To understand a
country you should know some people who are very well known
by everyone in the country, even if their fame has not crossed
the border. Here are some examples.
But for many of them, it does not last... On this page, people who were famous between 1995 and 2010 and who no longer make cover pages !
Olivier Besancenot (born 1974) is the spokesman of Ligue
Communiste Révolutionnaire (L.C.R.) now N.A.P. (New Anti-capitalism Party), one of the two main
Trotskyist organisations with L.O. (see Laguiller).
A postman in Neuilly (the wealthiest suburb of Paris), he enjoys
an excellent image in the medias (a wolf in sheep's clothing)
and won more than 4 % of the vote in the 2007 presidential election
with the motto : "Our lives are worth more than their profits".
Read about some of his voters, the altermondialistes.
Dati (born 1966), the
daughter of an Algerian worker, made her way up to the level
of Minister of Justice, the fourth most prestigious position
in the government of Sarkozy.
She is a hard worker
and a brilliant example of the new France where the most
children of immigrants from North and West Africa can become
members of the government (like her two women colleagues Rama
Yade and Fadela Amara of Senegalese and Algerian origin). More
about women in political
François Hollande (born 1954) was elected President of France in 2012. He is a typical member of the French political establishment (a ENA graduate) and he was the head of the Socialist party for a decade. He is a social-democrat reformist but tighted to the old sacred cows of the French Marxist left. As a person, he is very charming and funny. As the President, he was the least popular of all presidents of France (less than 15% of the people say they like it at the end of his 5-year term) and, by all standards, his term can be considered a disastrous one.
Laguiller (born 1940)
was the spokeswoman of Lutte Ouvrière (L.O.), one of the
two major Trotskyist organizations in France (see Besancenot)
; since 1974, she has been candidate in every presidential election
in France and her scores are far from negligible (around 5%). Although L.O. has many aspects of a sect and would maybe behave
like the Red Khmers if ever in power, she is popular and many
people, who would not consider voting for her, think that among
politicians, she is the only one sincere ; read about the strange
phenomenon of Trotskyism in France.
Jean Marie Messier (born
1954) illustrates the worst aspects of the French society. A
graduate of the most prestigious Grandes
Ecoles (X & ENA), he spent a few years as a junior member
of a Cabinet then as "associé" in a leading
investment bank (Lazard) and at age 40, without haver ever been
anything else than the boss, he was appointed CEO of Compagnie
Générale des Eaux (the world leader of the water
industry). Arrogant and megalomaniac, it took him only five years
to take it almost to bankrupcy and Vivendi (the new name) only
escaped it after selling (at a loss) almost all the companies
he had taken over, including Universal Studios and his $17m apartment
on Central Park. A French Enron (without fraud). Today, JMM still
fights over his golden parachute and considers that nobody really
undestood his superior intelligence.
Bernard Kouchner (born 1939)
is a very popular figure in France ; one of the founders of Medecins Sans Frontières(doctors
without borders, the " French Doctors ") he has been
successful in his successive roles as a leader of the students
in the 1968 riots and later in radical students' movements, a
minister of Health in the socialist governments of Mitterrand,
and the representative of UN in Kosovo. Now he has been appointed
Minister of Foreign Affairs by Nicholas Sarkozy, who also appointed
to his cabinet other members of the Socialist Party, although
his strong majority does not require it. The Socialist Party
is very upset and has ousted Kouchner (anything bipartisan
is considered betrayal in France).
Zinedine Zidane (born 1972) was the most famous football
player in the French team and the hero of the World Cup, won
by France in 1998. A very gentle and poised man, he speaks with
this typical chanting accent from Marseille ; a hero and a living
example for the whole community of "beurs"
(French of Algerian origin). He always ranks among the most-loved
Personalities of the recent past
Paul Bocuse (1926-2018) : grounded in traditional
regional cooking, this great innovator has shaken up French cuisine. A"classical" chef, he insisted on the quality of
products and spent a lot of time away from his (magnificient)
restaurant near Lyon to promote French cuisine in Japan. This iconic chef was very popular in France and the French were impressed by his private life : feeding the stereotypes about Frenchmen, for decades, he had a wife and two quasi-wives (he used to say :"In all, I have been married 145 years".
Pierre (1912-2007)was the
most loved French personality; a priest in the Resistance,
his entire life had been devoted to the poor and he became famous
in the early 1950s by launching a huge campaign to find shelter
for the thousands of homeless people in post-war France ; he
founded the Compagnons d'Emmaüs, an association which gives
a job (collecting abandoned furniture and clothes) and a place
to sleep to the poorest ; these Maisons d'Emmaüs are a network
of thriftshops all over the country ; Abbé Pierre was
a living icon, considered a saint by most people. Read about
the emotion in France when he died.
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)
better and for worse, she set the agenda for the feminist movement
with he book "The Second Sex"
Coco Chanel (1894-1971) : the ultimate arbiter of
"chic", she released women from the ryranny of fashion,
combining style and comfort "luxury must be comfortable,
otherwise it is not luxury"
Coluche (Michel Colucci) (1944-1986) : an extremely
popular comedian, in the French traditional graphic, often Rabelaisian and even
often scatological style ; he founded the "Restaurants
du Coeur" which distributes meals to the poor (60 million
meals last year with 40,000 volunteers)
Other names suggested by visitors
include : Yves Saint-Laurent, Soeur Emmanuelle, etc...
Johnny Hallyday (1943-2017) is still among the most popular singers in France
; a rock star, he was one of the few French singers who could fill
a 80,000-seat stadium several days in a row with his spectacular
performances, even a few weeks before his death ; even though many people mocked his corny music, his unsophisticated
way of talking and his look of an aging rocker, most liked
him as a person and followed with indulgence his (many) successive
marriages with younger and younger girls. A uniquely French phenomenon, he sold more than 110 million records and acted in more than 30 films. The whole country was devastated when he died and the government decided to offer him a "hommage populaire"(popular tribute) on the Champs-Elysées for his funeral December 9, 2017, attended by a million people (and 800 bikers). In giant letters, the Eiffel Tower said : "Merci Johnny". Two months later, in his will desinheriting his children, he illustrated on of the major differences between the French and the US legal systems !
Simone Veil (1928-2017) was the Minister of Health
who passed the law legalizing abortion in 1976, amidst a huge controversy where she demonstrated impressive
political courage and moral strength against her extreme-right
opponents. She survived Auschwitz, where she had been deported
with her family in 1944. In 1979, she became the first president of the European Parliament. She was extremely popular for her moral strength and political courage and, for years, remained in the very first places of the "Most popular Personalities" list.
me if you had a question to ask or a suggestion for another
see the section " most popular French personalities "). Other names suggested by visitors include : Pierre Boulez, Jean-Marie Le Clezio, etc...