A woman of American descent has won Italy’s premier beauty pageant, prompting a nasty backlash from social media.
Andrea Nelson, a 21-year-old, 5-foot-9-inch blonde from Florence in the Tuscany region, beat out 19 other contestants from throughout Italy for the title of “Miss Grande Italia” or “Miss Great Italy,” which is Italy’s version of the Miss America pageant. Judges said they admired Nelson’s poise, intelligence, charisma and her volunteer work with underprivileged children.
Nelson, a law student at the University of Florence, broke down in tears as she told the cheering crowd in Italian, “This is the happiest day in my life. Thank you so much.”
However, the announcement of Nelson’s win prompted a torrent of abuse from Italians across Twitter and Internet message boards. Many commenters expressed shock and anger that a “non-Italian,” non-Catholic took the top prize.
“Who is this blonde bitch?” wrote one Twitter user from Rome. “Nelson is no f*****g Italian name.”
“What part of MISS ITALY do these idiot judges not get?” wrote another person on the pageant’s website. “NO AMERICANS NEED APPLY!!!”
“An American Protestant??? Are you joking???!!! Did President Obama decide this????” wrote a commenter from Milan.
“Miss Umbria should have won. She’s Italian and Catholic,” wrote a Twitter user referring to runner-up Apollonia Corleone. “This American whore doesn’t represent Italian values!”
“GO BACK TO AMERIKKKA. WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE!!!!” exclaimed a Twitter user who identified himself as a “father, husband and patriotic Sicilian.”
Nelson, whose parents immigrated to Italy from the United States, was born and raised in Florence. Nelson volunteers for a nonprofit that provides free tutoring and after-school activities to underprivileged children in inner-city Florence, according to her biography on the pageant’s website. She is studying law and plans to work as a human rights attorney.
As for her hobbies she enjoys making wine, horseback riding, cheering for Fiorentina soccer team and singing in her church choir. Nelson most impressed judges when she sang a rendition of “La Solitudine,” a popular song recorded by Italian singer Laura Pausini.
Her father Michael Nelson, a native of North Dakota, said he was confused by the negative responses to his daughter’s win.
“I became an Italian citizen because I love this country,” he said in an interview for an Italian morning show. “I work hard. I run my own business, I employ dozens of people and I pay taxes. I’ve never broken the law. We’re a Protestant family but we respect other people’s beliefs.”
“My daughter has given back a lot to her country. Why do people say she doesn’t represent Italy or Italian values?”
Despite the hostile Internet and Twitter attacks on Nelson, many Italian journalists and commentators were quick to defend her win.
“The pageant contestants should represent the very best of us, and Ms. Nelson shows what people are capable of achieving when we welcome them and give them a chance,” wrote columnist Mario Fratello in La Repubblica newspaper. “Like the Americans with their Miss America pageant, we can’t let a vocal minority of ignorant morons and idiots distract from her well-deserved win.”