Gina Lollobrigida

With her earthy looks and short "tossed salad" hairdo, "Lollo," as she was known to her fans, was a perfect fit for one of her most enduring roles: the exotic Esmerelda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But it was another film that gave Luigina Lollobrigida an even more flattering nickname: The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.

Most of Gina's noteworthy films were made for Italian audiences; it was her beauty rather than her acting that caught the rest of the world's attention. While Sophia Loren embodied Italian womanhood to moviegoers in the United States, Italians declared Gina to be their ideal woman, as evidenced by yet another nickname: Gina Nazionale. That is not to say, however, that audiences outside of Italy did not appreciate what Gina offered. Come September, in which she starred opposite Rock Hudson, won the 1961 Golden Globe award as the world's favorite picture.

Lollobrigida did not run from fame but she did not embrace it either. "Popularity," she said, "has a bright side, it unlocks many doors. But the truth is that I don't like it very much because it changes the private life into a very small thing." As an escape from her celebrity, Gina took up photography and became an accomplished artist. Both Paul Newman and Salvador Dali posed for her and in 1973 she published a collection of her work, Italia Mia.

Gina still makes appearances at Cannes and other film festivals, but she largely retired from acting after a stint on the television show "Falcon Crest" in 1985. Given the veneration she received from her fellow Italians, it is hard to believe that Lollo's big break came when she finished third in the Miss Italy contest. She may be retired from the screen, but her sex appeal endures. "I've had many lovers and still have romances," she said in a recent interview. "I am very spoiled. All my life, I've had too many admirers."

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