Telesforo Iacobelli is not ugly. Exotic, perhaps,
would be a more appropriate adjective. The strong masculine features
that typically distinguish Italian men are missing from his soft,
wrinkled face. His close-set almond shaped eyes and tiny round
nose create childlike expressions as he describes founding the
Club dei Brutti, literally translated as the “ugly
The premise of the club is simple: to celebrate
ugliness and focus on an individual’s character rather than
appearance. The Club dei Brutti was started in 1960 in
the town of Piobbico, Italy, where Iacobelli lives.
Originally only a few members met regularly in Iacobelli’s
basement. In 2005 there are over 25,000 members worldwide, making
the Club dei Brutti, an international phenomenon.
Iacobelli Telesforo, president and founder of Club dei Brutti.
Club members talk outside a Piobbico cafe.
“When I was a young boy, I thought of the
problems the ugly must face and their differences are many,”
Early on he recognized the undeserved influence
that beauty has in the various aspects of life, from work, to love,
to everyday interactions. Rather than accepting the human tendency
to base judgment on surfaces, Iacobelli took an opposite view, becoming
obsessed with compensating for the appearance-based prejudices in
life. Eventually he created the club to support and encourage the
less attractive people of Piobbico, a town with about 2,000 inhabitants.
He started out small. Meetings with about 20 people
were originally held in his cellar, adjacent to a souvenir shop
he owns. The club met to discuss ugliness and the psychological
problems associated with it.
Today, however, the club is more socially based,
coming together for conventions and celebrations.
Prior to the Club dei Brutti, Piobbico
— nestled in the breath-taking foothills of green mountains
in the Marche region of Italy — had long been associated with
promoting and helping those who were not considered to be beautiful.
In 1876 Piobbico was home to 128 unmarried women who believed they
were too ugly to find a husband. This dilemma prompted the town
to open a marriage agency, the first ever created, in order to help
the discouraged women of Piobbico find suitable husbands.
Iacobelli’s friends and certain members of the club still
meet in his cellar, which is full of collectables that he has acquired
throughout his lifetime. A welcome mat adorned with “Club
dei Brutti” in red letters marks the beginning of a passage
down into his musty, cold cellar. Fascination replaces disorientation,
as visitor’s eyes adjust to the dim lighting emitted from
dangling glass bulbs. Rusted lanterns, faded photos, broken frames,
dusty mirrors, ancient farm tools, bronze trophies, green bottles,
club plaques, and innumerable trinkets appear. His collections are
cluttered, yet organized, displayed in a way that tempts visitors
to examine, touch and explore his lifetime achievements and hobbies.
A member of Club dei Brutti.
Club member Sante Fini.
An enlarged color photo next to Iacobelli’s
wooden desk shows members of the club celebrating at their annual
event. This is the club’s biggest celebration and is held
the first Sunday of every September. It is an occasion that gathers
club members in the town square of Piobbico to dance, sing and enjoy
each other’s beauty — or lack thereof.
During the annual gathering, Iacobelli is re-elected
president and various awards are distributed to members. The “No-bel”
award — a clever play on words since non bello means
“not beautiful” — is given to the friendliest
member. The Vulcano prize, referring to the ugly mythological god,
Vulcan, is given to someone of great importance. Previously the
Vulcano has been awarded to the author of the book on Iacobelli
and to the director of the movie based on Iacobelli’s ideologies
that was filmed in Piobbico.
Iacobelli stays in touch with the various international
branches of the club through email and letters. Those interested
in becoming members must simply fill out cards with their names
and addresses to join. Iacobelli willingly gives out cards to anyone,
the ugly, the beautiful and anyone in between.
“It is important to say that we are not against
the beautiful,” Iacobelli said. “We instead come together
to speak of the problems the ugly face.”
Those unable to visit Piobbico can request a card
online at www.clubdeibrutti.com.
A club member bikes through town.
Click image for Club dei Brutti video.
Iacobelli adamantly stated that this is not a
second job for him to make money.
“I would rather be considered crazy than be
thought a dishonest man,” he said.
Instead, the club’s financial support is provided
in part by city hall and in part through revenues from the club’s
musical band. The band plays at various events throughout Italy.
The club focuses on other causes beyond physical
appearance. Members are currently raising money for children with
heart defects. In 2004, the club raised €5,000 for Parkinson’s
There are mixed feelings about the organization among the inhabitants
of Piobbico. While some are pleased with the attention, others are
not as amused.
“No one likes to be known as living in the
Mecca for ugly people,” said Patrizio Silvi, a bus driver
from Piobbico with gelled hair who wears a tight, muscle-revealing
oxford shirt. He answered questions regarding the club. His lack
of enthusiasm was evident even behind a pair of designer sunglasses.
Following an interview on a popular television
show by the well-known Italian entertainer Enzo Tortora, the Club
dei Brutti quickly gained recognition and became a popular
subject for television interviews.
Iacobelli has earned celebrity status due largely
to the numerous articles, newscasts, books and the film created
about his positive view towards those who are not beautiful.
“I could not believe the attention I began to receive because
of this simple idea,” Iacobelli said smiling proudly. “It
Today there are members worldwide, with club branches
in Italy, Poland, France, Spain, the United States, England, and
Despite what people think, Iacobelli plans to continue
the club. He encourages members to join and aims at alleviating
the modern obsession with beauty. Even if he is unable to change
other’s attitudes, Iacobelli is confident of his place in
“We, the ugly, say that we are more fortunate,”
Iacobelli said, “but, as you can see, it is difficult to demonstrate
A local bartender who is a member of the club.
Story by Philly Petronis
Photography by Megan Franich
Video by Claire Hoffman
Web Design by Brady Fitzgerald