In three months, Carla Bruni has metamorphosed from catwalk femme fatale into France’s first lady, giving up her high-heels, rustling up a new wardrobe — and shelving her steamy talk of polygamy.
As President Nicolas Sarkozy wraps up a roller-coaster first year in power humbled by a collapse in popularity, the 40-year-old supermodel-turned-singer has proved a hit with the French public in her new role at his side. People-watchers even see Bruni as the driving force behind Sarkozy’s recent style makeover, coaching him to shed the “Bling-Bling” tag earned for his flashy tastes and tone down his impetuous character to seem more statesmanlike.
“It is too soon to measure the wife’s influence on her husband. But there is no doubt it is strong,” said political analyst Philippe Braud, of Sciences Po institute in Paris.
The couple’s jet-setting romance and marriage in February was blamed for sending his ratings to a record low of 32 per cent.
But as Bruni skillfully choreographed her first state visits — from curtsying for Queen Elizabeth II to cradling orphans in Tunisia — commentators have started to talk admiringly of a “Carla Effect”. “The London trip was the turning point. She didn’t put a foot wrong,” said Braud. Armed with the know-how of her catwalk days, Bruni went for a demure, retro dress style — complete with flat pumps to avoid showing up the shorter Sarkozy — that drew admiring comparisons with Jackie Kennedy.
Observers said she has gently nudged Sarkozy towards better-tailored suits, elegant shirts — and away from his much-mocked luxury wristwatches and aviator sunglasses.