Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born in Paris in 1934. Brigitte was a plain child with glasses and she wore a brace to correct her irregular teeth for so long that it made her mouth permanently pout. Her mother encouraged her to take up music and dance and Brigitte proved to have natural abilities in both. Soon, however, it became apparent that Brigitte was blossoming into a beauty and she gave up her ambitions of becoming a professional dancer when modelling opportunities arose. Bardot appeared in French fashion magazine ‘Elle’ by the age of 15 which soon opened doors into the film industry.
In 1952, aged 17, Brigitte met and fell in love with journalist and screenwriter Roger Vadim. Her strict Roman Catholic parents opposed the match until she turned eighteen and Bardot reacted by attempting suicide. Although the attempt was unsuccessful, Brigitte vowed to continue until her parents backed down. Brigitte and Roger married three weeks later in Notre-Dame de Grace, Paris. The same year she starred in his controversial film And God Created Women. It was the role that made her known internationally. Singing her praises to studio bosses Roger famously described her as ‘sex on legs’. She and Vadim divorced five years later, by which time Bardot had already gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful and alluring women in the world. Bardot’s innocent yet provocative on and off-screen charisma turned her into an overnight sensation in a world on the verge of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Bardot, against the repressed Roman Catholic environment she had been brought up in, remarked ‘it is better to be unfaithful than faithful without wanting to be’.
Brigitte was one of the first women to popularize the ‘bikini’ in Manina (Woman without a Veil) in 1952 and was often seen with her friends sunbathing topless in St Tropez in the late 1960s. She remains one of the most instantly recognisable icons of the 1960s. One of the few European actresses to gain superstar status in America, in 1965 she starred as herself in the film Dear Brigitte alongside James Stewart. It was one of the few Hollywood films she ever made, only agreeing on condition that the cast and crew shot her scene in Paris.
Women wanted to be her and men wanted to be with her, but being considered a sex kitten soon grew tiresome to Brigitte who once said ‘if only every man who sees my films did not get the impression he can make love to me, I would be a lot happier’. Bardot suffered from many bouts of depression throughout her life, most publicly in September 1960 on her 26th birthday when she swallowed a bottle of sleeping tablets and slit her wrists. She had married Jacques Charrier in 1959 and had become a mother for the first time in January 1960. When she and Charrier divorced in 1962, her son Nicholas was brought up in the Charrier family. Bardot did not maintain close contact with him until he reached adulthood.
Bardot retired from the film industry in 1973 just before her 39th birthday, having starred in 47 films. The following year she posed nude for Playboy magazine celebrating her 40th birthday. A keen animal rights activist, Brigitte decided to become a vegetarian before selling her home, jewels and other personal effects to begin the Brigitte Bardot Foundation in 1986 – a charity working for and promoting animal rights. Well known for being politically opinionated in the past, Brigitte’s anti-gay and racist views still understandably grab headlines around the world. She has been fined five times by the French government for ‘inciting racial hatred’ in her published books attacking both mixed race and same sex couples.
In 2011 Brigitte’s ex husband, multi-millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs, shot himself following a long struggle with depression. Brigitte, 31, at the height of her fame was introduced to Gunter in a St Tropez restaurant by her first husband Roger Vadim. Instantly attracted to one another, they both immediately broke off their current relationships and Sachs whisked Brigitte off to Monte Carlo. He not only sent 100 red roses to her St Tropez house each day but had his helicopter fly overhead and scatter them over her garden shortly before arriving himself with his suitcases. They were married on Bastille Day, July 14th 1966 in Las Vegas. The ceremony lasted approximately eight minutes. Just a few weeks later he claimed to have married her in order to win a bet with his friends. They divorced three years later after Bardot famously embarked on an affair with Warren Beatty.