Entering her second pageant as Sofia Lazzaro, the first time she would use the name, she wore a nicer dress. It was given to her specifically for the 1950 Miss Elegance at the Miss Italia competition. She came in second, again, competing against 200 girls. But her beauty attracted so much attention that the panel bestowed her special recognition.
At 15, she was awarded the Miss Elegance Prize. Reportedly, she was considered too provocative to win the top prize of Miss Italia, which went to soon-to-be actress Anna Maria Bugliari.
A Noble Title
In her autobiography, “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life” Sophia said that, technically, she should have been granted a title of nobility. Through her father’s family line, the title "Marchioness of Licata Scicolone Murillo" was hers to take.
She could have been Viscountess of Pozzuoli, Lady of Caserta. But she did not want any of it, especially since it came from Riccardo Scicolone. She spurned it. It was only a minor title, anyway. The name “Sophia Loren,” in comparison, is a far superior name, plus, it is clear of her father’s association.
Queen of the Sea and Her Twelve Princesses
At age 14, Sofia’s mother entered her in a beauty contest. Her grandmother put together a makeshift ensemble. It was a gown made from old curtains, pulled straight from the window, and scuffed shoes that were painted over. It was her first pageant and she won. Sort of.
She did not win the top prize as pageant Queen, but she did place second as one of the 12 princesses. She won a roundtrip ticket to Capri, 30K lire ($35.00), and some wallpaper. She said the wallpaper came in handy for patching holes in the walls that were left over from WWII air raids.
Back to Rome
With two beauty contests under her belt, Sofia’s mother decided the time was right to move to Rome. The money Sofia won was enough to get them to Rome, but not back to Pozzuoli. In Rome, she and her mother stayed with distant family members and Sofia was getting parts as an extra in quite a few films.
She and her mother had money coming in for the first time ever. There, she met the famous movie producer Carlo Ponti who would be her future husband, but that was a long time off.
Her First Film
The very first part Sophia Loren landed was in the 1951 movie “Quo Vadis.” It was a major motion picture, an epic about the fall of Roman Emperor Nero, filmed in Rome. Elizabeth Taylor made a cameo appearance, and it starred the day’s A-listers, Robert Taylor, and Deborah Kerr.
She did not even have a speaking part, but it was a big deal to get to play an extra. The movie came out barely a year after she won the pageant. She was 16. By age 20, she would be famous worldwide.