Her name was Sidonie Gabrielle Claudine Colette Gauthier-Villars de Jouvanel Goudeket, but smartly, she went simply by ”Colette” (1873-1954).
Colette’s 50 novels and collections of short stories were popular with housewives, shop girls and intellectuals. Her writing emphasis was on women’s obstacles in love and she lived as passionately as she wrote. Sex was front and center in her writing, embellished with a spicy style and sparkling dialogue. She wrote about love, licit and illicit. Her writing is playful, teasing, and sexually suggestive. She is an elegant stylist, perceptive and shrewd.
Colette’s career in the theatre gave her the freedom to act on her own vexing fantasies. Working as a performer on stage provided her with the opportunity to explore her voracious sexual appetite, and Colette did just that.
In a performance at the famed Moulin Rouge, Colette caused a near riot by miming sex acts on stage. She had affairs with other women. One of her lovers was Emperor Napoleon III‘s niece, Mathilde De Morny. Colette moved into De Morny’s château. After a brief, unhappy marriage, De Morny became the Marquise de Belboeuf, although she was better known in Paris lesbian circles as ”Monsieur Belboeuf”.
De Morny supported Colette with money and introduced her to the high society crowd. She also showed Colette the gay underground of drag queens, beautiful men and cross-dressing women. Colette gave De Morny love, affection, and plenty of sex. She also gave De Mornay a role in her act at the Moulin Rouge, with Colette playing an Egyptian mummy who unwrapped her bandages and boldly made love to De Mornay who played the role of a male archaeologist. The act was banned by the censors.
Colette loved the publicity. It also set the pattern for her next decade, performing and writing, and revealing her gayness.