Meet the Bridget Jones of Paris
Thursday 25 September 2008
The French have finally got their Bridget Jones.
Joséphine, a thirty-something Parisian professional in the shadow of her brilliantly stylish (and very French) sister, is the subject of a new "bande-déssinee" (comic strip) which has just been released in France.
Pénélope Bagieu, the author of Joséphine, said: "I wanted to demystify Parisian professional women. Joséphine is not perfect, her job is mediocre and her hips are bigger than she would like them to be. But she is pretty, she knows how to have fun and, most importantly, she has wonderful friends."
Pénélope, 26, born in Paris, is a self-confessed lover of English food (mince pies are a particular favourite) and the work of Bridget Jones’ creator, Helen Fielding. Bridget Jones began as a column in The Independent. Pénélope Bagieu’s career began on the internet with a cartoon blog of her own life in the French capital.
The site – penelope-jolicoeur.com- has over 25,000 hits a day. This solid internet fanbase won her a contract to publish Joséphine, which is the realisation of a childhood dream.
The book takes a light-hearted approach to perennial issues facing young women, especially in image-obsessed Paris.
Joséphine is having trouble finding her perfect man, is intimidated by her super-fit personal trainer and, although not pregnant, is offered her sister’s old maternity clothes. She is put under pressure to conform by her parents, her sister, herself and even her concierge.
Pénelopé says that she wanted to give young French women - trapped between asserting their independence and conforming to an ever-present ideal in shop-windows - a chance to laugh at the complexities of internet dating, tan lines and workmen’s whistles.
The new comic-book character is based not on herself but on her friends; "I tried my utmost to keep Joséphine completely separate from myself – I have my blog for recounting my own news!"
And what of Joséphine’s older sister, married with 2 children and living in a beautiful house? Despite her pearl earrings and stylish scarves this classic "française bourgeoise" is no happier than her younger sister. This character in particular allowed Pénélope to poke fun at an ideal she encountered in elite private schools whilst growing up in Paris. "I wanted to demonstrate, through the character of Joséphine’s sister, that such a life isn’t all that great. To take the pressure off for my readers".
Pénélope’s success highlights the ever increasing influence of the worldwide blog scene. She has already been approached to launch her book in Spain and South Korea. Joséphine 2 is in the pipeline. The blog requires daily attention and she is working on a children’s cartoon TV series which will hopefully be finished before Christmas.
Time for a quick trip across the Channel for a mince pie then? "I would love to work in London in the future, and spending the odd weekend there shopping and visiting the Tate Modern is one of my biggest treats." Pénélope is an active proponent of a Facebook petition to open a Topshop in Paris and would "sell my mother" to meet idol David Bowie.
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