America’s fascination with Grace Kelly through the eyes of the U.S. Ambassador to Monaco.
IN 2018, MONACO JUMPED twenty spots to Number 139 on the list of U.S. top trade partners. The bilateral trade in goods between the two countries rose to $324.08 million—a 150.88% increase over the previous year—according to a WorldCity analysis of latest U.S. Census Bureau data.
No one cites these figures better than Jamie D. McCourt, the U.S. Ambassador to Monaco and France, and former co-owner, president, and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
A self-admitted tomboy—“when I was nine I declared to my family that I was going to buy a baseball team”—McCourt knows how to play hardball. As the founder and CEO of Jamie Enterprises, she has worn the hat of entrepreneur, real estate developer, and philanthropist, although with a law degree from the University of Maryland School, she started her path as a lawyer. “I did it as a favor to my father, but I hated it,” she shares over a late lunch at the Bar Americain. Fourteen years later, she went on to pick up a Master of Science in Management Studies at MIT Sloan School of Management. There were only six women in her year.
The mother of four boys believes women need to empower other women. From 2005 to 2011, she taught the first accredited graduate level leadership course for women, “The Pursuit of Leadership: A Female Perspective,” at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Her message: “Be your own startup.”
“Women are really uncomfortable talking about money because we were taught to believe it’s not lady-like to do so. We never admit that it’s okay to be ambitious and to want money, that we deserve what we work for.”
And McCourt is the perfect example. Having perfected the art of zigzagging, picking up a whole slew of degrees and various Board positions along the way (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Centre Pompidou Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Art and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts), McCourt is both accomplished and engaging, and tells it like it is. “I have no illusions that people are happy to be with me because they’re with me, they’re happy to be with the Ambassador.”
She sells herself short. Appointed Ambassador to Monaco and France in November 2017, McCourt, unlike her predecessor, is fluently bilingual. A long- time Francophile, she studied French from junior high through to her undergraduate studies at Georgetown University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science.
In between, there were several trips to France, where she received a diploma from the Sorbonne and studied gastronomy in Aix-en-Provence. Her passion for food and wine is not a casual footnote on her resumé: she bought a vineyard in Napa Valley and wrote the cookbook “Jamie’s Road: Cooking in a Crowded Life.”
“You learn so much about people and their energy by watching them eat. Even with the Dodgers, I wouldn’t interview without food,” the Ambassador says.
On April 15, the Ambassador had planned a lively cooking event bringing together Food Bloggers and Americans in Paris on business, but the flames at Notre Dame Cathedral abruptly put an end to the initiative. The Californian is no stranger to devastating fires but admits she was shaking as she watched on TV the spire come tumbling down. “The Cathedral is one of those places with a history tied to so many different kinds of people, not just in France.
“When we were allowed to visit the Cathedral the next morning, I was mostly shocked by how much was still standing,that the firefighters were able to save as much of the building. From the front it looks the same, except for the spire.”
IT HAD BEEN A BUSY WEEK for Ambassador McCourt. After three days of fielding calls and questions about the fire, she was in Monaco to attend “Grace Kelly 90 Years,” a tribute by 50 American artists showcasing 50 unique works on the terrace of the Prince’s Car Collection Museum in Fontvieille.
The Ambassador had the formidable task of explaining what Grace Kelly, who would have turned 90 this November, symbolizes to Americans.
When Grace Kelly wed Prince Rainier on April 19, 1956, the Oscar-winner wore a fairy-princess bridal gown, a gift from MGM studios, and a uniquely designed circular veil that provided maximum visibility of her face to the 600 guests,including Cary Grant and Aristotle Onassis, and 30 million TV viewers. For American women, Monaco instantaneously became a mecca for finding Prince Charming and his castle.
The Ambassador, whose own mother turns 90 this year, grew up in Baltimore, an hour away from Philadelphia and the Kelly family. She spent childhood summers at the beach in Atlantic City, the same place Grace of Monaco took her children, including her only son, Prince Albert.
“Everyone felt close to Princess Grace, as if we knew her. When I was young, we talked about her as if she were coming for tea with us,” she would remark later that evening in front of Prince Albert, and other invitees, actors Patrick Duffy and Linda Evans, and Monaco resident Dame Shirley Bassey.
“Grace Kelly was more than an actress, more than a princess, and much more than a link between the United States and Monaco. Tonight we have discovered many tributes that testify to the fascination we always feel for this iconic figure.”