Scandal as Medium of the Celebritization Process: Exploring the ‘Mina as Mother’ Image in the Context of Post-War Italian Culture

Rachel Haworth

Abstract


Mina is one of Italy’s most popular and best-loved pop singers. She rose to fame in the late 1950s and was particularly dominant from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Yet she remains popular even today, despite retiring from television appearances and live performances in 1974 and 1978 respectively. Whilst Mina’s celebrity status in Italy is predicated first and foremost on her status as a popular music star, her celebrification has involved different mediums, including live and recorded music, television (as performer and programme host), and films. In 1963, one specific medium was to irrevocably shape Mina’s celebrity status for the rest of her career: that of personal scandal. This was the year in which Mina announced her relationship with married actor Corrado Pani and gave birth to a son outside of wedlock (shocking behaviour in the context of 1960s’ Italy where divorce and abortion were still illegal). Indeed, the scandalous nature of this behaviour is demonstrated by RAI’s decision to ban the singer from their network in 1963. It was then public demand for Mina that forced RAI to rescind their decision. This article takes Mina’s celebrity as a case study to examine the legacies of scandal within the celebritization process. Her celebrity is such that she is well-placed to shed light on the nature of Italian culture in the post-war period and to highlight the dominant values and ideals at work within Italian society from the 1960s to the present. After presenting an overview of the nature and significance of Mina’s celebrity, the article examines press coverage of the 1963 scandal, as a way of determining how Mina’s motherhood was constructed and perceived as scandalous by 1960s’ Italian society. The article then traces the ways in which this scandal shaped and continues to inform the meanings of Mina as celebrity and star in post-war Italy. It focuses specifically on the ways in which the idea of ‘Mina as mother’, scandalous and otherwise, circulates as one of the features of Mina’s contemporary star image. The article thus tracks the impact of scandal on the creation, circulation, and significance of celebrity in contemporary society. It argues that, in this case, scandal becomes one of the texts, or ‘mediums’ through which celebrity and star status is produced and which interacts with other mediums to generate the meanings of Mina’s star persona.


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