Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot is a former fashion model, actress and singer and early in life, an aspiring ballet dancer.
Bardot grew up in a middle-class Roman Catholic family in Paris (which is interesting since most of her movies were "Condemned" by the Catholic Church, at last in the U.S.). Her mother enrolled her and her younger sister Marie-Jean in dance and Brigitte decided to concentrate on a ballet career.
In 1947, Bardot was accepted to The National Superior Conservatory of Paris for Music and Dance and for three years attended the ballet classes of Russian choreographer Boris Knyazev. (One of her classmates was Leslie Caron).
She started her acting career in 1952, and after appearing in 16 films, became world-famous due to her role in her then-husband Roger Vadim's controversial film And God Created Woman. She later starred in Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 cult film, Contempt. She was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress for her role in Louis Malle's 1965 film, Viva Maria!
Bardot wore a bikini at Cannes Film Festival in 1953, starting the trend of bikini-clad stars for the festival.
She also caught the attention of French intellectuals. She was the subject of Simone de Beauvoir's 1959 essay, The Lolita Syndrome, which described Bardot as a "locomotive of women's history" and built upon existentialist themes to declare her the first and most liberated woman of post-war France.
She participated in various musical shows and recorded many popular songs in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly in collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg, Bob Zagury and Sacha Distel. These included "Harley Davidson," "Je Me Donne A Qui Me Plait," "Bubble gum," "Contact," "Je Reviendrais Toujours Vers Toi," "L'Appareil A Sous," "La Madrague," "On Demenage," "Sidonie," "Tu Veux, Ou Tu Veux Pas?," "Le Soleil De Ma Vie" (the cover of Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life") and "Je t'aime... moi non plus."
Bardot asked Gainsbourg not to release this duet and he complied with her wishes; the following year he re-recorded a version with British-born model and actress Jane Birkin, which became a massive hit all over Europe. However, the Bardot version was issued in 1986 and became a popular download hit in 2006 when Universal Records made their back catalogue available to purchase online, with this version of the song ranking as the third most popular download.
In 1973 Bardot announced she was retiring from acting at the age of 39 "to get out elegantly". During her career in show business Bardot starred in 47 films, performed in numerous musical shows, and recorded 80 songs. She was awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1985 but refused it.
After her retirement, Bardot established herself as an animal rights activist. During the 1990s she became outspoken due to her criticism of immigration, race-mixing, some aspects of homosexuality and Islam in France, and has been fined five times for "inciting racial hatred."