Silvio Berlusconi

Berlusconi’s ex-wife Veronica Lario in row over tabloid’s portrayal of women

After the magazine Chi criticised her looks, Veronica Lario blasted it on behalf of women

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:18pm

A row over the way older women are portrayed in the media has erupted in Italy, where the ex-wife of Silvio Berlusconi has emerged as a crusader against female objectification.

Veronica Lario, who left the former prime minister in 2009 after nearly 20 years of marriage, reacted with fury after the celebrity gossip magazine Chi published a spread of paparazzi photographs of her under various unflattering headlines, claiming she had put on weight and asking "experts" what kind of plastic surgery could help her combat the ravages of the ageing process.

The fact that Chi is published by Mondadori, controlled by the Berlusconi family holding company Fininvest and regularly attacks the centre-right leader's enemies, only served to rub salt in the wounds.

Lario, who is reported to have pushed for a divorce settlement of more than €500 million (HK$5.31 billion), denounced the Chi feature as "an unacceptable attack" that wounded not only her but all women "who, like me, want to age without subjugating themselves to the 'young at all costs' stereotype".

The 57-year-old told Il Messagger, "I am almost 60 years old; probably, according to current obsessive standards, I am not ageing well. I don't attend to my waistline or the wrinkles on my neck. … Is that sufficient motive for suggesting that I - and, I assume, all my peers - go to a plastic surgeon?"

The interview, published on Sunday, was met with support from women across the political spectrum, including from within Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

"Everyone has the right to grow old as they wish and no one should feel they can tell a lady what she should do," said Renata Polverini, a Forza Italia MP. "What is this, a dictatorship of eternal youth to enrich [plastic] surgeons?"

Alessandra Moretti, from the centre-left Democratic party, said the Chi piece was an example of "a last legacy of macho culture that wants to chain us women to a stereotype of beauty".

The magazine, however, was unrepentant. Just as it has brushed off controversies in the past, it insisted it had every right to poke fun at people in the public eye.

"As soon as I read her [Lario's] interview, I laughed," Alfonso Signorini, editor of Chi, told Il Messaggero. "That Chi is concerned with her extra kilos is normal. We are a gossip magazine. … But politicians and intellectuals should concern themselves with much more serious matters."