Raffaella Carrà: Italian pop icon and entertainment legend

Raffaella Carrà, singer, dancer and Italian television personality, rose to fame in her native country as well as in Spain and Latin America, seducing and sometimes scandalizing her audiences with risky performances celebrating sexual empowerment.

With her blond bob, sultry voice, supple dance moves and sleek, glittery outfits, Carrà, who died at the age of 78, was a phenomenon in Italy, where she first became popular in the years. 1970 as host of the television variety show. Canzonissima. She then sold 60 million records over a decades-long career that kept her in the limelight until the end of her life.

In a country where divorce had only recently been legalized and where the Vatican acted as a powerful arbiter of societal life, Carrà caused a sensation in 1971 when, in what would have been the first act of this type in the history of Italian television, she discovered her stomach on the air. For days, according to the Italian daily The Republic, the reports only spoke of Carrà‘s navel.

She was the subject of a similar fascination in Spain, where she hosted the television show La Hora by Raffaella shortly after the death in 1975 of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Her fame spread to Latin America, where young women on the dance floors tossed their hair back in sync with Carrà‘s Spanish versions of her suggestive songs.

Commentators have struggled to find superlatives to capture the degree of her celebrity in Italy. She was known as the “queen of Italian television” and, on at least one occasion, has been described as “more miraculous than Padre Pio”, the canonized Italian mystic who has drawn modern worship.

“If one is determined to test the very pulse of popular Italian taste, [the] the first stop must be the actress-dancer-singer-television host, Raffaella Carrà ”, reporter for the Irish time wrote in 2002. “Bottle blonde, superbly fit and totally professional, Raffaella not only represents the best, and the worst, of glamorous, glitzy and over-the-top Italian TV entertainment, but she has also become something of a national icon.”

In the days of her belly button uncovered, she created another stir with her televised performance of “Tuca, Tuca”, a song whose title echoes the Italian words meaning “to touch, to touch” – and accurately represents the movements of dance that accompany Carrà. (In a memorable interpretation, she performed the number with Italian movie star Alberto Sordi.)

Carrà seemed to embody the idea, increasingly prevalent as Second Wave feminism gained momentum, that women deserved to take control of their sexuality. One of her best-known songs was “A Far l’Amore Comincia Tu”, a hymn translated into English as “Do It, Do It Again” and which called on women to make their desires known in bed.


Despite the sometimes provocative character of his performances, Carrà, who also hosted numerous talk shows on Italian television, retained wide popularity.

“She made millions of viewers dream in front of her navel”, screenwriter for The Republic, Irene Maria Scalise, wrote in 2008, “But she never became a sex symbol. She was the first pop icon, but she always appealed to housewives. It revolutionized the way of entertaining audiences, but then it became a tradition. She was wildly famous but never a diva.

Raffaella Maria Roberta Pelloni was born in Bologna on June 18, 1943. Her parents separated shortly after their marriage and she was raised largely by her mother and maternal grandparents.

Carrà then studied cinema at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, also in Rome, working as a teenager with eminences such as movie star Marcello Mastroianni. By that time, she had already had her first film credit: she debuted as Raffaella Pelloni in the 1952 drama Torment of the past.

Carrà starred in historical epics known as the sword and sandal films before appearing in Von Ryan’s Express (1965), a WWII prisoner of war drama starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard. (At that time, she had taken the stage name Carrà, by the futurist painter Carlo Carrà.)

Carra presents the 700,000th Roman license plate in 1964


During a visit to the United States, she obsessively attended a performance after a performance of the musical Hair and resolved, according to one account The Guardian, to bring his energy and exuberance to his own performances in Italy.

Her Italian television career took off in the 1970s and in 1986 propelled her to a $ 2.8 million contract with RAI which made her the highest paid performer on television. of Italian state.

The figure sparked protests in Italy, where the then government was implementing austerity measures. But Rai – and Carrà – defended the deal citing the popularity of programs such as Pronto, Raphaëlle?, a midday show that would have attracted the audience of nearly a fifth of all Italians.

“You don’t think RAI gave me the money for love, do you? Carrà remarked at the time. “They do it because it makes money.”

The scope of her talk shows was such that even Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, agreed to be interviewed by her. “The important thing when I interview someone, here and in Italy, is that they feel at home,” Carrà told the Christian Science Monitor in 1986. “I said to Dr Kissinger, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be comfortable,’ but he didn’t believe me so much. At the end, however, he said, “Yes, you are absolutely right. “

Most recently, Carrà appeared on television as a judge in the Italian version of the reality show. The voice.

Carrà has often been described as an icon of the gay pride movement and was honored in 2017 at a World Pride event in Madrid.

She had relationships with Gianni Boncompagni, an Italian television and radio host, and Sergio Japino, a choreographer, but was never married and had no children. A full list of survivors was not immediately available.

“I danced for my pleasure when I was a little girl,” Carrà told the Christian Science Monitor, reflecting on the arc of his career. “My grandmother was my biggest fan. My dad and mom said I had to go to school, and of course I did. They preferred a quieter life, but I am too independent to be a normal woman. God gave me this energy and I have to put it somewhere. I try to put it where it will make people happiest.

Raffaella Carrà, musician, presenter and actress, born June 18, 1943, died July 5, 2021

The Washington Post

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