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Former Head of Miss France Geneviève de Fontenay Dies Aged 90


Geneviève de Fontenay died on the night of Monday to Tuesday, her son Xavier told the private television channel TF1 on Wednesday.

Tributes have begun to flow in from around France, where de Fontenay was appreciated by media and political personalities alike.

"The Miss France family shares the pain of her family and loved ones. She will remain forever in our hearts", the Miss France company wrote on Twitter (now known as X), praising a personality who "knew how to support women and their independence".

Born on 30 August, 1932 in Longwy in the north-east of France, Geneviève Mulmann was the eldest in a family of ten children. She was interested in fashion from a young age and began to wear chic tailored clothes in her teens.

She first went to a hotel management school in Strasbourg, then left at the age of 17 to attend the Antoine school of aesthetics in Paris before being hired as an itinerant beautician.

In 1954, she met the then-president of the Miss France beauty contest, Louis Poirot, known as de Fontenay, 24 years her senior.

Elected "Miss Elegance" 1957, Geneviève de Fontenay was a model for fashion house Balenciaga.

She took over as president of the Miss France Committee in 1981, after the death of her husband and ran it with her son Xavier. 

Her signature black and white outfits, usually with matching hats earned her the nickname "the lady in the hat" and the "Miss of Misses".

In 2002, de Fontenay fell out with the television production company Endemol that had acquired Miss France enterprise, at odds over with group's organisation of the competition and the ceremony.

De Fontenay ended up slamming the door in 2009 to launch her own dissident national Miss Prestige contest in 2011, triggering a legal war with Endemol.

Known for her rants and her controversial remarks, she boycotted the centenary of the contests organised at the end of 2020 by TF1.

Geneviève de Fontenay rejected the date of 1920 - that of the first competition for "the most beautiful woman in France" - and retained that of 1928, when it was renamed "Miss France".

Defending a conservative image of femininity, she gradually became ostracized and withdrew from public life.

She was charged in June with insults and incitement to transphobic discrimination.

Despite this, tributes flowed in on Wednesday following the news of her death.

"Sadness and emotion after the disappearance of our dear lady in the hat (...) I liked her outspokenness, her patriotic outbursts, her defense of @MissFrance. RIP thoughts of her family", journalist and TV host Stéphane Bern wrote on X.

"Geneviève de Fontenay, she had her character (...) she defended her position as patroness of Miss France loud and clear", Jean-Pierre Foucault told BFM TV, who has been co-hosting the Miss France contests for the past few years. 

The star and controversial host of channel C8 Cyril Hanouna for his part praised "we see less and less people like her, we will miss her a lot".

On the political side, the president of the far-right Patriots party, Florian Philippot expressed his "sadness": "I had the pleasure of sharing excellent moments with this always chic, elegant, committed Frenchwoman, who was very sincere in her humanist and social convictions", he wrote on X.

During her life, Geneviève de Fontenay was known for her changing political positions, having supported far-left former presidential candidate Arlette Laguiller, then later the Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal followed by Philippot in later years.

The Miss France contest has been broadcast live at primetime on TF1 from 1995 and brings together between 12 to 15 million viewers.

(with AFP)



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