The Italian Almanac

Fiona May

Italian News - December 5

Italy's double long-jump world champion Fiona May has swapped the athletics field for the TV studio and embarked on a career in acting. The British-born former athlete is the star of 'Butta la Luna' (Fling the Moon), a new drama about immigration and social integration produced by state broadcaster Rai.

These are issues the black winner of two Olympic silver medals is no stranger to. "I can't deny that integration problems exist," explained May at the presentation of the eight-part series on Monday. "Before I was famous I experienced discrimination, both in Italy and in England, where I was the only black girl in my school.

May, who retired from athletics earlier this year, was born in Slough near London in 1969 to Jamaican parents. She went to Leeds University and jumped for Great Britain at the start of her sporting career. She began competing for Italy in 1994 after marrying her Italian trainer Gianni Iapichino, a former pole-vaulter. The couple have a four-year-old daughter, Larissa.

On Saturday May won 'Ballando con le Stelle' (Dancing with the Stars), the Italian version of British hit reality show Strictly Come Dancing, which pitches pairs of celebrities and professional dancers against each other. May brought the house down with a series of displays including a sparkling tap-dancing routine.

In 'Butta la Luna' she plays Alyssa, a Nigerian immigrant mother battling to assert her rights in present-day Milan. Agostino Sacca', the director of Rai's drama department, told viewers not to expect a politically correct fairy-tale. "In Fiona May's portrayal of Alyssa, there is also a little of the racism that some immigrants have towards Italian people, " Sacca' said.

The show is based on a novel of the same name by Italian author Maria Venturi.