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At an early age, Mistinguett (born
Jeanne Bourgeois in 1875) aspired to be an entertainer. She began as a
flower-seller in a restaurant in her home-town, singing popular
ballads as she sold her flowers. When a song-writing acquaintance made
up the name Miss Tinguette, Jeanne liked it. She made it her own by
joining it together and eventually dropping the second S and the final
Bourgeois made her debut as Mistinguett at the Casino de Paris in
1895, and appeared also in shows as the Folies Bergere, Moulin Rouge,
and Eldorado. Her risqué routines captivated Paris and she went on to
become the most popular French entertainer of her time and the highest
paid female entertainer in the world. In 1919, her legs were insured
for the then astounding amount of 500,000 francs.
She had a long relationship with the much younger Maurice Chevalier,
but it was other more torrid love affairs that became legendary.
She first recorded her signature song "Mon Homme" in 1920. It was
popularized under its English title "My Man" by Fanny Brice and has
become a standard in the repertoire of numerous pop and jazz singers.
During a tour of the United States, she was asked by Time magazine to
explain her popularity. Her answer was: "It is a kind of magnetism. I
say 'Come closer' and draw them to me."