Ever wondered what goes behind becoming a legend like Sophia Loren? Read on to discover the five beauty secrets that I learned from this Italian queen.
Nothing shouts “Iconic Italian Beauty” more than that famous picture of Sophia Loren eating a plate of spaghetti. What makes one of the most beautiful women in the world so relatable, is probably that – the fact that she has always behaved like a normal human being. I challenge you to find a picture of her nibbling on a quinoa salad. Sophia Loren has always and unapologetically been Italian, loudly and proudly. After all, everything you see, she did actually owe it to spaghetti! For every Italian girl growing up, Sophia Loren is an inspiration and a proud national treasure. She has been, and continues to be, an icon of beauty, elegance and sophistication. And, most of all, a devoted pasta lover (in fact, this whole blog was inspired by her – you read more about it here).
Known for her honesty and directness, at some point in her fifties Sophia Loren decided to graciously share with us mortals some pearls of wisdom by publishing a book called Women and Beauty (William Morrow & Co, 1984). I found this little gem a few years ago in a charity shop, and it has been a great read. Sporting her signature wonderfully puffy hairdo, Loren reflects on the meaning of beauty, and reveals some of her secrets too. If you think that this book will be a collection of superficial frivolities, think again. This is a practical, no nonsense treasure trove of wisdom. Here are the five main beauty secrets I learned from it.
1) Be confident and proud in who you are
“Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is so“(7). Sophia tells us that when she started working in the film industry her nickname was Giraffe, since she was so tall and awkward. It was also suggested that she might consider some “tweaks” (her nose was too long, her hips too wide, and so on..). She writes that even though “poor and anxious to begin work I refused to alter anything. They would take me as I looked, or not at all“(8). Boom! She tells us that in the beginning “No one thought I was especially beautiful, but everyone knew right away that I was proud. In the beginning people were impressed with my confidence, and gradually they came to see it as beauty“(7). Before self-help, body positivity, and way ahead of her time, Sophia Loren writes: “We must all, somewhere deep in our hearts, learn to believe that we have a special beauty that is like no other and that is so valuable that we must not abandon it. Indeed, we must cherish it“(7). Please take a minute to read that again and make it your life motto.
2) DIY beauty routines for the win
In direct contrast to the superstars we are used to now, who often have an army of beauty professionals around them to make them look impeccable, you will be surprised to know that Sophia Loren’s beauty routines are remarkably simple. They mainly consist of: having a bath on a Sunday evening where she gives herself a body scrub, a face mask, shaves her legs and reapplies her nail polish. In a world obsessed with peels, acrylic nails, false eyelashes, and anything that alters your natural looks, I found this rather refreshing! To make her point she also writes: “You have to remember that the beauty business today is large and lucrative. It is a business that is forced to assume that ideal beauty is a reality, otherwise it couldn’t come to grips with the many different ways in which women are beautiful” (5). So, choose a routine that works for you and your lifestyle and budget, and stick to that.
3) Choose a uniform – aka learn what suits you and stick to that
Sophia Loren’s approach to clothing is as Italian as it could be (you can read more about Italian style here). She confesses that while she does not enjoy the act of shopping, she does enjoy “having nice things to wear“(92). Yep, I can definitely relate to that! She explains that her approach to her wardrobe is very methodical: “Before you go to the store you must examine what you already got. It is simply wasteful to buy all new clothes every season” (93). Amen to that! She then goes on to explain that in order to simplify her life, she will wear what she calls “an elegant uniform” – “this for me is an outfit that looks good, is simple and comfortable, and can be worn at any time”(95). Her personal everyday uniform consists of a simple pair of black slacks, a top such as a silk blouse, boots, a black raincoat and a scarf to brighten up the ensemble. She suggests choosing your “uniform” carefully, paying attention to the fit and the quality. “When I feel good in my clothes the whole day goes better”(95). In other words, ignore the trends and choose what makes you feel great. “A woman with style is one who chooses the best that is available to her and then adds her own unique touch to make it special”(83).
4) On that note, choose a form of exercise that you enjoy and stick to that
Sophia Loren recognises that regular exercise is essential, but you’d be interested to know that rather than hitting the gym for hours a day, she has devised for herself a series of delightfully graceful exercises that she would do a few times a week for about 10 minutes. She calls them “trouble spots” (and they look very similar to pilates exercises, although at the time this book was published pilates was not a thing yet). Ever the practical woman, she also recognises that exercise needs to be something that can fit around her busy lifestyle (at the time of writing this book she had two kids and was still busy acting). So in addition to her exercises, she walks and she stretches. Very simply put “the stretching keeps me limber and graceful, the walking gets my blood circulating, and the trouble spots are a collection of exercises that I use for special areas that need toning or strengthening” (126).
5) All about that pasta – stop dieting and just eat like an Italian
“Finally some good news: eat more pasta! At last I have support from scientists as gourmets when I urge pasta upon you! How many times have people, while coveting at my hips or waistline, asked how I keep my figure with all that pasta. Now the tag-along scientists have confirmed what Italian mammas have known for generations – pasta is good for you. Indeed, Italians are lucky to live with a culinary heritage that relies on pasta because it is a complex carbohydrate and a very efficient and healthy fuel for the body“(121). Oh this makes me happy. So, so happy. The other advice on nutrition given by Sophia is also pretty relevant today – do not eat processed food, have three balanced meals a day, eat plenty of fruit and veggies and avoid snacking (and if you can’t, choose at least a healthy snack).
I so loved reading this refreshingly simple lifestyle advice. Sometimes I feel that in the noise of social media and information overload we forget that it takes very little to look after ourselves. You don’t need to spend a fortune on beauty treatments, expensive gyms, the latest fashion trends or health fads. The answer is often to go back to simplicity. Be nice to yourself and accept who you are, move your body in a way that works for you, learn to have an intentional wardrobe that makes you feel great, and eat simple, healthy meals – possibly involving pasta. As Sophia Loren famously said herself, I’d rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0.