Miss France: War of the Misses

And le plus belle femme de France is (and the most beautiful woman in France is)…

Miss Bretagne!… And Miss Provence!

Wait… there are two winners for France’s beauty pageant?

Actually, there are two beauty pageants, and one winner for each pageant. This past weekend, Laury Thilleman of the Bretagne province became the winner of Miss France, while Barbara Morel of the Provence region was the winner of Geneviève de Fontenay’s new rival pageant, Miss Nationale.

And so continues la guerre des Miss (the war of the Misses).

Geneviève de Fontenay (the woman who announced Miss Nationale) had worked with Miss France for over 50 years as the co-owner and then owner of the organization.  What caused this crazy lady’s change in allegiance?

Apparently, ever since de Fontenay sold her rights for Miss France to Endemol (a TV production company specializing in reality television) in 2002, she had been in constant struggle with Endemol’s ethical priorities (or as de Fontenay would say, lack thereof). These battles escalated when the pageant decided to allow two-piece bathing suits, and especially after erotic photos of Miss France 2008 surfaced and her title was revoked. But it wasn’t until Endemol invited Ex-Miss Paris 2009, Kelly Bechenko (title revoked – again, due to erotic photos), to appear on one of their reality television series, when de Fontenay finally lost it.

To have an idea of de Fontenay’s freak-outs, watch her reaction to a related scandal:

De Fontenay was furious with Endemol, saying that the production company did not comply with the rules of decency and the values of the society.  In protest, de Fontenay split from Miss France to form her own “historic wing” or “traditionalist” pageant – Miss Nationale. It has become “a battle to defend the ‘soul’ of the nation and ‘traditional French values’ in a wicked world obsessed with money and sex” (Siasat). Miss Nationale is an ambassador for France, representing a proud French culture. That burden must be carried with respect and dignity, for herself and her country.

Despite the negative rivalry between pageants, this conflict did wonders for each of the shows’ ratings – both competitions attracted a record number of viewers.

So who is the real Miss France? Does anyone really care?

  • If you do, I hope you enjoyed reading this post.
  • If not, check out this hilarious video making fun of beauty pageants – also a popular song on French radio in 2009: