Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

Supermodel. Pop singer. First lady of France.

Majalla - London

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, former supermodel, French pop star, mother of two, wife of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, was never a typical first lady — even for a country where that title is not an official designation.

Bruni was born in Italy into a family of wealthy Italian industrialists and moved to France at the age of seven. In the late 1980s, Bruni was a muse for clothing designers such as Gianni Versace. Her most memorable fashion campaigns had her depicting a glamorous Amazon of sorts, sporting looks which reflected a very 1980s socio-economical mindset—one that pushed the idea of power dressing for working women in an era of excess. After becoming one of the world’s highest-paid catwalk stars and walking the runway for nearly a decade, she left modelling behind to make music. She wrote several songs for Julien Clerc that were featured on his 2000 album, Si j'étais elle. Her 2003 debut album—Quelqu’un m’a dit—pushed her own left-leaning agenda; on the song “Tout le monde,”she considers the value of socialism. It eventually spent thirty-four weeks in the top 10 of the French Albums Chart. Bruni won the Victoire Award for Female Artist of the Year at the 2007 Victoires de la Musique. The same year, Bruni released her second album, No Promises.

When she married Mr. Sarkozy in 2008 following a whirlwind romance of just 80 days. — a move that both astonished and semi-scandalized the French (there was speculation that their whirlwind romance and union were a contractual arrangement for publicity purposes) — and moved directly into the presidential home and within a few days the Left-leaning Carla made it clear that she would maintain her singing career while supporting her new husband in his official duties. She soon turned into a devout conservative wife who shared her husband’s Right-wing views on almost everything. She continued to write and record songs, and released her third album, Comme si de rien n’était, (“As If Nothing Happened”) that summer — just as her husband’s popularity was slumping in reaction to his proposed economic reforms.

While her style and looks impressed everybody during an early trip to meet the Queen in Windsor, much was also made of her long list of celebrity ex-lovers including Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. This set the tone for a controversial year which saw Carla make an impassioned television denial that she was making political decisions. It followed weeks of speculation that she has growing influence on the president, deciding on everything from ministerial firings to which personal trainer he uses.

As first lady, Bruni used her voice to criticize Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on HIV/AIDS and publicly denounced Iran’s decision to sentence Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman who was charged with adultery, to death by stoning.

She stepped up her life in the limelight after Mr Sarkozy lost the May 2012 presidential election to his Socialist rival. Her entry into the debate about women’s place in society in 2012 raised some eyebrows. She declared “We don’t need to be feminist in my generation.” Instead she suggests a woman’s place is in the home with her children. Her typically forthright declarations did not go down well with feminists, or those from less privileged backgrounds.

In 2017, at age 49, Bruni returned to the recording studio—with a new album called French Touch, which features 11 stripped-down, folk-flavoured songs performed in English.

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