French may get first working mum as First Lady
PARIS, May 3 — The unmarried woman set to become France’s First Lady if Francois Hollande is elected president as expected on Sunday says she will happily play a supporting role but above all she wants to remain a journalist and a working mother.
Valerie Trierweiler, 47, dares to think she can couple the ceremonial role with a long-term media career and continue to provide for three teenage sons the twice-divorced reporter had before she and Hollande formed a couple several years ago.
The Paris Match magazine reporter, who has put her work on ice for now, insists that being a celebrity is more of a chore than an ambition, and could impinge on life’s simple pleasures, such as unnoticed sorties to her local food market.
“Being First Lady is playing supporting act,” Trierweiler told Reuters in an interview. “I am not seeking notoriety and I am not seeking to grab the limelight”.
Trierweiler, who bears a resemblance to late American actress Katharine Hepburn, says people have recently started asking for pictures and autographs. She is happy to do so but still wonders why they ask.
Her trademark dark sunglasses are to shield her sensitive eyes, she said. In an interview in a women’s magazine, she also said the only big-label designer dress she ever wore was borrowed for an Elysee Palace dinner in the time of late President Francois Mitterrand.
Change of guard
If opinion polls are right, Hollande should unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy on May 6, and Trierweiler would take over as First Lady from Carla Bruni, a singer and former supermodel who wedded Sarkozy in 2008, shortly after he won power.
As there is no formal job description, it’s a case of making it up as you go along, says Trierweiler.
In Bruni’s case, marriage in early 2008 came months after she met the freshly divorced Sarkozy. Some of the glamour that won Sarkozy the nickname “president bling bling” early in his term has given way to greater sobriety since Bruni had a baby girl last year, and as election day loomed larger.
Trierweiler says she and Hollande first met 23 years ago when she was a political reporter, and their romance — they are not married — also began well before he seemed likely to run for the presidency.
It was Trierweiler, a self-confessed “news junkie”, who shook Hollande out of his slumber on the night of May 14-15 last year to tell him that the then Socialist presidential favourite, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, had been arrested in New York on charges, since dropped, of trying to rape a hotel maid.
That terminated Strauss-Kahn’s presidential ambitions, leaving Hollande in pole position.
Hollande split officially in 2007 from Segolene Royal, who had four children with him and was the unsuccessfully Socialist candidate against Sarkozy in the election of that year.
Hollande and Trierweiler remain coy about their status as an unmarried couple in a world where wedlock is so entrenched that the French duo may make life complicated for those who worry about the protocol of state visits.
No turning back
Trierweiler used to swim up to 2km a day but no longer has the time, she told women’s magazine Femme Actuelle. She relishes when she and Hollande find enough time to take a country walk or eat dinner on the sofa in front of a movie or the prime-time news on a Sunday night.
She presents herself as a “disinterested, simple” person. Some say she is distant to the point of appearing cold.
Trierweiler says it is up to her to bring in money needed to rear a family and the job gives her a sense of fulfilment too.
“I want to work and I have to work,” she told Reuters.
As she awaits the outcome of the May 6 ballot, Trierweiler admits that nothing will be quite the same, either way.
“Whatever happens on Sunday, merely thinking of it makes my legs buckle,” she said.
If it goes the expected way, it will be even harder to go to a cafe incognito for a drink with friends.
On that front, Trierweiler might feel tempted to take a leaf out of Bruni’s book. The current first lady recently revealed in a magazine interview that she wears a wig at times to remain unnoticed when taking the subway train and it works wonders.
Whatever the incursion that can come with First Lady duties, Trierweiler says, quoting a famous Edith Piaf song: “Je ne regrette rien” (I’ve no regrets). — Reuters