Gina Lollobrigida, Hollywood’s First Beauty Queen, Wasn’t Afraid to Leave Cinema at 40 to Follow Her Other Passion
Many people remember Gina Lollobrigida primarily as an actress who was considered the most beautiful woman of the golden age of Hollywood. However, Gina herself has always preferred other forms of art, in which she was able to achieve impressive success after the age of 40. Lollobrigida has proven first-hand that a new career can start at any age, and the most important thing is to work tirelessly and truly love what you do.
She always dreamed of making art.
Gina Lollobrigida was born in the small Italian town of Subiaco. Her father was a furniture manufacturer, but in the early 40s the family went bankrupt and moved to Rome. Gina recalls how the 6 of them, her parents and 4 children, used to share a room.
The future actress dreamed of a career as an opera singer or an artist, she even enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. Gina took singing lessons and studied sculpture. She couldn’t rehearse at home, so she would go to the subway between via Nazionale and via del Tritone and sing her heart out there.
Gina agreed to acting in films to support her family.
She worked part-time as a model, as well as taking on several episodic movie roles. But when she was offered a part in a big project, Gina flat-out refused. She just didn’t consider cinema to be a form of art, and she was absolutely disinterested in it. But the producers were persistent, and to get rid of them, Lollobrigida asked for a salary that was simply unthinkable at the time. To her amazement, the producers agreed, and so began Gina’s career in the industry.
She was invited to the United States by Howard Hughes, who dreamed of marrying her.
Howard Hughes once saw photos of Lollobrigida and was simply stunned by her beauty. He offered the actress a contract and invited her to Los Angeles. Although Hughes only paid for one ticket, Gina’s husband, Milko Škofič, insisted that she go to America. This was a reckless act, as it turned out, a divorce lawyer was waiting for Gina at the foot of the plane.
Hughes dreamed of having Lollobrigida as a wife, but the star refused. Howard tried to get Gina’s love for 12 whole years, and now Lollobrigida remembers him as the most loyal and persistent fan. However, she did sign a contract with Hughes’ company, which subsequently largely restricted her opportunities in the film industry.
Lollobrigida dubbed her own films and performed many stunts.
Gina worked on Italian, French, and American projects. When the film was translated into one of these languages, Lollobrigida did the dubbing herself. Moreover, the actress was never afraid of new challenges and difficult tasks. If the filming required the performance of operatic arias, she sang. If it required gymnastic tricks on the trapeze, she trained to exhaustion, in order to rely on stunt doubles as little as possible.
When films no longer made her happy, Gina became a photographer.
Gina started appearing on screen less and less frequently in the 1970s. Many of the projects on offer didn’t appeal to her, and Lollobrigida was always careful in her choice of films. At that time she became fascinated by photography.
Gina later regretted that she hadn’t taken up photography sooner, as she could have captured so many amazing people, for example, Marilyn Monroe herself. Gina was never enticed by the fame and public attention that came with the life of an actor. And as a photographer, she could become an observer in her own right, rather than one who was being observed. By exploring the world around her, she was learning ever more about herself.
She traveled the world in search of perfect shots.
Lollobrigida worked with the production company Time Life. She traveled the world with a camera in her hand and produced six albums for print. Her photos featured more than just film stars, artists, and politicians — some of whom other photographers couldn’t even get to.
Gina photographed people on the streets of different cities, and some of her models lived in great poverty, having nothing at all to their name. She said that studying the world around her was as fascinating as good literature. Critics praised Lollobrigida for her sharp eye, unique ability to see what others would overlook, and even compared her to Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famous French photographer. Gina was most fascinated by India. She still believes that whoever truly gets to know this country, will understand the rest of the world as well.
After that, the former actress successfully took up sculpture.
By the 1990s, the limits of simply capturing reality became too much for Lollobrigida and she started creating complex collages as well as working with camera reels and negatives to achieve different effects. This process reminded her of a hobby she’d had in her youth — sculpture.
So Gina decided to take up another form of art. At first, she worked on recreating her cinematic images. But other themes soon appeared in her work. Gina’s sculptures are now exhibited in many museums worldwide.
Success in one field of art only inspired Gina to conquer another.
In addition to sculpture, Gina became interested in drawing. She has only really returned to this art form in recent years, although she has done pencil sketches of her loved ones before. Gina is now working on a large album of drawings done in ochre.
Although Gina said she has always been drawn to photography and sculpture for the opportunity to create whole works on her own, in 2017, she decided to work with another master craftsman. Lollobrigida got in touch with Horacio Pagani, founder of the eponymous company that makes Zonda cars. Together they created a sculpture depicting a girl and a car.
The world was reluctant to accept Gina in her new role.
Lollobrigida achieved success relatively easily in the film industry. She was dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world. But when she decided to change her field, critics were not so accepting. One expert even trashed her work in sculpture without ever having seen it. Gina recalls that she was allowed to be an outstanding actress, but that her achievements in other artistic fields only provoked irritation.
The desire for freedom and independence has always interfered with Gina’s personal life.
Gina had many romances, but her independent nature prevented her from finding true happiness. All her partners were jealous of Lollobrigida’s fame and success, and the relationships sooner or later ended. Marriage to Milko Škofič lasted 22 years, and to those around them, they always seemed to be a happy couple. Lollobrigida later admitted that their relationship was far from ideal. So when divorce was officially allowed in Italy, she was one of the first to file for it.
She believes the secret to her success to be her never-ending determination.
The star recently turned 95, but Gina is in no hurry to retire. She has many ideas for unfulfilled projects. When asked if she has any regrets, Lollobrigida says that as of yet, there are many things she hasn’t done but still has time.
Gina has never stopped working and has always done only what she loves. She has devoted herself to art with a real passion and that’s exactly what she sees as the secret to her success. “Keep your brain active. Because life is precious. And even now where there aren’t so many good situations in the world, I just feel that as long as I work, I’m alive,” said Lollobrigida.
Gina is always ready to try her hand in a new field.
Recently, Lollobrigida decided to try her hand at politics. She is not happy with the current situation in her home country and wants to change that. Gina hasn’t ruled out the possibility that she might return to the cinema, either. The main thing for her is that the project she is offered looks interesting. Money and fame never particularly worried Lollobrigida; most importantly, she wanted to succeed in what she loved, be it film, photography, sculpture, or drawing.
At what age would you like to retire from doing what you love?