“She needed exercises to strengthen her torso, waist and shoulders for full control of the wheel, to harden her thighs and calves for the braking, and to toughen her palms. Strenuous though the training was, she relished the sensations of a body growing daily more powerful.”Miranda Seymour
Mariette Hélène Delangle, a postmaster’s daughter from the tiny village of Aunay-sous-Aneau, France, wanted to change more than her body and mental acuity. She was ready to trade her dancing slippers for the wheel of a racing car and a new lease on life.
Delangle called herself Hellè Nice, after rising to fame as an exotic dancer in Paris. On the second day of June in 1929, Hellè was nervous about driving in her first Women’s Grand Prix race. She had memorized every twist and turn, defying what society considered a woman’s place in the world. Women were expected to grace the passenger seat of a car or to be admired as car hood ornaments; like the celebrated Rolls Royce Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament.
To everyone’s surprise, Hellè crossed the finish line first in her inaugural race. When finished, Hellè unwrapped the red scarf from her neck, popped her slim body from the car and darted towards the medical post to pierce the blisters on her fingers with a hot needle. This less-than graceful scene was a testament to Hellè’s mental grit and determination to make this business her future.