The First Lady of Cameroon is a woman whose style cannot be forgotten. We talk about how the impulsive and direct Chantal Biya became a star in the fashionable firmament, turning from an African First Lady into a world celebrity.
Chantal Biya at a campaign rally at Maroua Stadium, September 29, 2018; First Lady of Cameroon at the opening of the Historic Health Summit in Los Angeles, April 20, 2009; Chantal Biya at a reception at the White House, August 5, 2014
Chantal Biya is rightfully considered one of the brightest first ladies in the world. All thanks to the woman’s memorable outfits, her signature pompadour hairstyle and the obvious rejection of conciseness and modesty, which made Chantal’s styles unforgettable. The first lady of Cameroon is so famous that sometimes fashion observers call certain outfits “Chantal Biya style”.
Cameroonian President Paul Biya and his wife Chantal at the funeral of Gabonese President Omar Bongo in Libreville, June 16, 2009
The First Lady of Cameroon herded the final football match of the African Cup of Nations in Yaounde, February 6, 2022
Chantal Vigourou is half French. She was an only child raised by a single mother, Rosette Ndongo-Mbuchuang, and had never met her French father, Georges Vigourou, a former employee of Société Forestier et Industrielle de Bélabo. The girl was a model, participating in local fashion shows in Yaounde and Douala, worked as a waitress in a restaurant in Douala when she was in college.
Pope Francis and Chantal Biya at the Vatican, March 23, 2017
Chantal and Paul Biya arrive for dinner with the French President at the Summit of Peace and Security in Africa at the Elysee Palace, December 6, 2013
Chantal married Paul Biya in 1994, when he was 61 years old. It is believed that their romance broke out in 1993 on the birthday of the head of state in his native village of Mvomekaa. At the time of the acquaintance, the girl was 22 years old, and they say that the president liked her spontaneous cheerful character. At that time, Chantal already had a husband – a taxi driver – but this union broke up. There were very few guests at the wedding of Chantal and Paul Biya, held on April 23, 1994, because everything was kept secret.
Biya couple at the Chancaya Presidential Palace in Ankara, March 26, 2013
Chantal Biya and Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, March 9, 2004
Today Paul is 89 years old, Chantal is 51 years old. Biya is known as one of the modern presidents with the longest tenure in office, having held it since 1982. Cameroon is located in Central Africa, but has access to the Atlantic Ocean, and the local population speaks French and English. The customs of the country originate from various ethnic groups in Africa and are intertwined with some post-colonization elements.
Chantal Biya at the plenary session “Investing in our Future” at the summit of US and African leaders in Washington, August 6, 2014
Chantal Biya votes at a polling station in Yaounde, Cameroon, October 9, 2011
Like many African women, Chantal tries to choose as bright outfits as possible. Often these are sets of a long gode skirt with a narrow hem extending below the knee, and a jacket or top, which reflects the popular Afritud style. They can be made from a single printed fabric or combine several motifs. The First Lady of Cameroon constantly accompanies her spouse during diplomatic visits, and her outfits always stand out from the general background. She invariably chooses bright shades, so it is almost impossible not to notice her figure in group photos from political meetings.
The First Ladies of Cameroon, France and Burkina Faso at the Place de la Concorde during Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, July 14, 2010
The Obama couple and the Biya couple in the blue room of the White House before the state dinner, August 5, 2014
However, Biya does not limit its tools to national traditions. It is said that the first lady of Cameroon adores famous Western brands like Chanel, Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Most often, bags of these brands are side by side with quite European, although invariably bright, sets of clothes.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Chantal Biya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 13, 2010
Chantal Biya on in Yaounde, February 8, 2017
Perhaps even a more noticeable element of Chantal’s image can be called her hairstyle. An unusual pompadour-style haircut with short curls at the face and long ones at the back of the head was sometimes replaced by a lush square, but two features always remained unchanged — the striking splendor of the hair and a catchy red shade.
Benedict XVI and the Biya couple at Yaounde Airport, March 17, 2009
And, of course, the unforgettable hairstyle of the first lady of Cameroon is often complemented by monumental headdresses. This may be an unusual hat with a decor in the shape of crosses for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Or a bouquet of lush pink peonies, bursting out of the rim space and chosen by Mrs. Biya for a meeting with the Obamas.
Chantal Biya and Michelle Obama at the White House, August 5, 2014
Chantal Biya listens to speeches in honor of her husband during an election rally at Marois Stadium, September 29, 2018
Cameroon is part of the Commonwealth countries, so the Biya couple often meets with the royal family. And, like many women from the Windsor family, Chantal loves to make ensembles in a single color. Sometimes harmony can reach such a level that a textile flower brooch completely coincides with the shade of a Dior bag. The first lady invariably comes to the elections in yellow ensembles.
First Lady at a polling station in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde, October 11, 2004
Chantal Biya votes at a polling station during the presidential election in Yaounde, October 7, 2018
However, it’s not easy to pinpoint Chantal’s favorite color. All shades suit her, and Biya invariably complements her catchy outfits with bright makeup, which helps to keep everything in its place. The beauty arsenal of the first lady has a lot of pink and red lipsticks, an excellent palette of blush and highlighters. It is also impossible not to notice that Chantal loves to do a long colored manicure.
Chantal Biya at the opening dinner of the 1st Historic Health Summit at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, April 20, 2009
Chantal Biya and Michelle Obama before visiting the Stone Barns Food and Agriculture Center in Pocantico Hills, New York, September 24, 2010
Almost any outfit of the first lady of Cameroon is complemented by high-heeled shoes, often with a platform in the toe part. Mrs. Biya also appreciates large accessories – hoop earrings, rings, watch bracelets. It is not surprising that fashion observers in one voice consider Chantal to be a celebrity rather than a political figure — her appearance is so glamorous.