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Belle époque: YSL muse Mélanie Thierry
French actress Mélanie Thierry had only 30 seconds to bring her character—the iconic femme fatale Salomé—to life in the commercial for Belle d’Opium. Dressed in a strapless white gown, with her blond locks swaying, Thierry embodied Salomé’s sensuality as well as the angelic qualities seen in the Gustave Moreau portrait of the same name. It’s this paradoxical woman-erotic yet innocent—that is celebrated by Belle d’Opium, version 2.0 of the iconic perfume Yves Saint Laurent launched in 1977.
Like the lingering notes of the classic fragrance, Thierry vividly recalls the impression the original YSL Opium had on her when she was young. “My first memory of it goes back to my teens,” says the 29-year-old actress from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France. “Posted on the wall of my bedroom was the Opium ad with Kate Moss lying on a purple velvet cloth. For the girls of my generation, this was such an iconic image. Representing Belle d’Opium and becoming a part of this legacy is such an honour for me.”
Aside from being the latest YSL muse, Thierry recently won a César Award (France’s equivalent of the Oscar) for her breakthrough performance in director Philippe Godeau’s One for the Road. And in May, she walked the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of Bertrand Tavernier’s The Princess of Montpensier.
Before getting into acting, Thierry briefly flirted with modelling, entering the business at 13. Although she isn’t blessed with standard model proportions (she’s just over five foot two), Thierry went on to appear in ELLE, Vogue and The Face. But she says that she was eventually lured to the big screen because it allows her to travel through time and experience different lives. “I’ve been the beautiful Esméralda [Quasimodo d’El Paris] and a 16th-century woman [The Princess of Montpensier],” she recounts. “After that film, I decided that I had spent enough time wearing corsets. What an uncomfortable time period!”
Away from the set, Thierry prefers a more laid-back style but mixes it up with vintage pieces. “Because of the nature of my work, I’m continually adopting other women’s emotions,” she says. “The best way to interpret a character is by wearing her clothes. I guess that’s why my own style is more of a blank slate.”
Since becoming a YSL spokesmodel, Thierry has taken more of an interest in the fashion house’s famed designs. “Le Smoking, l’Animalier, the unisex collection—just brilliant!” she says. “It’s such a pleasure to be able to open up my closet and see different YSL pieces. I keep reminding myself what a lucky girl I am.”
HER TAKE ON…
“Being a mother to my two-year-old son, Roman, has changed me, and not just physically. It has given me a new outlook on life, what it means to be a woman and what I consider important in life.”
“Every night when I take off my makeup, I apply layers of moisturizer to my face—sometimes up to 10! And I always wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water.”
“I would say the exquisite Faye Dunaway in Barfly [the 1987 drama starring Mickey Rourke] or Johnny Depp in Arizona Dream. But I would have loved to star alongside Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. I love that film!”
The soundtrack to her life
“‘Une petite cantate’ by French singer Barbara, anything performed by Glenn Gould and ‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie—it puts me in a good mood.”