Brigitte Bardot grew up in a wealthy, conservative French Catholic family. She was named for her mother's favorite doll, and as a child wore braces on her teeth and glasses to correct astigmatism. Bardot began studying ballet at the age of five, and at 13 she danced alongside Leslie Caron at the Conservatoire Nationale de Danse. At 14, she was photographed for the cover of Elle magazine. At 15, Bardot met her future first ex-husband Roger Vadim, and attempted suicide when her parents refused permission for her to marry until she was 18. They married when she turned 18, and divorced five years later.
"I am leaving the town to the invaders: increasingly numerous, mediocre, dirty, badly behaved, shameless tourists."Brigitte Bardot, 1967.
She moved from modeling to acting, and played a 17-year-old nymphet (at 22) in Vadim's And God Created Woman, a role that made Bardot known internationally. She embodied a natural yet innocent sexuality that was a precursor to the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s. The actress eschewed the Catholic principles of her childhood, saying "It is better to be unfaithful than to be faithful without wanting to be."
Long prone to depression, Bardot has attempted suicide multiple times. "I really wanted to die at certain periods in my life. Death was like love, a romantic escape. I took pills because I didn't want to throw myself off my balcony and know people would photograph me lying dead below." On her 26th birthday she attempted her most publicly known suicide attempt, swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills and slitting her wrists.
Bardot retired from films at 39, to focus on her love of animals and her increasingly odd political activism. She sold her home, her jewels, and other personal effects in 1986 to start the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, which works for animal rights across the world. She has been outspoken to the point of causing international offense on the behalf of animals, and once stole a mynah bird on a French street because its owner, whom she beat with an umbrella, was "abusing" it by giving it a hamburger and fries.