Romilda Villani, who started the career of daughter Sophia Loren by entering her in a beauty contest, has died. She was 81.

Villani, 81, died on Thursday in Rome after a long illness, and funeral services were held on Saturday, Italian news reports said.Loren, her husband, Carlo Ponti, and her sister, Maria Scicolone, attended the services, the reports said.

Villani, considered a Greta Garbo-look-alike, was said to have dreamed of a film career for herself as she struggled to make ends meet in Pozzuoli, an impoverished town near Naples.

Instead she put her energy into Loren's future, enrolling her in a Naples drama school, then entering her in a series of beauty contests and movie tryouts.

Loren received a lifetime achievement Oscar last month at the Academy Awards.