Italians take beauty seriously. Looking good with the attendant finery is one of the things that distinguishes them from tracksuit-wearing sloughs who favor strange notions like comfort over aesthetics.
Not surprising, then, that national beauty pageant Miss Italia lavishes itself over four, yes four, nights in prime time on state broadcaster RAI’s flagship station Raiuno.
This year it is hosted by two behemoths of Italian television, both about three decades past due date, in a cavernous, blinking set that makes the Oscars look a little modest and bare.
Because the pageant merits news coverage every single day of the competition, journalists usually devise some non-debate-debate (plastic surgery! contestants who are mothers!) and flog it to have something to write about.
On Saturday night, the public was flashed a row of blue bathing-suited booty, it seems because one of the judges (male) wanted to size up the girls from the back.
So, this year’s arid debate (drum roll) is whether the cameras should show contestants from the back.
It’s a good thing, as far as I am concerned.
If we see fit to have young women prance around in various states of undress to best each other in comeliness, why see only half of them?
That’s what former Miss Italia Martina Colombari, now an actress and soccer star wife, had to say about it in daily La Repubblica. We know they’re not competing for skill or anything, she reasoned, so the voting public might as well get a good look at them.
What’s this backend discrimination really about, anyway? Just pseudo retro-prudery for this kind of contest, if you think about how aspiring beauty queens used to be measured like prize farm animals in front of the public.
And compared to what’s on display in the average video clip, it’s also clear that beauty contestants, visible only from the front in modestly cut one-piece bathing suits, are way behind the times. (If we cannot be honestly grateful to J-Lo for her contributions in the fields of singing or acting, we must recognize her outstanding efforts in rehabilitating the backside for all of us.)
The Italians have always had broader views on the subject anyway.
One quotidian example: There is no such thing in Italian as “bum luck.” Actually, if you have “culo” (butt) you are lucky. You win the lottery, snag a parking spot, make it to the pharmacy just as it’s closing: “che culo!” (What butt!) And a stupid, obnoxious or otherwise annoying person isn’t an “ass” in Italian, but rather the product of it.
Miss Italia awards a series of minor titles; in 1950 second runner-up Sophia Loren was “Miss Elegance,” a title created for her.
This year’s elegance sash went last night to the girl with the most “luck,” known as “Miss B-Side.”
Along with her coveted seat on this freshly-minted throne, Federica Di Bortolo and her posh posterior will star in an ad campaign for flashy fashion house Gattinoni.
The flip side is finally coming into its own.