Beauty According to Italians - A Tattooed Miss
What is beauty? From time immemorial philosophers, poets and singers have dealt with this abstract concept and tried to answer this age old question. While it may be true that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" every society has a certain standard of traditional beauty that they adhere to. If one thinks of female beauty it's impossible not to muse on just what our modern Western world finds beautiful at the moment and how different that might be from the ideals held up by previous generations. Today's constantly changing trends mean constantly adjusting ideas about just what is beautiful. From the heroin chic of the 90s to the voluptuous models who made waves at a recent Louis Vuitton fashion show many of our current beauty ideals can be found in the pages of beauty magazines and in movies and on television.
Oscar Wilde once said, "beauty reveals everything, because it expresses nothing. When it shows us itself, it shows us the whole fiery-colored world." So what, according to Italians in 2010, is the epitome of female beauty? One barometer is the annual Miss Italian pageant, which over the decades has marked cultural shifts in what is perceived as beautiful. In 1996, Italians for the first time looked past skin color and named a non-Caucasian as Miss Italia. It was also the first time a woman of non-Italian ancestry was elected to represent the country. This is just one example of how the pageant has kept up with the times, changing to reflect the shifting social mores and beauty ideals of the Italian society the winner represents.
MISS ITALIA 2010.
The pageant itself began in 1939 as a prize sponsored by a toothpaste brand. At the time the slogan was "Cinquemila lire per un sorriso" ("Five thousand lire for a smile.") After the Second World War the contest changed its name to Miss Italia and from then on Italians would be called on to elect their beauty queen on an annual basis. The pageant has been shown on TV in spectacular fashion since 1987 and takes place over three evenings during which sixty young women from all regions of the country compete for the title. And what about the 71st edition? The 2010 pageant can be said to be the most "noble" one yet as it was co-hosted by a prince, Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, who also participated in Italy's version of Dancing With The Stars. (It must be noted that titles of nobility are no longer recognised in Italy). Emanuele has often been criticized by the media for his television omnipresence, but you've got to hand it to the once exiled prince, he's managed to create quite a high profile lifestyle in a country where he was once not allowed to step foot.
Miss Italia 2010 - Oshawa Italian Rec Club.m4v.
This year's crown is special as it was created to celebrate 150 years of Italian unity and was won by 19-year-old Francesca Testasecca, she of the sky blue eyes and long dark locks, who beat out the blonde runner up Giulia Nicole Magro. When Francesca arrived in Salsomaggiore Terme, the popular spa town that has hosted the pageant for several years now, she was Miss Umbria. Now Testasecca can return to her home region--which has also spawned gorgeous Mediterranean beauties like Monica Bellucci and Laura Chiatti--as Miss Italia, the first Umbrian in forty-eight years to wear the crown.
While Testasecca is undoubtedly beautiful by today's standards her looks have also opened up some controversy in that she is perhaps a little more edgy than past winners. Presented with the crown by the legendary Sophia Loren--who competed in the pageant herself in 1950 and is famous the world over for her lauded acting career and for being an epitome of sultry female beauty--the winner has claimed that her beauty inspiration is the American actress Angelina Jolie. Testasecca's many tattoos, including ones on her back, hip and left instep, seem to be proof of her claim that she has fashioned herself after the fully inked Jolie. Yet, while these tattoos have not gone unnoticed by Italians they did not hinder Francesca's victory, which shows that in this way too Italians ideas about what is beautiful and what is "normal" are changing. While once tattoos were seen as a vulgar symbol of transgression they are now so common that they have found a place even in a conservative pageant like Miss Italia.
Does Francesca Testasecca's win confirm that tattoos are no longer taboo in Italy? Do Italians no longer see them as compromising a woman's natural beauty and femininity? And, in the end, was Francesca elected Miss Italia in spite of or because of her tattoos? Like the question of beauty itself these are questions that may never be fully answered.
By: Cristina Palmiotto