Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
France to pick millennium woman
Actresses, models and singers are on the Marianne shortlist
France's 36,000 mayors are deciding on the new Marianne, the female figure symbolising the French republic.
As part of its millennium celebrations, France is picking a new ideal woman to represent the values of the 21st century.
The figure of Marianne was invented as a national symbol to replace the king during the French revolution.
The woman chosen will be represented in busts all across the country, replacing actress Catherine Deneuve, who has served as the official model since 1985.
The mayors have five celebrity women to choose from.
Their brief is to select the person who best combines the spirit of the 21st century with the traditional values of the republic.
The new Marianne will represent "solidarity, openness and tolerance," along with the celebrated "liberty, equality and fraternity."
The mayors have been given photographs of the five women along with a short personal statement.
As a top model Estelle Halliday - daughter in law of singer Johnny Halliday - has precedent on her side. Catherine Deneuve's predecessors were Brigitte Bardot and Mireille Mathieu.
Singer Patricia Kaas says she stands for the values of "hard work, courage and devotion".
Nathalie Simon is a former windsurfing champion who now presents several television shows. She says she is "prepared to represent the woman of today, ready for anything with no preconceptions."
Journalist Daniela Lumbroso is the only one who does not revel in the limlight of showbiz.
A trained sociologist, she is a television producer who claims to be "switched on to her times".
But the tradition of picking a famous personality as a national symbol has also attracted criticism.
Some pundits feel it would be better to represent the figure anonymously, to avoid any clash of ideals.
"Personalising the symbol with a celebrity runs the risk of seeing that person express an opinion that would break with national consensus," Maurice Agulhon, a "Marianne expert" was quoted as saying.