Sunday, December 23, 2007

French Revolution

This is not shaping up as a happy Reunion.

I've got to admit, after many hours of soul searching, I come down on Ms. Begue's side in this kerfuffle.

Seriously, how could I not?
France faces a rebellion in La Réunion, its Indian Ocean island, after the Miss France beauty pageant tried to sack this year's winner for appearing in provocative photographs that breached the requirement for demure conduct.

Many of the 800,000 inhabitants of the island, which is legally part of France, have risen up in support of Valérie Bègue, a 22-year-old business student, who won the Miss France 2008 crown two weeks ago.

The trouble began for Ms Bègue, Réunion's first winner in three decades, on Friday when Entrevue, a Paris magazine, published photographs for which she posed three years ago. They included a picture of her licking yoghurt off a concrete ledge. Another has her floating in a swimming pool on a wooden cross in crucifixion pose, while a third shows her breasts.

The pictures brought down the wrath of Geneviève de Fontenay, 75, the formidable boss of the Miss France organisation for the past two decades. All entrants to the Miss France contest have to sign a disclaimer stating that they have never been photographed nude or in compromising positions.

"If she had some courage and a bit of dignity she would say: 'I'm resigning because I'm not worthy to carry on as Miss France'," Ms Fontenay said. "I wouldn't want to be seen touring the provinces with a girl like that. Let her stay in La Reunion."

Ms Bègue, who was greeted as an island hero when she went home with her crown last week, said the photographs were taken by a friend for an advertising campaign for the Pardon! brand of clothing. The were never published. "I made an error of youth, I admit it," she said, but she refused to resign.

Local politicians and churchmen have leaped to her defence, accusing Ms Fontenay of racism. Radio Free Dom, the main station on the island, said that it had never received so many telephone calls from indignant listeners. Hundreds of supporters marched through Saint Denis, the capital today and tomorrow recent Miss Réunions are to stage a demonstration. Support has also come from Didier Robert, the island MP and Nassimah Dindar, President of the Réunion Département Council.
Here's some video from French television. Don't ask for a translation.


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