Probably the first sex kitten of the screen, Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born in Paris, France in 1934. The daughter of strict Catholic parents, Brigitte was already rebelling from their conservative lifestyle as a 5 year old ballerina, dancing with the Conservatoire Nationale de Danse. An awkward child with braces on her teeth and glasses due to astigmatism, she would eventually blossom in her early teens, shedding her corrective apparel and quickly catching the eye of French fashion mags. From then on Brigitte was a model, gracing the cover of Elle by 15. The sensation she generated from her modelling brought in the movie makers, who saw in Brigitte a fantastic way of bolstering France's burgeoning cinema industry in the 50s. Before she knew it, Brigitte would become one of the most beloved and desired members of that industry, portraying the drama and desire of life as a Lolita both on and off the screen.
Her first steps toward a career in film began with an illicit relationship with French director and popular Classic Hottie love interest Roger Vadim (he's been involved with 3 of the ladies we've profiled) at the tender age of 15. Of course, her parents forbade the two to marry, prompting Brigitte to attempt suicide. The two of them would marry 3 years later when she entered adulthood. That year would also see her first professional work with Vadim, who directed Brigitte in one of her first big films, 1956's AND GOD CREATED WOMAN. The story of an uninhibited 17 year old girl determined to forgo any and all restraints of morality and live her life to its sluttiest potential, the film virtually invented the idea of the teenage sex idol in cinema. The film quickly became a sensation around the globe, earning Brigitte well-deserved acclaim and adoration from creepy older men the world over.
This film and its startling sexual content for the time would set the tone not only for the films she would make in coming years, but also the way she would live her life. In fact, her on and off screen lives tended to blur together many times, becoming virtually indistinguishable. An international name by her early 20s, her films and the youthful, sexually-charged energy that surrounded her would make her both an icon of the screen and a cultural phenomenon. And if that wasn't enough, she would also enjoy a successful recording career during this time, quite popular in this capacity in her home country. Apart from her entertainer gigs, she was a cultural and fashion influence as well. Brigitte was one of the first celebs to popularize the bikini, thanks to frequent appearances wearing and then not wearing the now beloved beach attire while sunbathing with friends in sunny St. Tropez.
As her career soared, making her perhaps one of the most desired women on the planet at that time, Brigitte's actual life was filled with chaos and instability. One of the fastest-rising stars of her time, she quickly became perhaps the most desired actress of the 1950s and 60s. The desire she inspired among those around her, along with her own freewheeling lifestyle, made her life a whirlwind of sex, allure, fame, fortune, betrayal and depression that would often bring her to the brink. She would eventually divorce the man for whom she attempted to sacrifice her life, moving on to a series of men for whom she seemed to have only modest interest. Marriages and divorces, affairs and break-ups, romances and trysts, Brigitte would indulge in all of them, making her the darling of many a gossip column the world over. Unfortunately for her, being beautiful and desired could not clear the darkness of her mind. Prone to depression, she was notorious for her repeated suicide attempts, almost succeeding in 1960 after slitting her wrists and downing a bottle of pills.
Perhaps it was this instability that would prompt Brigitte to make one of the most startling choices of her life. In 1973, just shy of her 40th birthday, Brigitte announced she was retiring from acting. Still a huge name and still very much in possession of her looks, this was a confusing choice for many of her fans. This was but the beginning of a 40 year streak of confusing decisions for Brigitte. Despite some controversies that would bring her into the spotlight later in life, she would remain true to her decision to leave the bright lights of movie and pop culture stardom behind. Her last major appearance in anything was a 1974 spread for Playboy celebrating her 40th birthday. After that, Brigitte effectively abandoned her public life for one of activism and controversy.
In the mid 1980s, after a decade out of the spotlight, Brigitte would chose to devote herself to the cause of animal welfare. Selling off much of her possessions accumulated during her years of fame, including jewels, clothing and memorabilia, she would use the proceeds of this sale to start the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals. It was to this cause that Brigitte would devote herself over the next several years, using her name to advocate the establishment of animal rights and population control methods to limit the spread of feral pets in Europe. These attempts at protecting animals would range from the noble to the bizarre. She would implore the help of world leaders and raise monies for animal welfare causes. She would also engage in rather strange behavior in her more immediate surroundings, such as castrating a neighbor's donkey for harassing her female donkeys. Yeah, that happened.
Clearly somewhat off her rocker, Brigitte would also incite the wrath of government and political correctness with controversial statements decrying what she described as foreign invasion by Muslims into France, describing herself as being "fed up with being under the thumb of this population which is destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its habits." She would also slander gays in various statements and court controversy by decrying mixed heritage marriages and insulting public figures. Unfortunately for her, this sort of talk doesn't go down very well in France. She would be taken to court multiple times for her public comments and forced to pay out thousands in damages as a result.
Now in her 78th year of life, Brigitte has long since moved on from the quintessential young, French hottie she once was. However, her legacy and influence in both the movies and culture remains pervasive. How many a young sex symbol have followed her lead? How many of those hotties now dropping jaws at your local beach or on the spread of your favorite magazine owe a debt of gratitude to Brigitte's early adoption of slinky beach attire? How much of what we cover on a daily basis on this site, might not have been possible had Brigitte not set the precedent for the young, hot, free-spirited libertine in pop culture? She might have gone a little nuts later in life, but if you get even a little bit of pleasure or satisfaction from seeing young hotties doing their young hottie thing, you'll want to tip your hat to Brigitte. For in many ways, she made the whole thing possible.