Je Ne Sais Quoi: Sophia Loren

SOPHIA LOREN is the Oscar-winning Italian actress known equally for her talent and her mesmerizing beauty. I remember the first time I saw SOPHIA in the 1958 movie Houseboat with one of my favorite actors, Cary Grant, and like Diahann Carroll, I thought SOPHIA’S beauty was timeless and her style effortlessly glamorous.

In her 1979 authorized biography, Sophia: Living and Loving, I discovered that SOPHIA’S life was not without its challenges and major disappointments. Sometimes I think there is a misconception that beautiful people live charmed lives, but more often than not that is far from true.

I continue to be fascinated by style icons like SOPHIA that possess that indescribable something that makes them so alluring to the rest of us. To this day, SOPHIA remains rather mysterious because she seldom grants interviews and prefers to live quietly at her home in Switzerland.

Born SOPHIA Scicolone in a small town outside of Naples to a single mother, SOPHIA and her family were extremely poor monetarily, but rich in family life.

At 14 years old, after competing in a beauty contest, SOPHIA began modeling in Rome which eventually lead to small movies roles. It was for one of those movie roles that SOPHIA changed her name to SOPHIA LOREN.

At 19 years old, SOPHIA met Italian movie producer Carlo Ponti and although their relationship was frought with challenges, Carlo would become the love of SOPHIA’S life, the father figure she missed in her childhood, and the one most responsible for guiding her successful movie career.

SOPHIA’S experiences in Hollywood were very challenging because Hollywood studio execs didn’t know what to do with the stunning Italian beauty with the sexy accent, but that would change when SOPHIA won the lead role in Houseboat opposite Hollywood legend Cary Grant.

The story goes that Cary Grant fell deeply in love with SOPHIA and even proposed to her, but SOPHIA remained with Carlo Ponti because she didn’t want to leave Italy and while she admitted to caring deeply for him, she declined Cary’s proposal.

When SOPHIA won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Two Women, besting Audrey Hepburn for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it was Cary who called SOPHIA in Italy the next morning to tell her the good news. To Cary’s dismay, SOPHIA celebrated her Oscar win with his rival for her affections: Carlo Ponti.

Actor Marcello Mastroianni and SOPHIA had an undeniable chemistry and together they would become one of the greatest on-screen couples in Italian cinema with one of their most popular films being Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

That hair. Those eyes. That pout inspired men around the world. Did you know that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote the song “Pass the Wine” on their Exile on Main Street album for SOPHIA?

One of Hollywood’s legendary stories is told in this image of SOPHIA with Jayne Mansfield who famously crashed a “Welcome to Hollywood” party thrown in SOPHIA’S honor. Jayne wanted to upstage SOPHIA that evening, so Jayne wore this very revealing, low-cut dress. As you can see, SOPHIA was not impressed.

The forever gorgeous SOPHIA confesses that throughout her career she was told by movie producers that her nose was too broad, her hips were too wide, and she needed to lose weight. SOPHIA never felt that she had a weight problem and attributes her stunning figure to eating spaghetti. And the secret to her incredible skin? Olive oil.

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