Marie-Agnès Gillot: 'The notion of celebrity is only valuable if it's excellence that leads to recognition'

·2-min read
French dancer and choreographer Marie-Agnès Gillot, étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Dancer and choreographer, Marie-Agnès Gillot is one of six personalities invited by Chanel to speak about the notion of celebrity, on the occasion of the centenary of N°5. A fragrance that has marked its era and traversed the generations, never ceasing to influence and inspire perfumers, women and artists. The star or ' étoile' of the Paris Opera Ballet looks back on her career and shares her views on the role that celebrity can play in culture, performing arts, and more broadly in society. Interview.

How would you define the notion of celebrity?
For me, the notion of celebrity is only valuable if it is excellence that brings about recognition.

Celebrity is generally thought of as ephemeral. When celebrity persists over the course of history, it means that such celebrity has become mythical, right?
One becomes mythical, perhaps. But if you make a mark on your own era, that's already a great story in my view.

Hasn't the very notion of celebrity changed in 100 years?
Celebrity is more accessible now than in the past, but oftentimes it does not depend on the same criteria and does not have the same longevity. As Andy Warhol so rightly predicted, today, everyone can have their 15 minutes of fame.

When someone is famous, do they necessarily have a role to play, a mission?
In dance, we have a mission: to always be our best and to strive for excellence. It is a level of requirement that one has with oneself. But beyond my work, it is important for me to use the fame I have to help make the voices of those who need it heard, particularly these days. I support several causes to which I give my time and energy every year. I'm thinking of Restos du Cœur [ed. French food charity], Octobre Rose which fights breast cancer or Sidaction [ed. an AIDS awareness charity].

Doesn't fame conceal all the sacrifices, work, and challenges that have to be overcome to become a star dancer?
It might be that fame hides all the efforts, but an 'etoile' is there to make people dream and give them pleasure.

What does Chanel N°5 represent?
It's an exceptional fragrance that is more than just famous, it's a part of our heritage in the noblest sense of the word.

If you had to associate this mythical fragrance with a dance, which one would you choose?
A great waltz that is turning and turning and which exhilarates the space.

What parallel can you draw between your personal celebrity and that of N°5?
A long life, a career that lasts.

What is the formula for longevity?
Work.

Christelle Pellissier