Denny Mendez: A tribute to Italian Goddesses

Here's a tribute to three spectacular ladies from Italy who have made a mark in the pageant world during the recent decades. They happen to be among the most spectacular women to ever grace the Miss Universe stage in recent decades and they are among my favorites too.

1997. Miss Universe was held in Miami Beach, Florida, USA. Seventy four breathtaking ladies from all over the world competed for the Miss Universe crown. As Miss Italy, Denny Andreina Mendez de la Rosa created stir by being the first Miss Italy of color. She traces her roots in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where she spent her childhood until her mother married an Italian. This brought her and her siblings to the one of her dream places, the fashion mecca of Italy. She has always dreamed of wearing Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana on Milan's catwalk and little did she know that this dream would eventually come true. When she was crowned Miss Italy in 1996, there was so much talk about her being non-Italian by birth and ethnicity. Prior to being crowned Miss Italia in 1996, she first entered in Miss Dominican Republic 1996 in December 1995 were she represented the Distrito Nacional and placed 2nd Runner Up. She went to the Dominican Republic for a year that time so she entered the pageant but first she entered Miss Distrito Nacional were she won. She then represented the capital in the pageant. After these two attempts, she decided to return to Italy were she entered the Miss Italia pageant. Denny was named Miss Italy after receiving nine million telephone votes from the television audience. This was not an easy road though for Denny. "A black girl can't be Miss Italy. It's not in the rules", said one pageant official. Upon being elected Miss Italia, Mendez responded to the controversy with a brief reply, "I know I don't represent Italian beauty, but they elected me," she said, "so what am I supposed to do--refuse?"

"My name is Denny Mendez, I came from ITALIA." Taking pride in representing Italy, though not her birthplace, these were the words of Denny in the parade of nations. She would prove everyone wrong and make put Italy once more in the limelight the moment her name was called to the top 10. Her swimsuit and evening gown presentations were among the most spectacular ever seen on the Miss Universe stage. She was the clear frontrunner and finished on top of the other semifinalists and it was becoming clear that the gorgeous Verna Vasquez of Curacao was her greatest competitor. After the questions for the top 6, everyone was stunned to see Denny and Verna in the top 3. It was instead Venezuela's Marena Bencomo and Trinidad and Tobago's Margot Bourgeois along with eventual winner Brooke Mahealani Lee Of Hawaii, USA. My heart bled as my two favorites Denny and Verna faded away in the night. I never thought the judges would think that Marena and Margot were more beautiful and better that Denny and Verna. Let's reminisce the glory that was Denny Mendez!

As Miss Italy 1996 and her Miss Universe 1997 stint.

Denny Mendez as Model, Celebrity, and Actress

In comedy theater Boeing-Boeing.

Today, Denny Mendez is a popular television personality in Italy. She remains very active in the modeling world and has become a budding actress. Besides several theatrical productions, she has guest starred on many Italian sitcoms, dramas, and feature films, she also had a small role in the film Ocean's Twelve starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. Mendez is fluent in Italian and has working knowledge of both English and Spanish.

A tribute to Italian Goddesses
Roberta Capua   Arianna David


"To God be the Glory".