'Naples has a richness, a complex heritage and those that come from Naples have a tendency towards the arts. If you have a slight inclination for any sort of art, whether that be musical, theatrical or fine arts, Naples helps you, supports you and takes you there.'
Serena Autieri comes from Naples. And like her mother before her, her grandmother, her uncle and her cousins she loved to sing growing up. Every Sunday the family would gather and sing around the piano.
Serena’s mother sang in the theatre as a young woman. She started her career at aged thirteen and by fifteen she was beginning to fill seats. At age eighteen she had her first CD released. When she was married however, jealousy from Serena’s father caused her to give it away. But she never lost the love of it and of course infused this into the family home.
It was Serena’s mum that encouraged her to follow her dreams.
When Serena was eighteen the national Italian TV channel was looking for someone who could act and sing. Her mum sent the application form in without Serena knowing. There were 3000 applicants. She won the role.
This was the springboard for her career. At the time those around her believed she had to decide whether she would be a singer or actor. She couldn’t do both because this would be confusing for Italy. She chose to keep her singing talent hidden and pursued acting. Her first role was in a fictional series where she played a street performer. The series was already very popular so Serena didn’t sleep for weeks in preparation for the role. She was so nervous but she had the support of everyone and everything she knew around her. Naples was holding her.
And then the phone began to ring. It was Rome. Beaconing her to come. Meetings. Agencies. Theatre, TV, cinema. That was 20 years ago and the phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
Serena Autieri is a household name in Italy; literally one of the most famous actresses in all of Italy.
Emma: “So how did this come about?”
Serena: “Sanremo is the most important TV show for singing in Italy throughout the whole year. In 2003 I was invited to be the live week long host for the 53rd presentation of the annual Sanremo Music Festival alongside Pippo Baudo. This is what catapulted me into fame. Every household in Italy watches this event.”
Emma: “How did you prepare for such an enormous live event?”
Serena: “Nothing different really. I had done a lot of theatre so I just viewed it as a really big live theatre. I was so excited about the opportunity. Pippa Baudo was a big deal, a huge icon of Italian TV. On the first night he literally pushed me out onto the stage.”
From that week on, Serena Autieri could no longer walk down to the supermarket without being swamped. Life was never ever going to be the same.
Serena’s husband, Enrico Griselli, is very much part of this interview. He is lovingly supporting his wife, translating or clarifying when necessary. It is obvious that these two are a strong team in life, work and love.
Emma: “Enrico, when you met Serena she was already very famous. Did you feel intimidated?”
Enrico: “No I don’t think so, I was living abroad in Dubai so I was a little bit removed from the fame but I think when I took her to dinner with my parents they were completely stunned. My father was in love with Serena. Of course they adore her and they have a very close relationship now.”
I am imaging a scene from Notting Hill. The beautiful famous actress arriving to dinner at Enrico’s family home.
Enrico: “My parents had actually given up on me finding love. They had stopped asking me or complaining about no grandchildren. So when I announced I was dating Serena Autieri it was a big shock. I don’t think they really quite believed me until they saw her standing there at the front door.”
While it’s obvious Serena’s personal life is filled with happiness and love, her career also continues to grow from strength to strength. She seems to have it all, and no doubt is the envy of many young women throughout Italy. She enjoys a career filled with such variety and exciting projects, from theatre, to television, presenting and cinema and she has now also embraced her first love of singing. In 2013, Serena took on the role, including the singing parts for Elsa, the Snow Queen in the Italian dub of the Disney Animation, Frozen.
Her voice will continue to echo throughout Italy for many years to come.
And her beloved Naples and family will be there, always in her heart.
Words credited to Emma Scott. Images credited to Julie Adams.