May 11, 1998 12:00 PM

Celine Balitran snagged Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor (and PEOPLE’S 1997 Sexiest Man Alive) without even trying:—and George Clooney likes her just the way she is. That means little makeup (“just powder,” she says), little exercise (her preferred sport is Rollerblading) and no dieting. “The most important part of the meal for me is dessert,” says the 5’8″ Parisian. “I love chocolate cake and cheesecake.” Sounds like a sweetheart deal.

The pair met in Paris in 1996 while Clooney was filming The Peacemaker. He stopped into Barfly, a trendy nightclub where Balitran, now 23, waited tables while attending law school. A few months later she left behind her parents (mother Annie works in a law office, father Alain owns a travel agency) and four siblings to follow Clooney to L.A., where she volunteers part-time as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant. She also signed with Ford Models last June and recently wrapped a Gap commercial. “She has this fresh, bubbly look that’s very appealing.” says agency CEO Katie Ford.

Balitran indulges in weekly manicures and pedicures. “I like to feel clean, to take off skin,” she says. “I try to look pretty. I know people judge me by how I look.” Yet just because she accompanies Clooney down red carpets doesn’t mean that she borrows dresses or hires stylists: “I do my own hair and makeup. I know exactly what I want. Besides, I’m not an actress. I don’t have to look as good as they do. I just like to look classy.”

And does she ever succeed. “There’s a warmth and innocence to her, and yet, she’s a lady,” observes Clooney pal and Spin City star Richard Kind. “Around the house she’s never really dressed up. Then when you see her in long, beautiful gowns you say, ‘What kind of woman has appeared before me?’ She is Gigi!”

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