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On the sixth day of Paris Fashion Week, an unwelcome prankster in a tweed suit darted onto the Chanel catwalk set under the beautiful art nouveau arches of the Grand Palais at the Champs-Élysées.
Her name is Marie Benoliel, better known as Marie S’Infiltre, a self-described YouTube “infiltrator” who creates comedic videos to mock French bourgeoisie.
Except, the crowd of Chanel-clad fashion editors, influencers, and celebrities in attendance Tuesday morning didn’t find the stunt—which Benoliel bragged she pulled just to prove she could—funny. In fact, to some the disruption was unsettling. “I got a little scared when homegirl flew out there,” Cardi B. admitted after the show.
In a split-second reactionary move described by Bella Hadid as “iconic,” a miffed Gigi Hadid steered the unwelcome interloper off the stage. Chanel collaborator Carine Roitfeld also praised the model’s heroics, writing on Instagram: “Gigi saves the finale of the Chanel show from a catwalk crasher!”
When reached via email by ELLE.com, Benoliel complains that Hadid was “quite aggressive” to her, but refused to reveal what was actually said during their confrontation. Benoliel does say she thought Hadid might pull her hair and yell “as if we were school girls.” However video evidence shows the model reacting like a calm bodyguard of sorts, placing a hand on Benoliel’s shoulder and guiding her to the exit. “She clearly did not understand my comic approach,” says Benoliel. “Gigi is obviously sublime and a fashion icon and I understand her reaction somewhat and continue to love her in spite of that.”
Benoliel’s outfit, a black and white two-piece she claims is vintage Chanel, came from her mother’s closet. They both share, she says, a deep respect for the brand. The prank, she insists, was actually done as a “tribute.”
“What I do is an exhaustive satire about our society,” says Benoliel, who cites Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen as her inspiration. “I immerse myself in public events or situations… to show how funny some situations and sometimes extreme behaviors are. I am not making fun of people, I am pointing how silly some people can be when they lack distance and thinking.”
This wasn’t her first stunt this Paris Fashion Week. Last week, she strutted down lingerie brand Etam’s catwalk and uploaded a clip to YouTube, where it’s been viewed over 169,000 times. Benoliel has developed a large following both on YouTube (228,000 subscribers) and Instagram (202,000 followers), where she posts proof of her controversial stunts and all of which have received mixed responses.
Her “infiltration” of a Gay Pride parade received backlash on YouTube for being insulting to the LGBTQ+ community. Her response? “The video is both a crude caricature of homophobic behavior… and deals with humor with the exuberance inherent in the Pride, its freedom and its eccentricity.”
When she crashed a Burning Man orgy in 2017, a Burner started a petition to have her remove a clip of it. “Absolutely appalled by the woman who made this,” wrote someone on the petition’s page. Another called it “disgraceful and disrespectful.”
Thanks to Hadid, Benoliel was halted before she could further derail the momentous occasion for Karl Lagerfeld’s successor Virginie Viard, who was described by ELLE’s fashion features director Véronique Hyland in last year’s December issue as his “secret weapon.” Viard was named Chanel’s new head designer back in February and Tuesday’s show was her first ready-to-wear collection. Before he died, Lagerfeld, speaking to Hyland, described his relationship with Viard as “essential, doubled by a very real friendship and affection.”
Benoliel plays coy about how she managed to sneak into the Grand Palais event: “I left as I came, as a chameleon.” But because she was dressed in the brand’s signature monochrome tweed, it’s entirely possible she was able to evade security upon entering just by blending in. According to a Chanel spokesperson, after she was caught, Benoliel was “escorted to the exit by our security personnel.”
When asked if she plans to make this an annual stunt, Benoliel says “Why not?” but remains mum on which brand she’ll target at Paris Fashion Week 2020. With all the attention she’s receiving, it’ll be much harder to go incognito next year.