Carla Bruni is the ex-First Lady of France. I feel kind of bad for her, because I think she enjoyed being FLOF and because I think Nicolas Sarkozy got a raw deal on the media coverage of his personal life when it turns out that his successor François Hollande had just as much – if not more – girl drama. Still, that doesn’t help Carla that much. She spent the year of Sarko’s presidential tenure pregnant and then as a second-time-around 40-something mother to a baby girl (and she really wanted a boy, and she was vocal about it too). So Carla sat down with Vanity Fair to talk about media coverage of her pregnancy, politics and babies.
“They say, ‘She’s fat.’ They get really nasty. Nothing is out of bounds,” Carla Bruni tells Vanity Fair’s Maureen Orth in the June issue about how she was criticized in the press for her appearance immediately following the birth of her daughter, Giulia. Bruni, who tells Orth she was particularly stung by these comments, states, “It was a very fragile moment in my life. I’m kind of tall, with good-size shoulders, and when I am 40 pounds overweight, I don’t even look fat—I just look ugly. Having children when you’re older is not easy.”
Forced to balance the constant campaign appearances with the needs of her newborn, Bruni says, “I was dead. Breast-feeding the little girl, waking up every two hours at night because she was hungry. And then during the day following my man. Exactly at the time of my life when I would beg not to be photographed. It becomes like a war.”
When Orth mentions Bruni’s having made headlines for leaving the Élysée Palace for the last time wearing a nondescript pantsuit and T-shirt that caused speculation that she was subtly telegraphing, “Good riddance. I’ve had it,” Bruni responds, “Not at all. Those were the only pants I could get into!”
Being a mother at 43 may have been difficult, but Bruni proudly shows Orth a picture of Giulia.
“She is so Sarkozy,” she says. “Nicolas has found his master. I think between our age and the fact that she’s a girl, we’re both melting, basically, you know?”
“That’s crazy,” Bruni tells Orth in response to rumors that Bruni would leave Sarkozy once he was no longer in power. In fact, Bruni states, the opposite is actually true, “because power was one of the problems that we had to face together. Power is not a pleasure. It makes you vulnerable.”
She continues, “Power is brutal, and you have to be very structured inside to cope with power without getting blown away.” Bruni, who describes her style as First Lady as “laid-back” and “non-interfering,” says she “never used that power I was supposed to have, not even one day.”
Bruni tells Orth the only times she ever actively involved herself was to “help people sometimes—when people asked me for help, people who were in hospitals or in difficult situations.”
In response to the rumors that she was angry and resentful when her husband lost the election and that she believed people had let him down, Bruni responds, “I don’t think anger is a solution . . . . You can’t get married to a man like Nicolas, being in the position I was when I married him, without having to face brutality and violence. But it’s a very strange type of brutality, because it’s only related to your image, not to yourself.”
Bruni says she took her cue from Sarkozy, who remained undaunted after he lost the election. “On May 7, the day after the election, he said, ‘O.K., let’s travel, and then I’m going to learn to speak English.’ And I said, ‘We’re half dead. We should rest,’ and he said no, no, no, he didn’t need to.”
Bruni says she is still in therapy—“[d]ouble the doses,” she playfully tells Orth. “I think I will be there until I die.” Bruni believes therapy is all about taking responsibility and tells Orth, “If we talk now and we disagree, for instance, there’s nothing I can do about you disagreeing, right? I can try to convince you, but there is nothing I can do. But there is something I can do about me.”
She continues, “It brings me to lucidity, because there’s nothing I can do to change someone else, but there is something I can do to change myself. And I like this type of work because with aging, if there is no philosophy, there’s no serenity, there’s no wisdom, there’s nothing but falling apart. Wrinkles without wisdom are boring. I want to become mature. I want to become wise.”
When Orth asks whether Bruni hopes to return to the Élysée Palace, Bruni responds, “Neither my choice nor my opinion counts in such a matter.” She continues, “It’s very much up first of all to France and then to my husband and to my husband’s work, to my husband’s life. I can only follow him.”
I thought Carla made a very attractive pregnant woman, and I remember feeling bad for her when I saw all of the photos of Carla campaigning with Sarko just after she had given birth. It must have been a difficult time for her. It makes me sort of wistful too… it would be fun to have a FLOTUS who was still having babies in the White House. As for all of the other stuff… I think Sarko will run again, right? Especially if people get sick of François Hollande and his girl drama – but is his girl drama even a big story in France? I don’t know. And admitting that she’ll spend the rest of her life in therapy… well, that’s not something an American First Lady would be able to admit.
Photos courtesy of Vanity Fair and WENN.