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When Paris met Chantal Biya(The Wife of the World's 19th most Evil Dictator)

When Paris met Chantal Biya(The Wife of the World's 19th most Evil Dictator)

Welcome, stardust-seekers, and do feast your eyes on Chantal Biya - your new favourite presidential second wife. I'm sorry, Carla. But you had a good run.

The picture is datelined Beverly Hills, Tuesday, and we shall come to its breakout star's business with Paris Hilton shortly. But first, you should know that Chantal is married to Cameroonian president Paul Biya, 76, and that she always dresses as Chaka Khan by way of the Carrington mansion.

Yes, Paul is a little older than her - 38 years to be precise. And, yes, he is said to lack the charisma of Robert Mugabe, though he has been ranked the world's 19th most evil dictator.

And yes, there are those who carp that the second Mrs Biya does not possess the sainted grace of her husband's first wife, Jeanne-Irene. Lost in Showbiz has immersed itself in all things Chantal this week, and was quite agog at the Cameroonian blogger who whispered about all the goings-on up at the presidential palace.

But who are these shadowy underminers, if not the internet equivalent of Mrs Danvers, hellbent on terrorising sweet, innocent Chantal into thinking that she can never measure up?

[ Chantal Biya and Paris Hilton ]

Fine, maybe all public references to her predecessor have disappeared. But Paul has been president since 1982 - can't a girl redecorate? And Chantal is totally interested in alleviating suffering and stuff, and even has some kind of pro-government youth movement called Jeunesse Active Pour Chantal Biya. I love how it sounds like a really expensive anti-cellulite product.

Chantal is also part of something called African Synergy, which comprises the wives of 22 of the continent's heads of state, and was established in 2002 to share experiences and ideas on HIV and other scourges. It was in this capacity that she journeyed to Beverly Hills this week, where she and the other first ladies met various thinktank representatives and celebrities.

Why Beverly Hills? Well, according to African Synergy executive director Jean Stephane Biatcha: "They thought that by coming to Los Angeles, some of the inspiration that inspires movie makers could also inspire them in their objectives." Say what, Biatcha?! "Maybe they will go back with something concrete." Mm. Or something from Rodeo Drive.

Also in attendance was our own Sarah Brown, who clearly felt awkward enough to begin her speech on African maternal healthcare by pointing out the incongruity between the surroundings and the cause, as though there was something faintly compromising about taking cocktails with Paris Hilton in a Beverly Hills ballroom before tucking into a 37-course banquet prepared by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Come come, Mrs Brown - that's fauxlanthropy. As long as they don't show a film of emaciated kids while you're actually eating, it's a top night. You'd have been much better off going for an icebreaker such as "Waiter! There's a conflict diamond in my soup ..."

But back to the No 1 First Ladies Synergy Summit - now with added Hilton. Of course, it was only a couple of years ago that Paris announced she would be undertaking a mercy mission to Rwanda, though she has yet to synchronise diaries with that scarred country. Doubtless Cameroon is less of a downer, though she may prefer to visit her new friend Chantal in Geneva, where Lost in Showbiz understands the Biyas prefer to pass their time.

Other highlights of this historic conference? Well, Sharon Stone was due to moderate a panel "aimed at transforming words into action". Alas, on the basis of her previous public utterances, Sharon can't even transform words into sense. But here's hoping she at least avoided suggesting African infant mortality rates are the result of karma.

One notable absentee was Geri Halliwell, the goodwill ambassador whom you will recall the UN has designated as the answer to the crisis in sub-Saharan maternal healthcare. Geri was photographed buying plants at a north London Homebase this week, so we must assume her omission to have been some hideous oversight.

As for what Paris and our beloved Chantal discussed, who can say? Initially, Lost in Showbiz hazarded that the celebutante was interrogating the first lady on Cameroon's human rights record, or the fact that one of sub-Saharan Africa's biggest private sector investments - the ExxonMobil-operated oil pipeline running from Chad through Cameroon to the export terminal on its coast - has been cited by Amnesty International and others for its markedly detrimental impact on Cameroon's indigenous people.

Then again, ExxonMobil was the organising partner of the summit, and threw the fancy gala at which the pair are pictured. So I think they probably just talked about Paris's dogs or whatever. As long as a good time was had by all, that's the main thing.