A few months after the First World War, it was on an idea by Belgian journalist Maurice de Waleffe that Le Journal organized the contest of “La plus belle femme de France”. The idea of his instigator was to “highlight the physical splendor” and to prove that “the choice of the majority indicates the instinctive type of a nation.”
The daily invited its readers to choose from a selection of 2063 candidates convinced by Waleffe’s arguments. Each was presented under a nickname of flower, stone, bird or goddess.
After several playoffs, pictures of 49 young women were distributed in Parisian cinemas. The French, but also the Belgians, were invited to go to the cinema several times to vote in the seven rounds of the competition.
When they arrived at the cinema, each viewer was given an entrance ticket and a postcard bearing the names of the candidates. “Put, in the order of your preferences, a number (from 1 to 7) in front of each candidate, putting the number 1 to the preferred one,” read as a deposit in Le Journal du vendredi 20 February 1920.
Once their decision was made, the voters had only to sign and indicate their address on the card and then send it to the newspaper, to count the votes in the presence of a bailiff.
On May 10, 1920, France elected its first beauty queen. The happy elected woman is a 17-year-old girl, Agnès Souret, native of Espelette (Basses-Pyrénées). Born to a Breton father and a Basque mother, she has light brown hair, brown eyes and measures 1 meter 68.
As a gift, the winner receives 4,000 francs from Films-Eclair, her portrait by Photographie d’art Sartony and a set of rare essences from Arys perfumery.
Agnès Souret enjoyed her victory for a year, but she died tragically in 1928 at the age of 26, from inflammation of the peritoneum. On this occasion, Le Figaro addressed her a very praise article: “Heaven had given her, besides a stunning beauty that one could not love, but which was certain, infinitely of wisdom and goodness; she had this precious and rare gift between all the gifts: a happy character, which no movement of mood has ever disturbed. (…) It’s so dangerous to be too beautiful, and pride comes so quickly to the human heart! Agnès Souret was all simplicity.”
According to the beautiful words of the journalist who dedicated this tribute to her, the beauty of the young woman equaled her sweet character: “It is so rare, a very pretty person who has a character of kindness and kindness, while so many ugly women are, moreover, harmful! Let us say goodbye to the innocent child, who had timidly come to us from his clear Basque country. No, she wasn’t born for Paris. She left directly for paradise, the stay of the angels, where her place is found…”
Difficult to do better. The following year, the competition continued before stopping. It resumed in 1927, under the name “Miss France” when Maurice de Waleffe received an invitation to send a candidate to International Pageant of Pulchritude, held in United States.