French supermodel Noémie Lenoir was born September 19, 1979, in Les Ulis, Essonne, France, into what she has described as a “really poor family” who lived in working-class “ghettos” in suburban Paris. Her father, Patrick Lenoir, a retired electrician, is a white Frenchman, and her mother whose name is unknown, is a former cleaning lady of unmistakable African ancestry who was born in Réunion, an island department of France located east of Madagascar.
Lenoir’s family moved to Palaiseau, France, when she was seventeen. While she worked in the town’s post office, a representative of the Ford Modeling Agency signed her to her first modeling contract. In 1997 she moved to Paris to launch her career and then to New York City. Fluent in English, Lenoir began traveling mainly between New York, London, and Paris. By 2007 the twenty-eight-year-old had worn the creations of Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, and Jean Paul Gaultier on major fashion runways, and her face had appeared in Elle, Marie Claire, Glamour, Sports Illustrated (swimsuit issues), the Italian edition of Vogue, and the French edition of Cosmopolitan. She was also featured in advertising campaigns for L’Oréal, Gap, Mark & Spencer (M&S), Tiffany & Co., and Tommy Hilfiger.
Lenoir’s acting career commenced in 2000 with the French television series Tout le monde en parle (Everybody Talks About It). In her first movie role, she played the minor character Chamandra in the 2002 Italian/ French production of Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra. She may also be remembered by American moviegoers as Genevieve in Rush Hour 3 (2006), starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
In 2005 Lenoir and her Zairian-born live-in boyfriend, soccer star Claude Makélélé, had a son, Kelyan. At the time, she was ranked in popular men’s magazines as one of the world’s sexiest women, routinely photographed in Vanity Fair, and appeared in Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show. But after Lenoir and Makélélé eventually separated, her parents divorced, and a second boyfriend was suspected of sex crimes, Lenoir attempted suicide. On May 9, 2010, she was discovered unconscious in a Paris park having overdosed on a combination of sleeping pills and alcohol. She remained in a coma for one week.
Lenoir eventually recovered. She rediscovered the support of her parents, returned to her Catholic faith, and adopted a healthy diet and exercise regimen. She also resumed dating. A year after the suicide attempt, Lenoir was again on the cover of the spring-summer issue of the fashion trends publication French Revue de Modes. In 2012 she rejoined the giant multinational British retailer, M&S, and in October 2013 displayed her skills on the French television version of Dancing with the Stars. However, by late 2013, the aging lingerie model and actress was doing nude photo shoots and did a striptease performance at the cabaret Le Crazy Horse de Paris. In August 2015, Lenoir gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Tosca but declined to name the father.