For most of the anglophone world, the sexpot pop tune Bye Bye Mon Cowboy stands as the sum total of Mitsou Gelinas's career. Even though it was a hit 16 years ago when the Québécoise was a nubile 17-year-old.
For many of us, her appearance in Denys Arcand's new film Les Invasions Barbares, which opens on Nov. 21, is a re-emergence of sorts. In a hilarious performance, she plays a petulant young trophy wife to actor Pierre Curzi, given to airheaded fits of rage.
When I meet Gelinas in the Chanel suite at the Four Seasons Hotel during the Toronto Film Festival, where she is being touched up, she is every bit the sexy blond star I remember. The only difference? She's hugely pregnant with her first child (she gave birth early this month to Stella Rose; she is stepmother to a 12-year-old too).
We are off to shop for baby things.
Gelinas immediately forgives me for not knowing that she has, in fact, become a job hog since she was a teenager.
"It took five years even for the media in Quebec to start talking about me in a different way. Not as sex kitten," she says as we head to Floriane, an upscale children's clothing boutique.
She sang for 10 years, acted in a few movies, then met her boyfriend, Iohann Martin, and started a music and video production company with him, is editor-in-chief of women's magazine Clin d'oeil, and hosts a morning radio show. Oh, and there's a Clin d'oeil TV show in there somewhere too.
"When I became pregnant last spring, it was the busiest time in my life," Gelinas says. "I was dead, crawling on the floor to get to work. I remember sleeping under the conference tables at Clin d'oeil. I hope my daughter will excuse me. She will know I'm active. She was on the red carpet at Cannes when she was three months.
"She'll need a red carpet to be delivered."
Once inside the shop, Gelinas can't resist blurting out "C'est cute!" and "Ça c'est cool!" as she plays with classic French cartoon toys such as Babar.
Ever the multitasker, she works fast, pulling through a stack of très cute Petit Bateau onesies, then coming across a sweet little ruffled dress fit for a princess.
"It's too, too much," she laughs from deep within her belly. "How much is it?"
A salesgirl dashes off, and returns. $117. Even this job hog finds that steep, so she returns it to the shelf, momentarily distracted by a pair of dear $25 red ruffled ankle socks. Although we hadn't planned on it, Gelinas begs me to go to Pottery Barn with her to check out the baby goods.
Amid the baby talk -- she plans to take only three months off, then continue to juggle her careers -- I ask her how she came to be in Arcand's film.
"I told a friend we have in common that I really wanted to work with him. Through that friend, he said, 'Next movie.'
"Then I saw him when I was shopping on a Saturday morning. That was perfect. I looked like a mom.
"He told me after that that when he wrote the script, to explain my character, he said it's like if Pierre Curzi had married Mitsou. I auditioned and he said I did the best Mitsou."
So, while Gelinas is years away from her 17-year-old self, she isn't about to reject her past. As we walk between shops, she is recognized at least three times.
"You look beautiful," says a woman passing by. "I hope you're having your picture taken!"
"Someone just did!" Gelinas replies. She is fond of being a public persona.
"I live in a world where I'm never alone. I feel very secure."
Upstairs at Pottery Barn Kids, Gelinas picks up shearling blankets and eyes nifty storage units, while describing her Old Montreal loft to me.
"Everything is out in the open, so it can't be too pink!"
She eyes a mushroom-coloured slip-covered rocking armchair. With its matching ottoman, the bill would top $2,000. "I like the most expensive thing in the store."
She vows to come back later in the day to think about it.
As we head to the stairs to leave, Gelinas pauses to almost absentmindedly pet a stuffed toy horse, complete with shearling saddle. I look at her with a smirk on my face. Bye Bye Mon Cowboy indeed.
"Believe me," she laughs, again from her belly. "I told you it's been a long time!"