A selection board of mayors has picked 39-year-old Evelyne Thomas, France's equivalent of American Jerry Springer, to replace supermodel Casta as the new “Marianne” national heroine, whose bust hangs over every town hall in the country.
Thomas, whose afternoon TV show C'est Mon Choix (It's My Choice) is prone to descending into raucous shouting matches over topics such as: “I live with two men” or "I don't like blondes", said she wondered if it were a joke when she first heard the news.
“It's flattering to follow legendary beauties like Brigitte Bardot or Catherine Deneuve,” she told the Friday edition of France Soir newspaper in reference to previous Mariannes.
“(But) in choosing me, perhaps Marianne is being taken down from her pedestal,” she added.
The nomination has sparked debate in the media with some publications reporting angry phone calls and complaints since the decision on Wednesday that Thomas should succeed Casta after her four years in the job.
"It's true we talk a lot about the decline of France, but that's hardly a reason to take as the emblem of the Republic a girl who presents the show, 'I like fat girls, I hate body hair, and it's my choice' "
Marianne is regarded not only as the emblem of the nation but also the country's ideal of womanhood.
Thomas, who often wears accessories such as studded leather dog-collars, was selected by a panel of 400 mayors, representing the country's 36,779 local mayors.
The mayors said they picked Thomas over potential candidates such as singer and model Carla Bruni or actress Sophie Marceau because of her dynamic personality.
The criteria they were looking for were “a strong gaze, high cheekbones and an original hairdo”, the panel of mayors said.
“Evelyne Thomas is a good-looking woman, the ideal daughter-in-law for a great majority of French people in my generation,” said Jean Gaubert, Mayor of Camembert.
French media seemed less impressed. RTL radio commentator Janine Perrimond put it scathingly: “It's true we talk a lot about the decline of France, but that's hardly a reason to take as the emblem of the republic a girl who presents the show, 'I like fat girls, I hate body hair, and it's my choice'.”