Sylvia Kristel began modeling when she was 17. She entered the Miss TV Europe contest in 1973 and won. Multilingual, she spoke Dutch, English, French, German and Italian fluently, and several other languages to a lesser extent. Kristel gained international attention in 1974 for playing the title character in the softcore film Emmanuelle, which remains one of the most successful French films ever produced. After the success of Emmanuelle, she often played roles that capitalised on that sexually provocative image, most notably starring in an adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1981), and a nudity-filled biopic of the World War I spy in Mata Hari (1985). Her Emmanuelle image followed her to the United States, where she played Nicole Mallow, a maid who seduces a teenage boy, in the sex comedy Private Lessons (1981). Another mainstream American film appearance was a brief comic turn in the Get Smart revival film The Nude Bomb in 1980.
Although Private Lessons was one of the highest-grossing independent films of 1981 (ranking #28 in US domestic gross), Kristel reportedly saw none of the profits and continued to appear in movies and last played Emmanuelle in the early 1990s. In May 1990, she appeared in the television series My Riviera, filmed at her home in Saint-Tropez and offering insights of her life and motivations in an interview with writer-director Michael Feeney Callan. In 2001, she played a small role in Forgive Me, Dutch filmmaker Cyrus Frisch‘s debut. In May 2006, Kristel received an award at the Tribeca Film Festival, New York for directing the animated short film Topor and Me, written by Ruud Den Dryver. The award was presented by Gayle King. After a hiatus of eight years, she acted in the film, Two Sunny Days (2010), and that same year in her last acting role, she played Eva de Leeuw in the TV series The Swing Girls.
A heavy smoker of unfiltered cigarettes from the age of 11, Kristel was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2001 and underwent three courses of chemotherapy and surgery after the disease spread to her lungs.(Smoking is dangerous for your health!) On 12 June 2012, she suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in critical condition. Four months later, she died in her sleep at age 60 from esophageal and lung cancer. She was survived by her son, Arthur Claus, and her younger sister, Marianne. Sylvia Kristel is buried at her place of birth in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Good bye, the idol of my youth!