Photos courtesy of Movie Star News
“I gave my beauty and my youth to men. I am going to give my wisdom and experience to animals.” — Brigitte Bardot
It’s hard to believe that 2017 has come to a close. Like most of you, I’ve tried to accomplish all of my goals and cross out everything on my to-do list. Isn’t it great when a “to do” becomes a “was done”? However, sometimes the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Scottish poet Robert Burns was onto something when he brought up mice in his view of how futile it sometimes is to control the present and mastermind the future. For me, with the Plush Life, there is always so much to blog about, but not always enough weeks in the year. Here is a musing of mine that nearly went the way of the over-ambitious mice! I’m glad I managed to slip it in right under the calendar wire!
In 1977, 40 years ago, that iconic photo of Brigitte Bardot appeared in the American media. PEOPLE magazine published her personal journal (translated from the French) recounting her transformation from Parisian sex kitten into a formidable eco warrior. Throwing her enormous fame and clout behind the Greenpeace and animal-activism movement, she participated in guerrilla tactics to try to stop the clubbing, killing, skinning, and destruction of the harp seal population.
At the time, Bardot had to be one of the most celebrated stars on the planet. She waved adieu to the film industry in 1973 and spent the next four years educating herself on how to be an effective advocate for animals. Bardot was fond of saying that the animals could not speak for themselves, so she would loan her voice to their cause.
Nowadays, every star or starlet purports to be an activist. Some even go so far as to list activist as one of their occupations on their Wikipedia, IMDB.com, or personal Instagram accounts. Brigitte Bardot was more famous and revered in her homeland of France, and around the globe, than Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, and Emma Stone rolled up together. She starred in 50 movies from 1952 to 1973, cut million-selling albums, and was handpicked by the French government to become the face of Marianne, France’s version of the Statue of Liberty. Always portrayed as a strong, regal woman, Marianne had been an anonymous visage, a rendering of an ideal personification of liberty and reason. From 1969 through 1978, Marianne’s face was drawn as Bardot’s. A nation and a continent were under her spell.
So, when BB — she was so well known that she could go by her initials — decided to pack it in, people were shocked. Trained as a ballerina, interested in learning how to warble a song and pleasantly carry a tune, Bardot appeared as if she would remain France’s most adored theatrical export for eternity. Her decision to become an animal proponent should not have been so earthshattering. Over the 20 years that she had appeared in front of the camera, BB had been dropping clues.
Skyrocketing to fame as a sex symbol that combined a woman’s figure with a girlish demeanor, she was often paired with stuffed animals in her publicity shots or in her film roles. Coupling her with plush pals was a way of continuing her appeal as a nubile, young woman. It didn’t matter how old she would ever grow — just think she officially retired at 39 — film producers wanted to keep that Lolita vibe alive and well.
As she traveled the world over, Bardot would occasionally be snapped with a travel plush pet. Stowed away in her purse or in her beach bag, tiny stuffed animals would accompany her as she jet-setted to one movie location to another entertainment outpost. A huge lover of animals — she had a menagerie of pets at home — the tiny stuffed toys would serve as a reminder of the real-life critters that were eagerly awaiting her return. Among her companions were cats, dogs, parrots, bunnies, horses, and donkeys.
When she committed to becoming an animal activist, she took her role seriously and knew that to make a difference there had to be a well-funded foundation. Bardot auctioned off many of her personal belongings, jewelry, and movie memorabilia; she raised millions of dollars that she used to seed the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals.
Throughout the decades, there have been many comely, attractive, blond models and actresses who have been paraded as the next Bardot. Among them, Sharon Tate and Claudia Schiffer who were both posed with stuffed animals to create an allure of youthful innocence and suppressed sexuality. Of course, both women became famous — Tate, sadly, for her horrible murder; Schiffer for her work as a Guess model and a muse for magician David Copperfield — but they never climbed to the Bardot apex.
When Bardot decided to tackle the murder of animals, she would go right to the top of the bureaucratic food chain. Complaining about the murder of tigers and rhinos for aphrodisiacs, and the torturing of bears in Asia, she wrote a letter to China’s then-president Jiang Zemin. In addition to sending it to his office, she also had it published in several leading newspapers the world over. She took the same tact when she confronted bullfighting, dolphin hunting, and the aforementioned seal slaughters.
Now 83 years old, Bardot is not a recluse, but she does not make many public appearances. Criticized by some of her national peers for her anti–immigration stance, she has been repeatedly fined and threatened with imprisonment in France. She still pens scathing letters to heads of state and gives huge amounts of her daily life to her organization that fights the good fight on behalf of critters. Her website is available for both adults and children, in a more mature and a children’s version: www.fondationbrigittebardot.fr There are collectibles to buy, petitions to sign, and updates on what needs to be done to make life more equitable and livable for the world’s most defenseless residents: domesticated animals, wildlife, captive animals, and abused animal performers.
In one of her diary entries from 1977, published in “People” magazine, BB penned these extremely emotional, resonant, and future-forecasting words: “I see some babies covered in white fur, like little balls of yarn. I feel like laughing and crying at the same time. The helicopter drops us off on the ice. The baby seal looks at us confidently with their big, soulful eyes. I take one in my arms. I kiss his wet nose and my tears join his. Suddenly, the mother seal’s head appears, and her cries beckon the baby. She gives me a quizzical look … Could she be jealous? I’m sorry, Mama Seal, but I will spend my life fighting for him!”