In an exclusive interview with the weekly magazine, Joly explained how she entered the competition, in which she came second, “just for fun.”
Eva Joly is best known to the French as a campaigning magistrate against corruption who took on some of France’s biggest business interests during the 1990s as an investigating judge.
Joly was born Gro Eva Farseth in Oslo and moved to Paris when she was 20 to work as an au pair.
“In Norway, after high school, lots of young people left to move abroad to discover the world,” she told the magazine. “Paris and the Parisians represented the new wave, a certain way of living and a culture that was rich and passionate. This was in contrast to the Norwegians who were more thrifty and lovers of nature.”
She married the older son of the family that employed her, a medical student, Pascal Joly, and used her middle name, Eva, as it was easier to pronounce in French.
“We moved into a tiny little maid’s room of just 14 metres squared, against his father’s advice,” she said. “It was the happiest period of my life. I was studying law in the evenings and earning a living from little jobs like dental assistant, typist and interior decorator.”
Joly became a magistrate at 38, joining the High Court of Paris as an investigating judge specializing in finance in 1990.
Some of the major corporate interests and personalities she went up against included oil company Elf Aquitaine, well-known business tycoon Bernard Tapie and the Crédit Lyonnais bank. She was subjected to death threats during some of her cases and won admiration for her courage.
Her husband, Pascal, committed suicide in 2001 and Joly left her job in 2002, returning to Norway to work as an advisor on a global anti-corruption and money laundering commission.
She stayed active in French life and was elected to the European Parliament for the Europe Ecologie party in 2009. Earlier in 2011 she won a primary contest to become the presidential candidate for the combined green movement in 2012.
On her role in French life, she said she no longer cares about her image.
“I’ve stopped fighting against the image people place on me and against the jokes about my accent and my beliefs,” she said. “What drives me is happiness. I do have a few vices: good wine, good food and fashion.”