French media has long had a thing for First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Nowadays, however, the model turned pop singer is having to share the spotlight with another politician's partner, former television news presenter Valérie Trierweiler.
PARIS - One thinks her husband's speeches are "wonderful." The other swears she has "always been a François Hollande supporter." Neither Carla Bruni, Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, nor Valérie Trierweiler, François Hollande's companion, have held back when it comes to campaigning. Both have done thoughtful interviews, fired off biting tweets, and made numerous carefully selected appearances.
With the first round of voting in France's presidential election slated for Sunday, extra attention is being focused on the respective 40-something women behind the two candidates expected to make it through to the second round.
Singer and former model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has been married to the center-right French president since February 2008. The woman who once proclaimed that she was "deeply from the left" finally announced in January that she was ready to take a lead role in the presidential campaign. "The anti-Sarkozy phenomenon is only a Parisian elite phenomenon," she declared.
When their daughter, Giulia, was born in October, the couple remained discreet, as if Nicolas Sarkozy was trying to compensate for the bling-bling leadership style for which he was criticized at the beginning of his term in office. Only one stolen picture of the baby was published in Paris Match magazine, which led to angry criticism from Bruni-Sarkozy.
Another snag earlier this year: the left-leaning magazine Marianne accused her of receiving grants for her private association from the National Fund against AIDS. The first lady shot back on her website, noting that hers is a philanthropic association.
In mid-February, the singer spoke with (and posed for) the mass market TV Magazine, declaring herself and husband "modest people." The twittersphere went to town on that one.
Another media persona
Valérie Trierweiler, partner to Socialist party candidate François Hollande, is also playing the media-friendly game, but with a somewhat more chilly style. The well-known Paris Match journalist, 47, promotes her role as a working girl and a mother, doing the laundry and "fearing an empty fridge."
In a recent interview for the newspaper Libération, she defined herself as a "politically committed witness' and a "François Hollande supporter for a very long time." Nevertheless, she refuses to admit her influence to those who criticize her for having a desk in her companion's campaign headquarters.
Twitter is her preferential way of having her say, including lashing out at her old bosses after she was put on the front page of her own magazine without being told ahead of time. François Hollande defended her once, denouncing a "lack of elegance" when his partner was criticized by Nicolas Sarkozy.
Very little media attention has been paid to other candidates' partners. Even though the relationship between Marine Le Pen and Louis Alliot, No. 2 of her own far-right political party, is well known, she can't stand to hear him being called her "companion."
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Photo - BFMTV