"I don't want to be an image," says Laetitia Casta, "it frightens me." Well, Laetitia has nothing to fear. As a world famous model, successful actress and Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, this beauty has gone way beyond being a simple image she's become an icon.
Born on May 11, 1978, in Pont-Audemer in Normandy, France, Laetitia Marie Laure is the middle child of Corsican father Dominique and mother Line. She was thrust into the limelight at the age of 15 when she was discovered by an agent from the prestigious Paris modelling agency, Madison Models, while lying on a beach with her family in Corsica.
Although her father didn't immediately agree to let the agency take test shots of his daughter, once he gave the green light it didn't take long for Laetitia's career to take off. Within weeks of the shoot, she was strutting her stuff on the catwalk for Jean-Paul Gaultier and by the time the model was 16 she had featured on three magazine covers.
Prestigious contracts quickly ensued and by the mid-1990s she was making a hit Stateside as the new Guess? girl and as the catalogue cover girl for lingerie firm Victoria's Secret. Five years after starting in the fashion trade, Laetitia's net worth was estimated at $5.3 million, she was being feted as the hottest model of the year by Rolling Stone magazine and she'd become a spokesperson for the cosmetics company L'Oreal.
But perhaps the greatest honour came in 1999, when Laetitia was chosen by French mayors to appear on French coins and stamps for ten years, as the image of Marianne the embodiment of the French Republic a position formerly held by Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve.
As if a successful modelling career and role as a national symbol wasn't enough, Laetitia has also taken her talents to the big screen, appearing in the 1999 French comedy Astérix et Obélix Contre César and alongside Spanish dancer Joaquin Cortes in the neo-noir Gitano in 2000.
As of autumn 2001, she can also add maman to her list of accomplishments: Laetitia gave birth to daughter Sahteene by photographer Stephane Sednaoui in Paris on October 21. In March 2006 the beauty announced she was expecting her second child in September with Italian actor Stefano Accorsi, whom she has been dating for two years.