London, May 8 (ANI): Italian prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi's empire is embroiled in a row with Miss France's self-styled moral guardian Genevieve de Fontenay, 77, over wearing bikinis in the beauty pageant.
De Fontenay has accused Endemol France, the Berlusconi-owned group which brought reality TV to France, of turning Miss France into trash.Those (girls) who like opening their legs will be with Endemol and those with a bit of class will stay by my side," the Telegraph quoted her as saying.
In fact, several former Miss France laureates were pitted against each other and both camps claim to have majority support.
In the eyes of La France Profonde, de Fontenay has been instrumental in keeping rampant feminism at bay while maintaining decorum.
On the other hand, Berlusconi's media group is not averse to healthy doses of on-screen bare flesh.
Endemol bought the rights off de Fontenay for the Miss France label in 2002 for 10 million euros, promising not to lower the tone and to pay her a monthly 5,000-euro fee to oversee the pageant until the end of this year.
However, she was ruffled when Endemol ordered contestants to wear their hair down, rather than in a bun, and don bikinis rather than swimsuits in the final.
But the last straw was when a French magazine published lewd photographs of Kelly Bochenko, a Miss France contestant, in poses de Fontenay described as "gynaecological".
This broke her cardinal rule that her "girls" should never take their clothes off in public.
The last Miss France to do that, Valerie Begue, was stripped of her crown.
Endemol then sealed the rift in her view by inviting Bochenko to participate in its reality TV show, 'Celebrity Farm'.
De Fontenay raged at Endemol executives for an hour telling them they had "adulterated" the spirit of Miss France before storming out and announcing that she was starting a rival pageant that respects her moral and dress codes.
Endemol hit back via Sylvie Tellier, director general of its Miss France organisation who won the contest herself in 2002.
"Mme de Fontenay no longer represents Miss France nor can she claim the Miss France label. She must stay away from this year's winner and cannot turn up to contests," she said.
She warned that regional committees, had until May 10 to swear allegiance to Endemol or lose the use of the Miss France brand, and any accompanying TV rights.
Endemol claims that already 14 out of the 37 regions are on its side.
Others have come out in favour of Mrs de Fontenay, including the powerful Western France region. (ANI)