Veronica Lario, the ex-wife of Silvio Berlusconi, has hit out at a celebrity magazine that published paparazzi photos of her body and suggested she needed plastic surgery, branded it "ethically reprehensible".
The 57-year-old responded furiously to the gossip magazine Chi', which ran a spread of photos of the former actress alongside claims that she had put on weight. It also featured analysis from "experts" on how she could use plastic surgery to overcome the ageing process.
"I am almost 60 years old; probably, according to current obsessive standards, I am not ageing well," Lario told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.
"I don't attend to my waistline or the wrinkles on my neck… Is that sufficient motive for suggesting that I – and, I assume, all my peers – go to a plastic surgeon?"
She added that the article was "an unacceptable attack" that was an affront to all women "who, like me, want to age without subjugating themselves to the 'young at all costs' stereotype".
Silvio Berlusconi with Veronica Lario in 2004
Lario's comments have sparked a discussion on the sexist portrayal of women in Italian media, with many public figures backing her stance.
"Everyone has the right to grow old as they wish and no one should feel they can tell a lady what she should do," said Renata Polverini, a member of parliament for the Forza Italia (FI) party, the group led by Lario's former husband Berlusconi. "What is this, a dictatorship of eternal youth to enrich surgeons?"
Alessandra Moretti, of Italy's Democratic party, branded the Chi article "a last legacy of macho culture that wants to chain us women to a stereotype of beauty."
A painting depicting Silvio Berlusconi 's former wife Veronica Lario displayed in Milan, 2010
But the magazine's publishers, who have previously courted controversy by publishing photos of the Duchess of Cambridge topless on holiday, refused to apologize.
"As soon as I read her [Lario's] interview, I laughed," Alfonso Signorini, editor of Chi, told Il Messaggero. "With all the problems that Italy has, is Veronica Lario's cellulite really becoming a national political problem?
"That Chi is concerned with her extra kilos is normal. We are a gossip magazine."
To make matters worse, Chi is published by Mondadori, which is controlled by the holding company Fininvest - owned by the family of Lario's ex Berlusconi.
Veronica Lario in her actress days - starring in the film Sotto Gli Occhi Dell'Assassino in 1982
Lario first met former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi at a theatre performance where she appeared topless in Milan in 1980. They went onto have three children together.
Their divorce was finalised earlier this year, after 24 years of marriage. Lario reportedly settled on a €500 million (£407 million) payout.
She had previously publicly accused her billionaire husband of "consorting with minors", after it emerged he attended the 18th birthday party of a young woman who was said to call him "Daddy".
The 77-year-old politician is now dating 28-year-old former television showgirl Francesca Pascale and the pair are expected to marry some time soon.