Claim to Fame: Bardot seized the international spotlight in 1957 with And God Created Woman, a French film directed by first husband Roger Vadim. Although it now looks like a lame excuse to film Bardot naked on a Saint-Tropez beach, the movie sealed her rep as the seductress who just can’t help herself. She became so big in the late ’50s and early ’60s that everything about her–from her tousled bouffant to her crisp, white, man-tailored shirts and cigarette pants–was imitated.
Why She Matters: “She is irresponsible and immoral, but not deliberately cruel,” wrote one critic of Bardot’s onscreen persona. No one before or since has managed to convey her combination of charm, mischief and unself-conscious feline sensuality. She also had the world’s most beautiful armpits, as illustrated by countless glam shots with Bardot’s arms stretched over her head.
Postscript: After three unsuccessful marriages and one suicide attempt, Bardot today lives in relative seclusion in the South of France. The original Sex Kitten now spends her time as an animal-welfare activist.
In Her Own Words: “I gave my beauty and my youth to men. I am going to give my wisdom and experience to animals.”