Sophia Loren may be famous for being one of the sexy, stylish starlest of the 60’s, but growing up she was known as other things amongst her peers – most notably, “The Stick” and “Toothpick.”

It is hard to believe that this icon’s life was ever anything but glamorous, but Sophia’s childhood was quite tumultuous.  She was born Sofia Villani Scicolone on September 20, 1934 in Rome.  Her parents were never married, and her father left her mother while Sophia was still young.  Unable to raise her daughter on her own, Sophia’s mother sought help from her own mom in Pozzuli, Italy.  Unfortunately, this area was the target of many bombings during World War 2, forcing the family to move to Naples.

Sophia was a very skinny, gangly child, earning her the aforementioned nickname of the Stick.  However, around the age of fourteen she slowly began to grow into her curves and entered a local beauty pageant.  Although she didn’t win, she became encouraged to take acting classes and enter more pageants.  During a Miss Roma contest at the age of fifteen, Sophia’s beauty caught the eye of movie producer Carlo Ponti. 

Ponti decided to help Sophia with her then-budding film career.  With his assistance, she recieved many small roles in Italian films, most of which were credited under the name of “Sofia Scicolone” or “Sofia Lazzaro.”  She eventually became seen as a sex symbol in Italy due to her sensual features – deep set eyes, voluptuous curves, and pouty lips that would put Angelina Jolie’s to shame.

Through Ponti’s counselling, Sophia changed her name from Sofia Scicolone to Sophia Loren.  In 1953, she scored the title role in the film Aida.   Although not necessarily a critical success, the role helped Sophia become a well known face in the United States.

While her acting career blossomed, Sophia and Carlo Ponti fell in love.  The two wed in 1957, although their marriage was not recognised in Italy since the Catholic Church refused to allow Ponti to divorce from his first wife.  The couple was not able to formally wed until 1966, and remained married until Ponti’s death in 2007.

During her long film career, Sofia Loren garnered an Academy Award nomination for Matrimonio all’italiana and won the award for La Ciociara.  Her talent, poise, and beauty helped her fit in with other notable icons of the 1960’s.  Celebrating her 74th birthday this September, and Sophia Loren still embodies the timeless style of classic Hollywood.

Photos courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.