A complete unknown, Paradis burst onto French TV screens in 1987 singing Joe the Taxi. She was 14 years old. Frenchmen went wild, and Lolita was born.
At age 16, she left high school to pursue a singing and acting career.
In 1990, Paradis won the César Award for Most Promising Actress for her role in Noce Blanche, a somewhat grotesque Nabokovian story about a nymphette in love with her teacher thirty years her senior. In reality, the age difference was 44 years. Actor Bruno Cremer, who played the schoolteacher, was 60 and she was 16. Such a film would never be made today, but back then, in France, the subject matter raised nary an eyebrow.
Then in 1991 she appeared in a TV commercial promoting Coco perfume for Chanel. In it, she wore black feathers and portrayed a bird swinging in a cage. The advertising campaign was created by the brilliant Jean-Paul Goude, famous graphic designer, illustrator, advertising film director and photographer who had worked at Esquire magazine in New York as art director.
Vanessa then moved to the United States to work with Lenny Kravitz, whom she also dated at the time. Together, they worked on a new album in English, a language she was now fluent in. Written and produced by Kravitz, the album, self-titled Vanessa Paradis, topped the French charts and briefly made the U.K. listings. One of the singles was “Be My Baby”, which made number 5 in France and gave her another Top 10 hit in the U.K. Here she is here on her album cover looking sullen, sultry and Brigitte Bardot-ish at the age of 19.
From 1998 to 2012, Paradis was in a relationship with American actor Johnny Depp (they never married.) They have a daughter, Lily-Rose Melody Depp, and a son. A French-American actress and model, Lily-Rose today divides her time between Paris and Los Angeles. She is 19 years old. She too did an advertising campaign for Chanel.