The French are known for a number of things, including their cuisine, wine, champagne, cheese, the Eiffel Tower (which is said to appear in every film set in Paris), and for gifting the Statue of Liberty to the United States. They’ve even been named one of the world’s most romantic nationalities. In this article, we’re going to take a look at France’s five most influential people.
1. Johnny Hallyday
Although largely unknown outside of France and other Francophone countries, Johnny Hallyday, born Jean-Philippe Smet, has been dubbed the “French Elvis”, and has been widely credited with introducing rock ‘n’ roll to L’hexagone and for being the only rock ‘n’ roll non-Anglophone artist to gather an international following. The 71-year-old singer and actor announced his retirement in 2007, but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down: he’s going on tour number 182 in July this year.
2. Jean Paul Gaultier
Image source: The Financial Times
One of the world’s top fashion designers, Jean Paul Gaultier has quite an impressive CV. He designed several costumes and outfits for Kylie Minogue, Marilyn Manson, Mylène Farmer, Marion Cotillard, and Madonna (including the infamous cone bra for her Blond Ambition Tour). He even served as costume designer for several films, including 1997’s The Fifth Element, which starred Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovitch. He launched his own line of perfumes in 1993 and has devoted much of his time and work to various causes and charity events throughout the years.
3. Daniel Boulud
Image source: The Algemeiner
Honoured as a Knight of the Legion of Honour for his contribution to the advancement of French culture, chef Daniel Boulud was a finalist for France’s Best Culinary Apprentice at the age of just 15. He later became the European Commission’s private chef in Washington, DC, before opening his own restaurant in Manhattan, New York in 1993. To date, he owns 17 award-winning restaurants in Canada, England, Singapore, and the United States. Boulud’s restaurant, Daniel NYC, was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame in 2013.
4. Monique Villa
Image source: University of Oxford
An award-winning journalist, Monique Villa is better known for her women’s rights activism and other philanthropic work. Ranked among the 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics by the Ethisphere Institute in 2011, 2013 and 2014, Villa is the CEO to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. She’s the founder of TrustLaw, a pro bono programme which aims to “create social and environmental change” by connecting law firms with high-impact non-governmental organisations – to date, it has raised over $35 million in pro bono support. In 2012, she launched the annual Trust Women Conference. In her own words, “Independent and accurate journalism play a key role in driving social change. That’s why it is crucial to keep the spotlight on women’s rights.”
5. Zinedine Zidane
Zizou, as he is affectionately called by fans, has been named one of the 100 World Cup Heroes, and is considered by many to be one of the best football players in history. The Frenchman of Algerian descent joined Cannes at the age of 14 and went on to play for Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid, before retiring in 2006. In 2014, he was appointed manager of Real Madrid Castilla.
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