'I'm a feminist,' claims newly crowned Miss France

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Miss Ile-de-France Diane Leyre is crowned by Miss France 2021 Amandine Petit at the end of the the Miss France 2022 beauty contest in Caen, on December 11, 2021.
Miss Ile-de-France Diane Leyre is crowned by Miss France 2021 Amandine Petit at the end of the the Miss France 2022 beauty contest in Caen, on December 11, 2021.   -  Copyright  Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

The new Miss France has branded herself a feminist and defended the contest's rules amid controversy over the pageant.

Diane Leyre, 24, who represented the northern Ile-de-France region, was crowned Miss France on Saturday evening following a glitter-filled broadcast watched by over 7 million people.

The annual beauty pageant saw 29 women, each representing a different region, present a series of choreographies on high heels to well-known musical tunes, with a lot of rhinestones and sequins, and to the cheers of the audience at the Zenith in Caen.

But the contest, which is open only to single women of at least 1.70 metres in height and under 25 years of age, is the subject of growing debate.

Leyre, a 1.77m tall brunette, who has a degree in international business, dismissed the criticism, telling reporters: "As a woman, I want to show that you can be Miss France and a feminist (...) For me, feminism is deciding to do what I want."

Asked by AFP to react to the comments of the Minister for Equality of Women and Men, Elisabeth Moreno, who said that the rules of Miss France were "completely has-been", she replied: "If it's has-been, we love has-beens. Miss France is still the event of the year (...) Miss France is and will remain Miss France. It has always been like that. We've loved it like that for years. So why change it for now?"

The debate over the pageant has also seemingly split the government with Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot affirming on Friday: "I like the Miss France contest (...) It's a fun, glamorous contest."

"We need a bit of levity" and these young women "are far from being trophy wives", she told BFMTV.

But Moreno on the same day deplored the "outdated rules (...) that can be discriminatory" after meeting the contestants in Caen.

The minister regretted, for instance, that "a widow or a woman who is already a mother cannot apply".

"Why shouldn't a Miss France be able to do irony, be a mother or pose topless to fight cancer?" she questioned, referring to a contestant disqualified from the 2020 pageant for doing the latter.

Moreno later received with Alexia Laroche-Joubert, president of the Miss France company, a subsidiary of the production company Endemol, at the ministry and said she was "almost certain" that the rules "will change".

Laroche-Joubert has since announced, during the presentation for the 2022 contest, that the contestants will be paid for the first time for the final but not for the rehearsals.

The Bobigny industrial tribunal is due to consider a case brought by the "Osez le féminisme" NGO on June 21, which accuses the competition of violating labour law.

"There are criteria that need to evolve to adapt to the times (...). I think that surely single status is obsolete," Laroche-Joubert also admitted.

Moreno, meanwhile, also said on Saturday that the participation of transgender people is "conceivable" and has "been part of the discussions" with Laroche-Joubert.

For the minister, the contest deserves to be supported because "it has been a means for many women to become emancipated".