"I wanted to be sexy and be a woman I wanted to be faster than life," says Vanessa Paradis of the sex kitten image she cultivated after hitting the charts in France, the UK and abroad with Joe le Taxi aged 14. But these days the accomplished pop singer-turned-model-turned-actress prefers the slower lane as a partner and mum as she shares a quiet life with famous partner Johnny Depp.
Born on December 22, 1972, Vanessa found international success early with her coquettish 1986 debut single, her Lolita-esque image only aiding her rise to fame. Within a few years she parlayed her skyrocketing profile into an acclaimed acting career. In 1989, she won the best newcomer Cesar France's version of the Oscars and shortly after was named France's top female pop singer.
But for the teenage Vanessa, who had grown up in the suburbs of Paris with her interior designer parents and a sister 12 years her senior, her very grown-up career was taking its toll.
"Things were running too fast for me," she admitted a few years later. "It was a shock to realise that people around me never, but never, disagreed with me. I was really mean, really capricieuse to them sometimes, just to see how they would react. I'd go to a TV studio and pretend to be really angry, demand some food like caviar, whatever. I would think: 'Okay, this time they will get pissed off.' But they didn't. You kind of forget who you really are, the real sensations, the real emotions and relationships with people."
As she left her teen years behind, the green-eyed beauty's transition into modelling was almost inevitable, and she became no less than the face of Chanel, swinging from a trapeze in a gilded cage in 1992 adverts for Coco fragrance.
Around the same time, she set her sights on the US charts, releasing an English language pop record produced by Lenny Kravitz, who also became her high-profile beau. It was one of about half a dozen albums she's made, including 2001's Bliss, which she released after an eight-year break from music.
She's similarly selective with her film choices, appearing in fewer than ten movies since 1989, including 2000's Girl On The Bridge. "She's more than an actress," says director Patrice Leconte, who hand-picked her for the role for which she won rave reviews. "She's got this kind of infinite grace and she seems very fragile but she is the opposite of fragility."
Box office success isn't exactly a priority for Vanessa. "Movies are more like relaxation for me," she admits. "I'm not in love with my work and I'm not in love with my music. But I'm sincere with it."
The fame which accompanied her early career wasn't easy for Vanessa, who found herself coping with the wrath of throngs of anti-fans.
"It happens all the time," she said in 1992, after describing how young women spat on her and pulled her hair in the street. Years later, in 2000, she reasoned: "Women hated me. People had this image of me as someone completely cretinous. It was a shock. I never understood why... I guess people will always be jealous and envious of people whose lives are lucky. And you know, my life is very lucky."
Fans of actor Johnny Depp, the man Vanessa comes home to, would have to agree. "What is it about him I love?" she said in a 2004 interview. "Everything. It would be silly to tell you how smart and funny and brilliant and special and beautiful he is."
Now a long-time pair - the two share homes in the south of France, Los Angeles and Paris - the couple had only been together a few months when the pop star learned she was pregnant. Lily-Rose Melody Depp - "We loved Lily and we loved Rose so we put them together," she explains - was born on May 27, 1999. A son, Jack John Christopher Depp, came along on April 9, 2002.
Widely credited with "taming" former bad boy Johnny, Vanessa says: "Maybe he was ready to be tamed. I don't like to think I made him do anything. We were both waiting for each other. We both had pasts, but when we met each other, we just knew."
And now, the woman who spent her teen years wanting to be something she wasn't is perfectly content to be who she is. "Being older, and especially being a mother, I don't think about it," she says. "I suppose because I am a satisfied woman now, I don't have to try to be anything else. My life is so beautiful, and I have everything I want and need."