Eloïse Bertil 06h00, 06 June 2023, modified at 06h02, 06 June 2023

INEDIT - At the age of 23, Yannick Noah won the Roland-Garros tournament and became a legend of French tennis. But quickly, this sudden notoriety that turns everything around him upside down makes him uncomfortable. In the podcast "Yannick Noah, between you and me", he confides for the first time about his complicated relationship to celebrity.

On June 5, 1983, Yannick Noah was crowned on the clay of Roland-Garros after a victory in the final against the Swede Mats Wilander. Very quickly, the tennis champion who grew up between France and Cameroon becomes an international star, and his whole world changes around him. At the microphone of Jacques Vendroux for Europe 1 in the podcast "Yannick Noah, between you and me", he reveals: "I had moments when notoriety weighed on me. The notoriety embarrassed me so much that I wanted to go into exile. I moved to the U.S. because I couldn't handle this constant thing. I couldn't find my place. Yannick disappeared and it was Yannick Noah."

His goal always achieved, Yannick Noah is looking for a new fight to animate it. "Once you have the car, the nanas, the best table, it's going for two minutes. I didn't feed on that at all. It's not my education, and it's not my 'trip'," he told Europe 1. In this whirlwind of solicitations and doubts, it is his mother Marie-Claire Noah, who will show him the way to give meaning to his notoriety. She has always done a lot for the community of Etoudi, a village on the outskirts of Yaoundé in Cameroon, where the roots of the Noah family are located, tells him about a project: that of setting up with him "Les Enfants de la terre", an association to help children in difficult situations. Yannick Noah tells how it all started: "My first project was a photo, a signature to be sponsor of an eight-well project in Northern Cameroon. Six months later, I saw this picture of kids around a well, and 'Thank you Yannick!' when I had done nothing about it. But I said to myself: this is the power of the image, of my image."

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He then became aware of the power conferred on him by his status as a legend of French sport, and decided to put it to good use... Even if it meant playing a compositional role in the media at the time. "I agreed to go and do some shows that seemed so empty to me. We pretended to laugh, we asked stupid questions... I sometimes felt like I was on the verge of prostitution," he admits in the podcast. He evokes in particular a forced passage on the tele-hook "Star Academy": "I did Star Academy and it was very painful because I really felt like a whore, to be there to sell a product. I sing. It's singing therapy and of course I want it to work. But it was a mandatory passage because it was a wonderful promotion of my project."

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If the game is worth the candle for Yannick Noah, it is because a simple appearance in the media is sometimes enough to make things happen. "I can sometimes do things that may seem light or playful or superficial to die for. But behind it, there are kids who watch this and for whom it matters, "he says in the podcast. His desire to serve the community of the village in which he grew up seems to be his driving force today: "I obviously have a small impact on what is happening today, because I have the means, the possibility and the desire both morally and spiritually, to make this place live for me and the generations that come after."

>> READ ALSO – Yannick Noah and Arthur Ashe: the story of a mythical double at Wimbledon

To listen in full to Yannick Noah's intimate and rare account of the strongest moments of his life, find the podcast "Yannick Noah, entre vous et moi" produced by Europe 1 Studio on your favorite listening platform.

Want to listen to the episodes of this podcast?

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