Colette Duval was a French skydiver AND a model. Obviously!
The boy’s club of skydiving found itself INFILTRATED by a group of brassy female skydivers. One of those daredevil ladies was Colette Duval who completed her first jump while wearing red (as a model jumping out of plain is wont to do). At the age of 20, she found herself in the middle of a divorce from her first husband and generally rudderless. Of this time she stated, “I didn’t have a penny, I was separated from my family, no more husband … and no career! I was alone and I had screwed myself, I didn’t want to think of that. I wanted to discover something insane that I knew would be the joy of my life.” She quickly fell in love with skydiving as it her met incredibly competitive nature and desire to constantly push herself to be the best.Colette started life as a talented classical dancer, but her father forced her to become a typist at 17 by declaring that “dancers are whores.”
A fellow typist introduced Colette to hang gliding after an American inventor had created the “flexible wing” which made recreational hang gliding a more easily accessible hobby. When soldiers came to train with parachutes at the facility that Colette was hang gliding at, she quickly decided that, “Hang gliding seemed to me extremely dull upon seeing that virile and beautiful action.” After speaking to some of the trainers, she quickly enrolled in training for her parachuting certificate.
In 1951 at the age of 21, Colette starting jumping in Saint-Yan, France. In 1955 she completed a 8,600 m jump in Cannes and in 1957 she jumped from a B17 Fortress Flying Bomber over the bay of Rio de Janeiro at an altitude of 12,080 meters. She does not hold any records for these jumps as they do not know the exact height of her jumps and in the latter, the control tower was not warned and regulatory conditions not met. Regardless, it’s still pretty wild.
She jumped with eight other skydivers in 1958 and established a record for a height of 7,000 m at night. Unfortunately, there isn’t much out there about her other than her own book, but what a lady! She was clearly a spitfire and stated that, “You have to seek vengeance on mediocrity however you can.”