Kiki the queen of Montparnasse

By Stephen Eaker

Kiki by Moise Kisling

She would tell the most dirty, racy jokes and stories at the café tables but was never offensive to anyone sitting around her. Her high-pitched laughter was legendary. She would flash her breasts to men for three francs but was never a prostitute. Who was this outspoken and vivacious woman? Man Ray, Kisling, Fougita—she posed for them all! The most famous artists of her time fought for her! Officially crowned the Queen of Montparnasse in the late 1920s, she was Kiki of Montparnasse, the most famous model in the neighborhood.

Kiki the queen of Montparnasse
Wed, Apr 30, 4:30 and 6:30pm
La Ostra Roja
A Casa Verde Annex
San Jorge 45
Colonia San Antonio
(off  Refugio Sur)
130 pesos
Reservations: 121-1026 or

Born in 1901 into terrible poverty, in the French province of Burgundy, Alice Prin—her real name—was raised by her grandmother while her mother was away working in Paris. At the age of 12, she joined her mother in Paris in order to go to school and improve her reading, and at 13, little Alice was working in a shoe factory, cleaning and disinfecting old soldiers’ boots to be reused by new recruits during World War I. At 16, she broke with her mother and from then on became a feisty streetwise child.

The Roaring Twenties will be the golden years of Montparnasse and for Kiki as well. She will pose for many artists, sing in clubs and bistros, act in films and at the age of 28, famous around the world, she will write her memoirs, a jewel of anecdotes and local atmosphere for historians and artists alike. The Great Depression will bring an end to the glory years of Montparnasse and her Queen.

Her last years were consumed with drug and alcohol addiction, but Kiki continued to sing the old songs that had made her famous years ago in an attempt to make a little money for her basic survival and addictions. Upon leaving her apartment one afternoon in the early ‘50s, she collapsed in the street and was dead before she hit the ground. At her funeral, the Japanese artist Foujita said that when they buried Kiki, they also buried the golden years of Montparnasse with her.


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