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Teenage hopefuls hope to be found

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Cannes (Reuters): Teenagers Jamila and Claudia spent weeks choosing their outfits for the Cannes film festival. Now they line the beach with hundreds of other girls, hoping to be discovered. ''I want to be part of the jet set crowd. I want to be a VIP,'' said 15-year-old Claudia Sorrentino, wearing a miniskirt and skinny top as she scanned Cannes' main Croisette boulevard for famous actors and producers. Competition among the filmstar wannabes is stiff as swarms of young girls descend on Cannes, hoping for a chance encounter with actors like Bruce Willis or Keanu Reeves or to be discovered by one of the many directors in town.

Claudia said the main thing was to stand out from the crowd. ''You mustn't have any shame. Try to get into every party. And just talk to anyone who looks vaguely important,'' she said. ''Be special,'' said her friend Jamila Smoini, 19, who works in a home for the elderly in southern Toulon while dreaming of a Hollywood career. ''Even before the festival, we think about what to wear, how to style our hair.'' Although the girls are determined to keep pestering doormen and spend hours strutting past giant yachts and exclusive parties to get noticed, starlets who have actually made it to the top doubt the girls' strategy will pay off.

''You need good connections or be very lucky to have someone spot you on the beach. It happens but it's not very usual,'' said Jelena Mandic, a model from Serbia, as she walked past crowds of teenaged girls on the sun-kissed boulevard. ''You have a million pretty girls, but only one of them will become a top model. The others are just surviving,'' Mandic told Reuters, adding she advised the teenagers to be realistic. ''Stay true to yourself. Finish school, university. That's it. Try to do a lot of things in life. The modelling and the acting is not the most important and only thing in life.''

Dita von Teese, the burlesque-dancing wife of shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, said to make yourself known it was important not to go with the mainstream, but to develop your own style. ''There are so many young beautiful starlets,'' she told Reuters. ''How great would it be if they did not always pay attention to what was the right and appropriate thing to wear? If they just let loose and wore what they really wanted to wear.'' School girls Lisa and Amelie, wearing sunglasses and tight jeans, said they cared about their clothes. But their special trick to attract potential star-scouts was to break into song on the street, the bus or on the beach, they said. ''It would be my dream to be on the front cover of a magazine,'' said 15-year-old Amelie Bonfigio, starting a timidly voiced song with Lisa as bemused tourists stood by. Amelie said Italian actress Monica Bellucci was her idol.

Further down the boulevard, Claudia's plans to become famous did not seem to be based on a successful acting or singing career. ''To be honest, Paris Hilton is my perfect model,'' the energetic teenager said, referring to the media-savvy hotel heiress. ''She has charm and is classy. She has everything. We have nothing, really,'' she added. Claudia said she was not angry at other girls trying to grab the limelight at Cannes. ''In the end, we're all the same,'' she said.

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