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France’s favourite personalities revealed

Matthew Warren · 16 Aug 2011, 09:56

Published: 16 Aug 2011 10:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Aug 2011 09:56 GMT+02:00

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Yannick Noah, the former tennis player turned singer and humanitarian, has again clinched top spot in an annual poll to find France's favourite personality.

The poll, commissioned by Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche and polling organisation Ifop, is now in its 23rd year.

51-year-old Noah is mostly known outside France for his successful career as a tennis player. In 1983, he was the last French player to win the French Open. 

In France, he managed to turn his success on the court into a second career as a singer and outspoken activist. 

"I'm most proud of the way he's able to bring people together, despite their differences," Noah's mother told the Journal du Dimanche.

This year's top three was unchanged, with footballer Zinedine Zidane holding onto second place and the actress Mimie Mathy taking third. 

Zooming up the table in terms of popularity is veteran politician Simone Veil, who is fourth most popular this year (up from 21st in 2010).

84-year old Veil is a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp where she lost both her parents and her brother.

She was health minister from 1974 to 1979 under President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, during which time she legalized abortion, for which she is best known in France.

She crossed the political divide and served a second term as health minister under Socialist president François Mitterrand in the early 1990s.

“Simone Veil has always kept her dignity and her simplicity and has never tried to be someone who tried to play up to the media,” said Giscard d'Estaing.

“In a turbulent world, she’s a sort of compass,” her son, Jean, told the newspaper.

The list featured a large number of singers including Charles Aznavour (8th) and Johnny Hallyday (28th) and Vanessa Paradis (29th). French acting talent included Jean Reno (10th), Gérard Depardieu (16th) and Marion Cotillard (24th).

The only politicians to feature in the top 50 are former president Jacques Chirac (39th), the Socialist party’s presidential candidate hopeful Martine Aubry (45th) and the recently appointed IMF boss Christine Lagarde (49th).

Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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