French actress Brigitte Bardot made a name for herself as a bombshell movie star in the 50s and 60s. But according to the actress, she never wanted to be a sex kitten — she just wanted to rescue and protect animals.
In a new profile with Vanity Fair, Bardot explains, “All my life…I was never what I wanted to be, which was frank, honest, and straightforward. I wasn’t scandalous — I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be myself. Only myself.”
So in 1973, Bardot stopped acting, retreated to her home in France and dedicated her life to her real passion: animal welfare. She established a rescue organization, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, and became politically active about animal rights. She stays in contact with Captain Paul Watson, keeping abreast of the Sea Shepherd missions (one of the boats is named for her) and has written the French government regarding Japanese whaling and the issues of slaughterhouses.
She has also, perhaps somewhat scandalously, contacted Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, who considers Bardot his favorite actress, to thank him for his work on behalf of wolves and for banning the sealskin trade.
It’s no surprise that some have questioned her connections with politicians, but she shrugs them off. “I am not playing political games,” she says. “I don’t care. I don’t bother with that. I belong to no party and I am militant for no one. All of my causes, including the most radical, are motivated by the defense of animals. I don’t care about looking conservative and awkward. I’m only looking to assuage my soul and protect the animals.”
Her activism began in earnest in 1977, when she publicly opposed Canadian seal hunts. After that, according to Vanity Fair, she “stepped in to oppose the transport and slaughter of horses, vivisection, bullfights, industrial animal farms, hunting, the wearing of fur. To support the cause, Bardot sold many of her personal effects at auction—her dresses, her souvenirs, and even some of her jewelry, including a diamond ring, ruby bracelets, and a pearl necklace given to her by the German millionaire Gunter Sachs, her third husband.”
Bardot’s passion for animals has long outlasted her film career. She says that she retired from movies because she was “sick of it” and her activism has led to a much richer life, even though her Hollywood beauty has faded.
“I don’t feel old or used up,” she says, “and I don’t have time to waste thinking about aging, because I live only for my cause. Today, there are more regulations on cars than for animals.”
In fact, this is the life she always meant to lead; her work on camera was simply a blip in an otherwise simpler plan. Of her dedication to animals, she says, “It’s what I dreamed of. It’s what I always wanted.”