Sophia Loren (born September 20, 1934) is an Italian film actress and an international sex symbol. In 1961, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for Two Women, becoming the first actor to win an Academy Award for a non-English-speaking performance.
Loren was born Sofia Villani Scicolone at the Clinica Regina Margherita in Rome on September 20, 1934, to Riccardo Scicolone and Romilda Villani. Scicolone refused to marry Villani, leaving her, a piano teacher and aspiring actress, without support. Romilda, Loren and sister Maria returned to Pozzuoli, near Naples, to live with Loren’s grandmother in order to survive.
During World War II, the harbor and munitions plant in Pozzuoli was a frequent bombing target of the allies. During one raid, as Loren ran to the shelter, she was struck by shrapnel and wounded in the chin. Subsequently, the family moved to Naples and begged distant relatives to take them in.
After the war, Loren and her family returned to Pozzuoli. Grandmother Luisa opened their living room as a pub, selling homemade cherry liquor. Villani played the piano, Maria sang and Loren waited tables and washed dishes. The place was very popular with the American GIs stationed nearby.
When she was 14 years old, Loren entered a beauty contest in Naples and, while not winning, was selected as one of the finalists. Later she enrolled in acting class and was selected as an extra in the Mervyn LeRoy film, Quo Vadis, thus launching her career as a motion picture actress. She eventually changed her name to Sophia Loren.