, is today a leader in the field of pleated insect screens which constitute an original and leading product on the national market, for which he holds the patent. The innovative idea was precisely that of making products with pleating machines set up within their own production centers. This made it possible to speed up the operational phases of production, eliminating the need to turn to external companies. DFM today extends its services to all the Italian and foreign territory, using exclusively Italian products and raw materials. The company's sales network is made up of 30 agents operating throughout the Peninsula who offer sales assistance and handle the export on a worldwide scale, to as many as 45 foreign countries of the original patent for the SharkNet pleated insect screen.

How was the SharkNet mosquito net born?

For years we have been looking for the ideal net, one that would be water-resistant and easy to clean - but even though we had travelled all over the world, we could not find anything that came close to our needs or the quality standards we were looking for... Then one day, by chance, a collaborator who was carrying out cleaning operations used a wrong product for the maintenance of the machine to pleat the net and, amazingly, we realized that that liquid 'fell' on the net inside the machine. It was the magic formula we had been looking for years. Today, in the company, that employee is now hailed as a kind of hero!

How does the SharkNet pleated insect screen differ from other products on the market?

The SharkNet handling system is a patent filed and registered at the Rome Chamber of Commerce in 2003. Sharknet stands out from all the other competitors substantially for its handling system, which makes it safe even with children at home, without springs that snap like traps. SharkNet works without a box and without a spring system: if closed it remains almost completely stretched, if open it folds like an accordion and remains open as far as you wish. Furthermore, unlike other mosquito nets, the SharkNet have a special network certified by the Chamber of Commerce that naturally repels dust and dirt. There is no need to rub them thoroughly and risk breaking them, nor to use solvents or acids that consume the net. Maintenance, therefore, is practical and do-it-yourself, without disassembling anything. Not to be overlooked is the fact that our mosquito nets do not reduce the brightness, even when they are closed.

In 2020 we spent more time at home, between lockdowns and restrictions. Has this translated into an increase in orders?

On the first day of the lock-down we were, like everyone else, lost, and full of doubts regarding the future: would the private individuals open their doors to "outsiders" for installations? Would they have invested their money in the purchase of mid-range mosquito nets? But we didn't let fear defeat us. New opportunities often arise from the crisis: we created the SharkNet Academy, the training course for our customers where, via live podcasts, we held counselling to explain, in easy terms, all the potential opportunities that were released by the Government (Cassa Integrazione, the various decrees for "liquidity”, etc), but also topics such as marketing, sales, financial issues and business organization. At the restart, we were at about -50% in 2019, but with commitment and perseverance we ended the year with a 9% increase in SharkNet sales, managing to acquire new international customers despite the suspension of the fairs, thanks to our marketing systems (and without being able to invite them to the company or meet them in person). I would like to underline that this + 9% was registered on the record year.

In which markets do you operate today?

We are currently present in over 45 countries around the world. The reference sector is still Italy (80% of our turnover), but the goal is to increase exports. In this difficult year, we have recorded an increase in foreign sales of 25%, and this has “forced” us to invest more in this department by hiring 2 girls who are fluent in several foreign languages.

What are your prospects for 2021 in terms of turnover and expansion?

We have 2 main objectives: to consolidate the Italian market, increasing our share in various regions where we have included single-firm sellers (our sector, as a rule, has only multi-firm agents) and to grow even more abroad. As previously mentioned, we have invested in human resources and we are about to sign a distribution agreement in the USA with a partner who will exclusively trade our product.

What are the most bizarre requests you have received?

There's an amusing anecdote that one of our customers from Sicily told us. The final consumer had asked him, and it was the first time ever, for an anti-suicide mosquito net for cats. It was a lady with a cat that had a persistent attitude of jumping from the balcony, but the problem was that the apartment was on the seventh floor! Already once, miraculously and after several operations, the poor feline had survived this flight, but another would have been fatal. Thus, our client studied a life-saving solution: he applied the SharkNet directly on the balcony, creating a barrier between the apartment and the void below. Result: house protected from insects and cat still alive!

Candoni De Zan Family Debuts New Look for Candoni Etruscan and Organic

This July, the Candoni De Zan family, one of Italy’s leading family-owned wineries, will debut a new look for their well-known Candoni Etruscan wine collection. This is the second and final installment of new packaging for the Candoni collection: updates to the Candoni organic wine collection packaging were released earlier this year.

Candoni was one of the first brands to import into the U.S. popular wines such as Prosecco and Moscato. “We lived for a few years in Atlanta, Georgia,” said Armando De Zan, founder and owner of Candoni De Zan Family Wine Group. “And at that time there was hardly any Prosecco in the U.S. I come from Veneto, Italy, and one of the things I was missing the most was this generous sparkling, fruity wine I was used to drinking, so I decided to import it to the States to let it be known by the American consumers, and so I did!” That was in 2003, and since then, the Candoni wines have been a great hit.

“From the very beginning, we chose to pay homage to our land and heritage by designing a unique packaging,” said Elviana Candoni, Candoni De Zan Family member and owner. “We chose to use a special technique called serigraphy in order to reproduce the Etruscan frescoes. I love art and history and I have always been fascinated by this ancient culture. The Etruscans lived in Italy before the Romans and were the first to cultivate vines and produce and drink wine.”

The new design evokes the joy of living of these ancient people, who loved music, dancing, eating, and parties. As the Candoni collection had tremendous success, more and more people started to recognize it as “the painted bottle.” “Now, with the new more contemporary look, we will relate not only to our current artistic and fun-loving customers, but the next generation of younger, millennial consumers as well,” said Caterina De Zan, Candoni De Zan Family member and owner. “I believe that tradition and innovation must always be integrated and can't wait for our followers to see the new designs!”

The joy of living remains the inspiration behind the new look. In this latest version, the Etruscan figures are surrounded by a lush nature scene where grapevines and ivy with berries embrace. The vine is a climbing shrub, a species of liana. In the woods, its natural environment, it tends to climb up a tree to reach the light.

“We have also changed the closure from cork to screw caps, which is a very convenient closure for the consumers,” said Barbara De Zan, Candoni De Zan Family member and owner. “All of our packaging is recyclable, and we don’t use labels so there is no use of paper, another way to respect our trees and environment. This is part of a strong commitment that we have had for more than 8 years with the Arbor Day Foundation.” Each Candoni varietal has a different design.

Grateful Grandson: Editor-in-Chief Miles Ryan Fisher Honors his Heritage through Story

Interview by Mary Kovach, Ph.D.
Photos courtesy of Miles Fisher

Those who read Italy USA Magazine share a passion for Italy. Even more so, there is a greater appreciation for our heritage. Many of our ancestors who left Italy for America sacrificed what they had to establish a better life, and they lived to make our lives better - the lives of future generations. It’s a pleasure to interview Miles Ryan Fisher, the Editor-in-Chief of Italian America, because of his gratitude for his heritage, his humble nature, and his appreciation for his career. He writes and communicates authentic stories from all over the United States with Italian origins; he interviews famous Italian and Italian Americans to share their personal stories. In this interview, Fisher shares his lineage, his admiration for the Italian culture, his enthusiasm for his career, and how his love for his roots will directly impact his future genealogy.

Your family has Italian roots, which has been the basis for so much of your adult life. Can you please share your Italian family origins and some ways that you celebrate them?

When people find out that I’m Italian, they say, “Fisher—that doesn’t sound Italian,” and my response is always the same: “I have a mother!” When I stand next to her, you’d easily see where I get my dark complexion. My mom’s maiden name is Daino, and her mom’s maiden name was Cicchetti. My grandfather’s parents were from Naples—more specifically, Afragola. My grandmother’s parents were from L’Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region, and Terracina, a coastal town along the Tyrrhenian Sea between Naples and Rome. They all settled in Ithaca, New York, where my grandparents were born.

My Italian heritage was passed along to me in very natural ways. I was really close with my grandparents, Joseph and Clara. Their Italian background was simply a part of them, a part of who they were and a part of their identity. My grandfather ran a restaurant and hired a lot of Italian immigrants, helping them work their way up—even helping one of them open his own Italian restaurant called Roma’s. When I was in college in Ithaca, that’s always where my grandparents took me to eat whenever we went out for a meal. It was really through experiences like that and the stories and meaning behind them that gave me the deep appreciation for my roots that I have. And of course, growing up with an Italian mother didn’t hurt!

Your grandfather has an amazing story. Can you share it with us?

Ah! You’ve researched me! Before my grandfather took over the restaurant from his dad when he came back from the war, he spent all four years of World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a fighter pilot, flying P-47s through the Himalayas, referred to as “flying the hump.” He flew 73 missions, leading most of them as a captain, and was highly decorated. He was even made an honorary member of the Chinese Air Force! But decorations never mattered to him in the least. What mattered to him was his passion for flying, which was apparent whenever he told stories from his days as a pilot. I always loved listening to his stories, no matter how many times I’d heard them before. I think, in a way, he impressed upon me how much more fulfilling life is when you have a true passion for something. And the only thing I truly wanted to inherit from him was his wings, which he gave me a few years before he died.

Your passion for the Italian culture is contagious. Can you share some of what you love and appreciate about it, as well as how it impacts your life?

Oh there’s so much about Italian culture to love; it’s hard to know where to begin. My first thoughts take me straight to Italy itself. Simply being there, seeing the beauty of the boot, enjoying the pace of life, everything about that is something that I am able to experience relatively easily, simply because of when I was born. Once my great-grandparents came over, going back to Italy wasn’t something any of them did. My grandparents as well, never went back. It wasn’t until my mom went there on her honeymoon that anyone set foot in Italy again. But now, simply because of the time that I’m living in, I get to connect with the country itself—through frequent travel, through use of the internet and ease of communication—in ways that my ancestors never could.

Of course, all of this has impacted my life in the greatest way possible—I met my wife in Italy! Rome, to be exact. I proposed to her nearly two years later at her olive tree in Calabria. If I didn’t have Italian ancestors, who knows if I’d have been in Rome at the right place and at the right time to meet my future wife. So it’s in large part, because of my ancestors, that I was there to begin with. Because of that, our future children and grandchildren (and even great-grandchildren!) will have a direct attachment to Italy. I love the thought of our great-grandchildren one day visiting Evelyn’s olive tree to see where their great-grandfather proposed to their great-grandmother.

Most often, when people think about the Italian culture, they think about the food, the music, the wine, the hospitality (I could go on and on!)... What most resonates with you when you think about our Italian culture and heritage?

Family and home-cooked meals. That’s something that I always had growing up at home, and then whenever I stopped by my grandparents’ house during college. It’s one of those aspects of Italian culture that was naturally ingrained in me from a young age. My mom always made dinner, and I know that some of her favorite times in life were when my voracious friends would come over to eat in high school and when we were home on college breaks.

It’s something that my wife and I carry on to this day. We love to cook, and I don’t mind admitting that we often think that we do it better here at home. We’ve always gravitated to the Mediterranean diet—pasta, fish, cheese, vegetables. I love how simple yet versatile it can be, and how it doesn’t take a terribly involved recipe to create a dish that tastes fantastic.

What does it mean to you to be an Italian American, and do you have any moments in life you know your Italian ancestors would look down and be proud?

Having an appreciation for where you came from is the number one meaning for me. All of the opportunity that those before me didn’t have but who gave their lives in ways that now afford me the opportunities that I have. Always keeping that in mind has such positive effects on me. It makes me work harder. It makes me feel more fortunate and grateful. It helps me take my successes in stride and makes it easier for me to get back on my feet after I fail. I think ultimately, being Italian American means being so proud of those who came before you in a way that enables you to put your own struggles into proper perspective.

As for those who came before me and would look down to be proud, I know that my grandfather was really proud of the work I do as Editor of Italian America magazine. I imagine that my ancestors who weren’t able to ever hold a copy of the magazine would look down and feel similar pride—and maybe some would even be astonished that this could be someone’s livelihood. Now when it comes to my mom, she’s over the moon about each and every issue that comes out! Doing this kind of work that promotes her Italian heritage, if ever I was the perfect son before …

After graduating from Cornell University and thinking about your future, did you ever imaging that you would be the Editor-in-Chief for the Italian America magazine, a magazine with over 30,000 paid subscriptions. What are some of the highlights from your tenure in this role?

I definitely didn’t imagine something like this coming out of undergrad—I was just happy when I got my first job! I was part of a medical screening program that helped construction workers who worked on nuclear weapons facilities. I wrote a lot of feature articles and produced a newsletter that helped spread the word about the program. It was the kind of work that was done out on these facilities, mostly during the Cold War. I think what prepared me for the magazine, just as much as my writing experience, was the interest and appreciation I had for the stories of others. As you can imagine, construction workers working on nuclear weapons facilities had stories of all kinds—fascinating, inspiring, tragic—and I really love the human-to-human contact a story brings you and the ways in which you can appreciate the history of another person whose background is different from yours.

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to what I was able to experience through this work. The variety runs the whole spectrum—I’ve spoken at the U.S. Postal Museum, manned the fried calamari and cooked mussels in white wine sauce at an Italian festival in Maryland, spent on hour on the phone with Rocky Colavito, listened to an emotional talk at a lodge meeting that was given by a Vietnam veteran whom I now call a friend … It’s really endless. But really, the highlight for me will always be any personal connection I make with others through this job. That’s something you’d notice in the way I interview others – I tend to volunteer as much personal information about myself as they do about themselves. For me, it’s that kind of shared experience that I love most about my role with the magazine.

Italian America is a printed magazine distributed quarterly. It's the most in-demand magazine for Italians and Italian Americans in the United States. How do you obtain your material or the content for such a quality magazine?

Many fantastic stories come from freelance writers who submit them. That’s a really important part of the magazine—that contributions come from everywhere. That way, you get a lot of fascinating stories that you’d never know existed. This way, I become a captivated reader like everybody else. I also do a good share of the writing for each issue—both for the individual-themed pages and the feature articles. Because of my position, I’m placed in and around a lot of areas where stories will surface. These stories appear through so many different ways, whether that’s through a book I read, or news that I’m alerted to, or an individual email that clues me in on a new topic. A great story can really come from anywhere. Sometimes it’s the writing that makes it great. Sometimes it’s knowing exactly which slice or slices of an overall story to take. Either way, the magazine is ultimately a place where great stories gather, and every issue is its own adventure.

If someone wants to subscribe to Italian America or follow it on social media, how can he or she go about it?

Since it’s the official publication of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, you can find us easily on and order a subscription for you or somebody you love. We do have a Facebook page – Italian America Magazine. I recommend that in addition to following that page, follow the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America Facebook page as well, because you’ll get much more great content that way.