Posh and Becks made their play for American fame and there are plenty more where they came from. We may not have heard of these European stars in the U.S., but Europe is full of tabloid tarts, sexy industrialists and local royals just waiting to cross over. Who could be next?
This story first appeared in the July 15, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
U.S. Equivalent: Pamela Anderson
Home Base: Athens, because her husband, soccer player Christian Karembeu, plays with the Greek national team.
The Fascination: She’s the beloved blonde bombshell in European Wonderbra ads, though the Slovakian also pitches Skoda cars and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for the Red Cross.
Hidden Talent: Loves to cook, especially pastries.
Hangout: Moonlights as a restaurateur. Opened Deli’s Café on the Champs-Elysées in Paris last year and plans to open three more this year.
Latest Stunt: Her naked body is painted on the jets of low-cost Sky Europe Airlines, which just opened a route from Paris to Bratislava, Slovakia, Karembeu’s home town.
U.S. Equivalent: America’s British sweetheart Victoria Beckham.
Home Base: Rome and Milan
The Fascination: The U.S. has Vanna White, but TV’s female sidekicks in Italy do more than just spin letters. Canalis and her famous legs turned up every night on the mock news show, “Striscia La Notizia” until she recently left to pursue more serious roles. Throngs of Italians fans still fondly referred to her as “La Velina.” Although there’s no real translation, it means “little starlet.”
Arm Candy: Posh and Becks set the pace, but Canalis has an ace striker of her own — AC Milan star Christian Vieri, the tragic Greek hero of Italian soccer. Although he’s one of the country’s highest scorers, he’s often sidelined due to an endless string of injuries.
U.S. Equivalent: Madonna
Home Base: Paris and Los Angeles
The Fascination: One of France’s top pop divas and an enduring gay icon, Farmer, 42, is a former model who leapt into music in 1984. She’s been courting scandal ever since, outraging French citizens with her sexually explicit videos, which include full nudity and explore sadomasochism and orgies.
The Look: Think Cher with flaming red hair and lots of costume changes.
Arm Candy: A dog named Quick, and a live-in lover she keeps under wraps.
Embarrassing Moment: “Giorgino,” the “Glitter” of a film Farmer made in 1994.
Hidden Talent: Published her first book — a fairy tale for adults — and did all of the illustrations. Will release her first novel this year.
John and Lapo Elkann
U.S. Equivalent: Lachlan and James Murdoch
Home Base: Turin, Italy
The Fascination: It might not mean much beyond Italian borders, but at home, the Elkann name means aristocracy, power and a little company called Fiat. The brothers’ grandfather was Gianni Agnelli, founder and, until his recent death, the force behind the Italian car giant. John was said to be Agnelli’s favorite grandson, and he’s the rumored heir to the Fiat empire.
The Look: Decisively classic, but with an Italian edge. Both like superfine wool suits and wide-knot ties for the boardroom, jeans and crumpled shirts for the yacht deck. Lapo likes to raid Grandpa’s closet — they’re said to be the same size.
Arm Candy: John’s girlfriend, Lavinia Borromeo, is as blonde as she is blue-blooded. The Borromeo family is established aristocracy in Italy, with lofty lineage that can be traced back to the 15th century. Lavinia works for Giorgio Armani and has modeled for Luisa Beccaria. Lapo is supposedly dating Martina Stellaan, an 18 year-old actress.
U.S. Equivalent: Chelsea Clinton, if Monica Lewinsky were her mom.
Home Base: An old printing press house in Paris’ 9th arrondissement that she’s renovating.
The Fascination: Illegitimate daughter of the late former French president François Mitterrand and his mistress.
Tabloid Antics: Burst into the public eye in 1994, when she appeared in a Paris Match photo with her dad near the end of his presidency. Previously her identity was a state secret.
The Look: Preppy chic, a modern-day Ali MacGraw.
Arm Candy: Takes after her father in the privacy department, but is rumored to be dating a filmmaker.
Day Job: Philosophy professor at the university in Aix-en-Provence, has also done a weekly column for French Elle.
Latest Stunt: Just published third novel, “They Told Me Who I Was.”
U.S. Equivalent: Anna Nicole Smith
Home Base: London
The Fascination: This 32-FF cup Playboy centerfold, 25, has already had three breast enlargement operations — and is said to be considering a fourth. Last summer she publicly battled a cancerous growth in one of her fingers, after giving birth in May to her blind son, Harvey, who was fathered by Jordan’s ex-boyfriend, soccer player Dwight Yorke. She is hoping to launch a singing career.
Latest Stunt: Jordan is battling for tabloid queen status with rival Jodie Marsh, whose claim to fame is writing the word “Real” across her chest to spite her nemesis. Jordan has branded Marsh “a wannabe It girl with saggy boobs.”
The Look: Slashed spandex tops with denim cut-offs or microminis.
Arm Candy: None. Her last conquest was Gareth Gates, a finalist in the TV reality show “Pop Idol.”
Chiara Mastroianni and Benjamin Biolay
U.S. Equivalent: Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson
Home Base: Paris
The Fascination: Mastroianni, a sultry actress, is the daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni. Sleepy-eyed Biolay is a modern-day Serge Gainsbourg.
The Look: Brainy chic. Mastroianni wore Prada to her wedding and broods in ads for Jean Patou fragrances. Biolay favors crooner chic à la Harry Connick Jr. and wears suits in his music videos.
Hidden Talent: On Biolay’s new album, Mastroianni sings a duo, “Je Ne T’ai Pas Aime,” echoing the famous Gainsbourg-Birkin duet “Je T’aime, Moi Non Plus.”
Family Way: After marrying Biolay last year, Mastroianni gave birth to a daughter, Anna, in April. It was Biolay’s first, but the second for Mastroianni. She has a son, Milo, with sculptor Pierre Torreton.
U.S. Equivalent: Elizabeth Hurley meets Shiva Rose McDermott.
Home Base: London
The Fascination: A fixture on London’s society party scene, Brooklyn-raised ‘Lisa B,’ as she is known, had three hit dance singles in the Eighties. She moved to London at 17 to model, and now, at 32, she’s turned to acting. She played Hugh Grant’s New York lover in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and a leather-clad babe in the ad for Murphy’s Irish Stout.
Arm Candy: Barbuscia lives with the millionaire property tycoon, Anton Bilton. The couple caused a tabloid scandal when they got together last year. It girl Tara Palmer-Tompkinson publicly accused Barbuscia of stealing Bilton from her.
Latest Stunt: Will appear as a catsuit-clad villainess in the Luc Besson film, “Michel Vaillant.”
U.S. Equivalent: Liza Minnelli
Home Base: Berkshire, England
The Fascination: Poor, gorgeous Ulrika leaves a string of high-profile, broken love affairs — mostly soccer players and TV actors — in her wake. The Swedish television presenter was abandoned by her mother; raised by a sex-obsessed father; date-raped at 21 and beaten by a lover in a Paris bar. Her boyfriend, Markus Kempen, abandoned her days after the birth of their daughter, Bo — who has a serious heart condition. Last summer, she had an affair with a guy who refused to leave his live-in Italian girlfriend, making headlines once again.
Latest Stunt: Running off with — and getting engaged to — the guest contestant on “Mr. Right,”the reality TV show she was hosting. Former Army officer Lance Gerard-Wright was supposed to date 15 women and choose one to be his girlfriend. But he chose Jonsson instead. The two will marry next month in Sweden on her 36th birthday.
U.S. Equivalent: David Lauren
Home Base: Milan and Valdagno, Italy
The Fascination: One of the youngest — and cutest — members of the Marzotto clan, owners of the textile and fashion company that includes Valentino and Hugo Boss. Named chief operating officer of Valentino, Matteo, 36, has come along way since he was director of the blankets division in 1999.
Arm Candy: Marzotto is the latest Italian linked to Naomi Campbell. The paparazzi can’t shoot enough of them — whether it’s at her birthday party in Saint-Tropez or most recently at the Valentino men’s show, where Campbell sat in the front row, flanked by Marzotto and his mother.
Favorite Toy: Marzotto may be a bit on the small side, but his appetite for adventure is huge. He pilots choppers, has competed in dirt bike competitions and recently completed the extreme Paris-Dakar cross-country race.
U.S. Equivalent: Sharon Stone
Home Base: Paris, but flits between houses in the south of France and a palace in Marrakech.
The Fascination: French actress who has worked with directors from Roman Polanski to Eric Rohmer. While no Jeanne Moreau, she shines in quirky roles.
Arm Candy: Married to France’s best-known philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy, following a seven-year secret affair. Still, Dombasle and Levy refuse to address each other with the familiar “tu,” preferring the formal “vous.”
Sidekick: Couture regular Betty Lagardere
Hangout: Mariage Frères tearoom, where she sips the Lapsang Souchong blend.
Hidden talent: A trained soprano, she performs in operas and musicals.
Marco Tronchetti Provera
U.S. Equivalent: Barry Diller
Home Base: Milan
The Fascination: With his tanned skin and salt-and-pepper coif, Provera serves as a role model for the thousands of well-dressed Italian businessmen yearning for a fraction of his charisma and net worth. After turning tire giant Pirelli into a world leader, Provera orchestrated Pirelli’s takeover of Italy’s Telecom. Why run one billion-dollar-company when you can run two?
Arm Candy: Provera’s Tunisian-born wife, Afef, a former television hostess, is always close at hand with hair worn wild enough to rival that of Diana Ross.
Favorite Toy: His recently christened Wally class yacht. Pirelli hosts a regatta in Santa Margherita every year and this mogul won’t be outshone.
U.S. Equivalent: Lauren Bush
Home Base: Milan
The Fascination: The youngest child of Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, Barbara, 18, craves autonomy and has often said she hates being referred to as “the daughter of.” She is at the center of Milan’s hip, young crowd.
The Look: For her coming out party last year, the right-winger tapped Karl Lagerfeld to design her lavish silk gown. For nights out at Milan spots like the G Lounge and Chandelier, she sports sexy designer looks, and with Via Della Spiga and Via Montenapoleone at her backdoor, Berlusconi’s next purchase is only a cab ride away.
Arm Candy: Berlusconi has a close guy friend, whom some have described as a chaperon, at her side all the time. Did Dad tap this gentleman to keep his little girl’s rep intact?
U.S. Equivalent: “Joe Millionaire” runner-up Sarah Kozer.
Home Base: Paris
The Fascination: Known simply as Loana, Petrucciani won “Loft Story,” the French version of “Big Brother,” in 2001 and has been tabloid fodder ever since
The Look: Prefers asset-revealing ensembles worn with platform shoes. Once strutted the catwalk for Jean Paul Gaultier and even launched her own — skimpy — clothing line.
Tabloid Antics: She made headlines — and sent ratings through the roof — by getting down with a “Loft Story” housemate in the swimming pool, inspiring the show’s producers to install an underwater cam for the next season.
Favorite Haunts: Queen on the Champs-Elysées for dancing and L’Avenue on Avenue Montaigne for dining.
Latest Stunt: Readying a pop album for an October release.
Emanuele Filiberto Savoia
U.S. Equivalent: JFK Jr. meets Jason Alexander.
Home Base: Switzerland and Italy
The Fascination: When the Italian government finally repealed the half-century-old law banning the Savoia family from Italy this year, Emanuele Filiberto, 28, became the country’s long-lost prince. At every photo op, whether a papal visit or munching pizza in Naples, Savoia is never without his mother and father, and from his long hair (recently cut) to his lengthy list of girlfriends, the paparazzi just can’t get enough.
Embarrassing Moment: Savoia’s decision to appear as a spokesman for a pickled vegetable company was a flop. Reportedly, the ads were pulled when they didn’t perform well.
Latest Stunt: Last week’s announcement of Savoia’s engagement to the French actress Clotilde Courau, who is pregnant, is causing quite a stir.