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La Belle Otero
La Belle Otero by Reutlinger.jpg
La Belle Otero, by Léopold-Émile Reutlinger
Agustina del Carmen Otero Iglesias

(1868-11-04)4 November 1868
Valga, Galicia, Spain
Died 10 April 1965(1965-04-10) (aged 96)
Occupation Dancer, actress

Agustina del Carmen Otero Iglesias (4 November 1868 – 10 April 1965), better known as Carolina Otero or La Belle Otero, was a Spanish actress and dancer.


Early years

Agustina del Carmen Otero Iglesias was born in Valga (Pontevedra), Galicia, Spain, daughter of a Spanish single mother, Carmen Otero Iglesias (1844–1903), and a Greek army officer, named Carasson. Her family was impoverished, and as a child she moved to Santiago de Compostela working as a maid. At fourteen she left home with her boyfriend and dancing partner, Paco, and began working as a singer/dancer in Lisbon.


Valga, a Bela Otero 01-05
Statue of La Belle Otero in Valga, Galicia (Spain), by Camilo Rodríguez Vidal

In 1888 Otero found a sponsor named Ernest Jurgens in Barcelona who moved with her to Marseilles in order to promote her dancing career in France. She soon left him and created the character of La Belle Otero, portraying herself as an Andalusian Romani woman. She was pretty, confident and intelligent.

Au Bois De Boulogne Vanity Fair 1897-06-03
Otero appears with Liane de Pougy and Cléo de Merode in a fashionable crowd in the Bois de Boulogne drawn by Guth, 1897

Within a short number of years, Otero was said to be the most sought-after woman in Europe. She associated herself with Kaiser Wilhelm II, Prince Albert I of Monaco, King Edward VII, Kings of Serbia, and Kings of Spain as well as Russian Grand Dukes Peter and Nicholas, the Duke of Westminster and writer Gabriele D'Annunzio.

In August 1898, in St-Petersburg, the French film operator Félix Mesguich (an employee of the Lumière company) shot a one-minute reel of Otero performing the famous "Valse Brillante."

Otero retired after World War I, purchasing a mansion and property at a cost of the equivalent of US$15 million. She had accumulated a massive fortune over the years, about US$25 million, but she gambled much of it away over the remainder of her lifetime, enjoying a lavish lifestyle, and visiting the casinos of Monte Carlo often. She lived out her life in a more and more pronounced state of poverty until she died of a heart attack in 1965 in her one-room apartment at the Hotel Novelty in Nice, France.

Of her heyday and career, Otero once said, "Women have one mission in life: to be beautiful. When one gets old, one must learn how to break mirrors. I am very gently expecting to die."

In film and literature

  • In 1954 film La Belle Otero starring Mexican actress María Félix.
  • There is a portrait of "Madame Otero" in Colette's My Apprenticeships.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: La Bella Otero para niños

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