France's leading beauty queen impresario today angrily denied rumors that this year's Miss France had been born a man and denounced the Internet as a terrifying source of misinformation.
"Elodie Gossuin is a perfectly normal young lady," Genevieve de Fontenay, head of the Miss France Committee, said of the 20-year-old nursing student competing for the Miss Universe title in Puerto Rico.
"She will be a candidate for Miss Universe like all the others and that's it," she told RTL radio.
Reporting rumors spread worldwide over the Internet, the New York Daily News wrote on Tuesday that organizers were checking whether Gossuin had been born a man.
"Our regulations say that all delegates must be natural-born females," it quoted pageant spokeswoman Mary Hilliard McMillan as saying. "If she does turn out to be a man, we'll put her on the first plane back to France."
McMillan said Gossuin, who arrived on Tuesday in Puerto Rico, was being fitted for a gown and swimsuit to wear in the May 11 pageant and had not yet been asked about her gender. "There will be some determination. Wardrobe ladies have instructions to report immediately," she said.
Fontenay denounced the Internet as an uncontrolled medium where rumor-mongers, pedophiles, prostitutes and criminals could go about their business with impunity.
"I'm terrified by this type of media. You can't stop it, they send rumors around like that," she said.
Just One Look — That’s All It Took
The male journalist interviewing Fontenay had no doubts about Gossuin's sex, telling listeners they only had to look at her photograph — plastered all over the Paris Metro in an advertisement for a television magazine — to be convinced.
The Gossuin rumor is the latest storm to hit the Miss France contest. A rival organization has been trying in vain to usurp the pageant from Fontenay's company, which has organized the beauty contests for years.
A countess named Catherine de Fontenay recently sued to ban the beauty queen manager — who was born Genevieve Mulmann — from using the aristocratic surname, but failed to convince a court to order a name change.
A court had to confirm the election of Miss France 2000, Sonia Rolland, after a suit was brought claiming that television viewers who vote in the contest had actually picked another woman. A similar dispute marked the Miss France 1999 contest.