Nefertiti, Elizabeth I and Cicciolina. Women in power

For millennia women holding the highest government positions have been so rare that any female who so distinguished herself by climbing to the top, has gained immortality. What do they all have in common, regardless of the era?

In addition to outstanding intelligence, courage, determination and often ruthlessness, they had a talent for self-creation. Nature gifted some with beauty -- others "made" themselves beautiful.

Either way, one thing is certain: regardless of the times, the degree of power or the number of subjects or loyal citizens, a leader's appearance matters and must impress. Purely visual features count and are equated with physical forces. When it comes to males, the leader must be bigger (e.g. if he is short in height, there are ways to boost his stance), physically fitter, stronger, more masculine, more potent. So where does this leave women?

They should simply take your breath away... with their beauty.

From the longest neck in the world

The origins of Nefertiti are little known. What role did she play during the life of Akhenaten, her husband-pharaoh? When did she actually die? Yet none of this seems to really matter since in both science and legend, it is her extraordinary beauty that is remembered. This is true even when it comes to her name. "The beautiful woman has come" was the full name of the wife of Akhenaten, the XVIII dynasty pharoaoh.

Some scientists hypothesized that after her husband's death, Nefertiti took over power in the country. It's more likely that she came to power as regent in the name of her minor son Tutankhamun.

But never mind the titles -- the queen of Egypt would be successful as a model even today. Her symmetrical face, protruding cheekbones (guaranteeing a "youthful" appearance), those expressive lips and a wonderfully "positioned" head on an elegantly columnar neck -- all these features made her stand out whether from a distance or up close.

Another timeless beauty may not have had such regular features, but different physical advantages placed her in a short line of ladies in the political spotlight: Cleopatra VII.

So often has her demise been depicted in paintings, that the death by viper's bite of Cleopatra, Hellenistic Egypt's last queen (she was Greek by origin) could quite literally be termed picturesque. She died as she wished on August 12, 30 B.C.

Was the famous femme fatale really stunning? In fact, she was a shrimp.

However, she had the ability to distinguish and project herself through gesture and behavior. Plutarch was quick to take note of and appreciate her sweet voice, her persuasiveness and... sex appeal. More importantly, she had an ability to think analytically and strategic skills.

As for the image. She had big lips and also a large (too big perhaps?) nose. It is known that she used make-up, a cosmetic style known to this day as Egyptian. The wigs she wore were soaked in perfume and decorated with jewels. Interestingly, she was completely depilated, which was not uncommon in a hot climate of Egypt.

Red-haired virgin

This type has little in common with the standard beauty canon but it may not only replace effectively its requirements but for some could be deemed more attractive than what is considered to constitute classical beauty. Take charm and grace as examples. Qualities that result from or connect with intelligence. Perfect beauties often failed to make such an impression on their adoring admirers than plainer girls, who were aware of how to use their charms.

One such was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She also had a long neck. But… was it a woman's neck? There were voices saying that Miss Tudor was bisexual and that ruffs, on which making she spared no expense, were hiding an Adam's apple.

Testimonies describe her as slim and tall. Apparently she fasted one day a week. In general, she didn't overeat. But what about her skin and hair…?

Like other elegant women of the Renaissance, she whitened her face. However, she had an additional reason for doing so: she need to cover unsightly blemishes caused by chicken pox. As for the "storm" of red curls, it too is a myth: she hid her sparse hair under wigs. Seemingly, she had a collection of 80 wigs, each in a slightly different shade of the reddish-gold range she favored. Well... never mind about the disastrous effects of contemporary cosmetics. What matters is the methods Elizabeth I used to win the honorable title of the Most Beautiful.

Like Cleopatra, she used cosmetics, although in her case, her alabaster skin turned out to be... funerary alabaster. Lead white, an ingredient of a cosmetic Ms. Tudor covered her face and neckline with, contained toxic substances. With the passing years it turned out to be murderous.
Queen Elizabeth I. Photo: Sammlung Megele / SZ-Photo / Forum
Nonetheless, in the 16th century, to die at the age of 70, one was considered a Methuselah. And this is exactly what happened to England's most famous queen. Legend has it that when dying she refused to lie down in bed and remained sitting until her last breath.

I think she was an exceptionally strong woman – not to mention her other strong points.

I would like to turn attention to the physical aspect of being a female ruler in the old days – something that in a sense is also important today.

  The necessity of wearing a distinctive outfit often required a significant physical effort.

Elizabeth I knew from the very beginning how to emphasize her dominant position. The tall and slender figure given her by nature was not enough to dazzle subordinates. Jewels, attached to wigs and decorative clothes, were used for exactly this purpose. Her outfits sometimes weighed more than a dozen kilograms. Yet it was thanks to them that she looked like "starlight" and her entrances to the public arena would literally blow the audience away.

Do contemporary ladies competing for the highest state offices have to try to create a smilar impression as the Virgin Queen? In terms of the visual sense – the answer is yes.

Marina Abramović (the so-called "grandmother of performance") once presented a performance-for-video entitled "Art must be beautiful, a female artist must be beautiful". The lesson can also be applied to the political sphere. No female candidate for leadership can offend the sense of sight or aesthetics.

Italian DNA

DNA is the name the Italian porn actress gave to the party she founded. Ilona Staller, otherwise known as Ciocciolina (meaning Little Chubby Darling), was born in Hungary in 1951. The platinum blonde with breasts like balloons had a lot of erotic experience and was very media savvy.

She began flirting with politics in 1979, running as a candidate for the Green Party. Then for a few years she was a member of the Radical Party that supported abortion, contraception, pornography, drugs and divorce. But the actress turned out to be even more radical, for example, offering sexual services to the then leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, in exchange for the release of hostages captured during the Persian Gulf War. In 1985, she was the first porn star to be elected a member of the Italian parliament, representing the above-mentioned radical formation.

It didn't end there. Ciocciolina was just getting started. In 1991 she founded the Love Party (with another famous porn actress, Maona Pozzi).

And this is where her links with art started. In the same year 1991, on April 1 (but it wasn't an April Fool's joke) she married Jeff Koons, who was among the most famous and richest of U.S. artists.

Koons saw her photos in a glossy magazine and was impressed by both her beauty and her courage as an activist. Also, he wanted to become equally sexy and Ciocciolina seemed to him an ideal partner and model for such an enterprise. He knew that pop culture demanded quick and attention-grabbing actions, based on a business plan, not on real feelings. How to surprise your public? By marrying a porn activist!

The pornstar posed for the artist as he created a series of kitschy, naturalistic sculptures, paintings and large stills, entitled "Made in Heaven" (1989-1991). Koons, well-aware of the general public's preferences, felt it was ok to show it all. He combined his trashy and gaudy style, for which he was renowned, with a porn formula.

As it turned out, his approach also struck a chord with the art critics. In 1990, the "Made in Heaven" series was presented at the Venice International Biennale. One might wonder whether this project had any artistic significance or rather was it a testimony to the moral transformations of Western society?

After consummating their success, the couple announced their separation, which was confirmed by divorce in 1994. Unfortunately, the victim of this promotional campaign was the beautiful couple's son, born after their breakup…

Koons even wanted to use the birth of the child for publicity, intending to name him Kitsch. Ultimately, he settled on a very traditional name -- Ludwig. As a result of long-drawn court proceedings, the right to care for the offspring was taken from Cicciolina, but despite this, the son remained with her in Italy.

Then there was silence about her for some time. But she returned to politics in 2012 once more, this time with a new partner and together they established the DNA party. The abbreviation comes from the words Democracy, Nature, Love (Amore in Italian, hence DNA).

The group's program? It promoted and fought for gay rights, demanded the recognition of prostitution as a profession (that is difficult and carries health risks) and called for the reopening of brothels.

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Surprisingly, somehow Ciocciolina's new manifesto didn't catch on and... the party collapsed.

Krzak's opponent

This coincided with the initial phase of Polish democracy. An artistic project that started in the walls of an art gallery and flowed onto the streets.

Next to the billboards of a smiling Marian Krzaklewski [the Polish politician, nickname Krzak] and the slogan "Yes for Krzak " ("Krzak na tak"), there appeared a mysterious, beautiful lady, promoting the shocking slogan that "Politicians are useless".

This is how Wiktoria Cukt launched her campaign in the elections for the President of the Republic of Poland in 2000. Does anybody remember her, or know of her today?

Probably not because it was a somewhat mocking project created by a six-person artistic group, hidden behind the acronym C.U.K.T. i.e. Central Office of Technical Culture (in Polish Centralny Urząd Kultury Technicznej).

In my opinion – their's was a prophetic concept. And this was long before AI appeared.

Twenty three years, ago, in Poland, the team of avant-garde artists created the perfect female candidate for president of our country. Both visually and ideologically perfect for absolutely all citizens of the Republic of Poland. Capable of solving any problem that modern heads of state have to face.

This perfect being was created using a computer program that blended the most desirable physical features with the statements of politicians that garnered general approval.

In arriving at the most acceptable physical representation, full account was taken of the long known fact that asymmetric faces with marked characteristics tend to make people anxious and therefore would not appeal to the majority (contrary to the preference of cartoonists and caricaturists).

That is why, in the case of Wiktoria, the most uncontroversial look was chosen. She had perfect facial proportions and symmetry (beautiful, regular oval, not too high a forehead, small nose, expressive but not passionate lips, wide-set greenish eyes, and moreover lush, though short-cut light red curls). And most importantly, her face showed no emotion. By embodying nothingness, it promised nothing.

Her voice, when she spoke, was a monotone and dispassionate. It sounded like a robot. After all, what could one expect of her? She was a virtual creation -- closer to the world of games than to the world of reality.

The artists never showed Wiktoria's figure, so it was not known whether she was chubby or slim, tall or short, or how she behaved or moved. Her calling card was her perfect face and slogans put in her mouth by her "fathers" (i.e. other Polish politicians).

Cukt's presentation was similar to other candidates' speeches at election rallies. To the sounds of techno music, artists from the group C.U.K.T. were announcing that they were "the party of Wiktoria Cukt, the only virtual candidate for the President of the Republic of Poland."

Just to remind you of who back then was trying to win the highest state position, here is the list of the most serious politicians contesting the election in the year 2000: Andrzej Olechowski, Marian Krzaklewski, Jarosław Kalinowski, Piotr Ikonowicz, Jan Łopuszański, Andrzej Lepper, Janusz Korwin-Mikke and Aleksander Kwaśniewski, "the black and white horse" incumbent who was re-elected.

They were a dozen in all.

The thirteenth candidate was supposed to be Cukt. She didn't win because she was a projection of the future. Maybe it's a pity?

– Monika Małkowska

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Agnieszka Rakoczy
Main photo: Ilona Staller, known as Cicciolina in 2004. Photo: PAP/EPA/ MARIO DE RENZIS
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