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Miss Italia is the name of a beauty pageant awarding prizes every year to young, female contestants from Italy. Since the first edition of the contest in 1939 many of the contestants have gone on to notable careers in television and film.
The forerunner of Miss Italia was Miss Sorriso (Miss Smile) started in 1939 by Dino Villani, and sponsored by a brand of toothpaste. Contestants were judged by their photographs rather than competing on a runway.
After a break during World War II, the contest resumed in 1946 and adopted the present-day name of Miss Italia. It was held in Stresa, which had managed to maintain its hotel infrastructure despite the war. The venue then changed several times before it was established that Salsomaggiore Terme would be the permanent, annual host to the pageant.
Like contemporary Italian society itself, Miss Italia has gone through many changes over the years. In 1950 it was first broadcast on the radio. But since 1987 it has been broadcast live on television. As of 1990 the chest, waist, and hip measurements of the contestants are no longer judged, and in 1994 the contest was opened to married women and mothers. (The 1987 winner had been disqualified when it was later discovered she was married.) In 1996, Denny Mendez became the first Miss Italia woman of colour.
Among the participants finding later success in cinema and the entertainment industry at large (although many not having actually won the crown of Miss Italia itself) include: Silvana Pampanini, Sophia Loren, Marcella Mariani, Lucia Bosè, Stefania Sandrelli, Mirca Viola, Simona Ventura, Patrizia Deitos, Anna Falchi and Martina Colombari.
Since 1959 the organizer of Miss Italia has been Enzo Mirigliani, to whose work the contest owes much of its current success. The jury groups that elect Miss Italia have included celebrities such as Totò, Giorgio de Chirico, Giovannino Guareschi, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica, Gina Lollobrigida, Alberto Lattuada, Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Lina Wertmüller, Dino Risi, Alberto Sordi, and Claudia Cardinale.
Besides the title of "Miss Italia", during the pageant other consolation prizes are also awarded, including "Miss Elegance" and "Miss Cinema". In 1991 a separate pageant was instituted, called "Miss Italia Nel Mondo", a competition for Italian women living abroad.
Miss Italia will no longer be held in Salsomaggiore Terme, for economic reasons. This was announced in April 2011 and a long list of cities have expressed interest in hosting the pageant. Cities include Sanremo, Rome, Fiuggi, Taormina and many more. It was officially announced that Miss Italia 2011 will be held in Montecatini Terme. Milly Carlucci will not return as host of the pageant. Fabrizio Frizzi has replaced her for Miss Italia 2011. The pageant will only take place over two nights, rather than three.
The Winners of Miss Italia
- Corrado Mantoni: 1946–56
- Enzo Mirigliani: 1959, 1961–78
- Vanna Brosio: 1979
- Andrea Giordana: 1980-1981, 1984, 1987
- Memo Remigi: 1982
- Marco Columbro: 1986
- Fabrizio Frizzi: 1988–2002
- Carlo Conti: 2003–06, 2008
- Mike Bongiorno: 2007
- Loretta Goggi: 2007
- Milly Carlucci: 2009, 2010
- Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, Prince of Venice: 2010
- Miss Italia official website (in Italian)