Miriam Leone has around 903,000 followers on Instagram. Her posts: a clip from her Italian L’Oréal ad, a selfie taken pre–red carpet at Cannes. But it’s likely you haven’t heard of the Italian beauty—she works from home.

And who could blame her? Leone was born on the eastern coast of Sicily, in the port city of Catania, to a family as melodramatic as an Italian opera. Her grandmother left her first fiancé after their engagement party, where she met the would-be bridegroom’s cousin, and instantly fell for him.

Her family thought Leone was fated for fame, but Italian agents disagreed. She was repeatedly told that she “could not be an actress or even a model.” After years of auditioning, Leone was ready to give up.

Her family thought Leone was fated for fame, but Italian agents disagreed.

But Stanley Kubrick kept her from quitting. At an exhibition of the director’s photography, she saw a picture of Sue Lyon as Lolita and thought, “You won’t stay like that forever, either.” She had to act fast: “I called the Miss Italia number, I went to Zara to buy a little black dress … put my Dr. Martens in a bag, and introduced myself.”

Leone won Miss Italia in 2008. She landed her first role in 2009, and she’s hardly been off-air since. Leone is, at the moment, working on Diabolik, a film based on the Italian comic series, in which a masked anti-hero pulls off heists for his alluring girlfriend, Eva Kant. She stars in Non Uccidere, or Thou Shalt Not Kill. She plays Valeria Ferro, a homicide detective whose mother is serving time for killing her father. Both seasons of Thou Shalt Not Kill are now streaming on Amazon —Clementine Ford