Last night the young woman whom all of France knows as Loana was found unconscious in her bathroom and rushed to hospital.
Loanna Petrucciani, a 31 year old ex-stripper from Nice, with the body of a sex-goddess and the eyes of a young goat, was rocketed to instant fame for being the winner of France’s first reality TV show. The French version of Big Brother was renamed ‘Loft Story’ in a bid to eliminate those dark, dystopian connotations and give the programme the classy overtones essential to the French masses. For by April 2001 when Loft Story was first aired, to live in un Loft was the ultimate in chic.
The first group of 12 ‘Lofteurs’ as the contestants came to be known, included Loana, the leggy blonde with a slightly she-male beauty (above) and Steevy Boulay (both went on to become famous). Steevy and Loana were born in that era when it was de rigeur to name your child after a character in the hugely popular American soaps that were invading France, like ‘Bay Watch’ (Alerte a Malibu) or ‘The Young and the Restless’ (Les Feux de l’Amour). Hence the explosion in the seventies and eighties – to the chagrin of those state officials at your local mairie (town hall) whose job it had always been to make sure that your baby’s intended name figured on their list of Catholic saints – of Anglo-Saxon abominations like Kevin, Trevor, Jordan, Jessica, Steevy and Loana.
I remember being glued to Loft Story with my teenage children when it first came out. It seemed to capture modern France like nothing else on television. We watched in horror as the French public showed its true colours and eliminated, first the Arab (Aziz), then the only person of mixed race on the programme (Kenza) and then the homosexual. (Steevy took five years to actually come out. He waited until he had become a successful television presenter before confessing that he was Catholic, Right wing, ecstatically pro-Sarkozy and Gay – which of course no one had doubted for a moment.)
French reality TV, when it arrived, revealed just what a poor opinion the French have of reality. In this country steeped in idealism, reality is something to be avoided at all costs. As a result Loft Story and all the versions that have come since are, compared to their Anglo-Saxon equivalents, shamelessly polished, choreographed and filled with histrionics. The contestants tend to be beautiful all the time and behave in front of the cameras with the woodenness of dubbed American soap actors.
Loana’s life, the doctor’s say, is not in danger.
Here, for your delight, is a video of Loana’s memorable pop song, “Comme je t’aime’