French Beauty Queens In Battle Royale

In France, two generations of beauty queens are clashing in what's being considered a "war of the misses."

The first thing you need to understand about Geneviève de Fontenay is that she is awesome. I had only been living in France a short time before this became apparent. She's one of those institutions who's everywhere, and long before I had any idea whatthe hell she'd done I'd learned that her mime-white face was one to be respected and feared, and that she was ubiquitous. What she did is run French beauty pageants for years. Here's how the New York Times describes her,

For half a century, Ms. de Fontenay, 78, who never appears in public without a layer of startlingly pale face makeup, broad sweeps of opalescent eye shadow and an elegant hat, reigned over the popular Miss France pageant series. She is exalted in small towns across the country as a sort of folk hero, a protector of traditional values; her beauty queens were once congratulated by ministers and received by heads of state.

But after she sold Miss France in '02, it went to the dogs: or, at any rate, to a bunch of nudity scandals and some reality-show cheesiness. Disgusted, de Fontenay has broken with Miss France to launch her own pageant: what the French press has dubbed "The War of the Misses" Of her own, more decorous pageant, in which young women wear one-pieces, Mme. de Fonteney declared,

This is our France...The France of the ‘terroir,' of regional customs, of traditions. The one that, we say, still has values. It's not the glitzy France of St.-Tropez, where there are half-naked girls being sprayed with Champagne at 10,000 euros a bottle! That's not our France.

And she's convinced her version of the pageant will prevail, largely on the strength of her own awesomeness.

One can't imagine Miss France without Geneviève de Fontenay,...Me, I can't take one step without people coming to ask to take photos with me, without people telling me: ‘Keep going! Don't change anything! You're right! We adore you!'

Spoken like a true queen.

A Pageant Icon Turns Her Back On Miss France [NY Times]