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Carla Bruni: from catwalk to Elysee

France's new first lady Carla Bruni is a rich Italian heiress who moved from a successful career as a supermodel in the 1990s to that of a ballad singer with a hit record.

world Updated: Feb 02, 2008 21:03 IST
Paul Ricard
Paul Ricard

France's new first lady Carla Bruni is a rich Italian heiress who moved from a successful career as a supermodel in the 1990s to that of a ballad singer with a hit record.

The mayor of the eighth arrondissement of Paris, which takes in the Elysee presidential palace, said on Saturday that he had married President Nicolas Sarkozy and Bruni, after a whirlwind romance of barely three months.

The tall 40-year-old brunette has been romantically linked to a string of famous men including rock stars Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton as well as tycoon Donald Trump.

"I am a tamer (of men), a cat, an Italian," she told Le Figaro magazine in February last year. "Monogamy bores me terribly."

"I am monogamous from time to time but I prefer polygamy and polyandry," its female equivalent.

She briefly paired up with Paris lawyer Arno Klarsfeld, who later became a member of Sarkozy's inner circle, before starting a relationship with editor Jean-Paul Enthoven and later becoming involved with his son.

Bruni has a six-year-old son, Aurelien, from her relationship with philosopher Raphael Enthoven.

Enthoven's ex-wife Justine Levy, who is the daughter of philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, published a 2004 novel with a character based on Bruni: a man-eater described as "beautiful and bionic, with the eyes of a killer" and "an immobile face, as if sculpted in wax".

Born into a wealthy Turin tyre-manufacturing family, Bruni made a second fortune in modelling, becoming one of the world's best paid models at the height of her catwalk career.

According to an industry magazine, she was earning more than seven million dollars a year in the late 1990s, alongside the likes of Claudia Schiffer, with clients such as Italian fashion house Dolce and Gabbana.

Bruni was raised by Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, a classical composer, industrialist and thea tre director while her mother Marysa Borini is a concert pianist and actress.

Her biological father is Italian businessman Maurizio Remmert, who had a six-year affair with Borini and currently lives in Brazil.

Bruni was the youngest of three children; the eldest, a brother, died of cancer in 2006, while her elder sister, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is a successful actress.

The family moved to France in the 1970s when Carla was five, at a time when wealthy Italians faced a real threat of kidnapping from the Red Brigades, a left-wing militant group.

The young girl attended a finishing school in Switzerland and then studied art in Paris. She is fluent in Italian, French and English.

With age catching up on her fashion career, Bruni branched out into music in 1999 by contributing lyrics to an album by French singer Julien Clerc.

Her first album, released in 2002 under the title Quelqu'un m'a dit (Somebody told me), was a surprise hit, selling over one million copies and earning her in 2004 the title of top female music artist in France.

Strumming her acoustic guitar, Bruni delivers simple, smoky-voiced songs, mostly about love, in a genre some critics have described as French folk music.

But her second offering, No Promises, released last year and based on texts by poets such WB Yeats and Emily Dickinson, did less well.

Bruni places herself firmly on the political left, making her an unlikely match for the right-wing Sarkozy.

She told a British newspaper last year that she planned to vote for Sarkozy's rival Segolene Royal in the May 2007 presidential election, and signed a petition against a law introducing DNA tests for the families of immigrants wishing to join them in France.

"What would have happened if my parents had been forced to undergo a DNA test?" she asked in an interview to Elle magazine.

Bruni reportedly met Sarkozy at a Paris dinner party organised by advertising magnate Jacques Seguela in November, one month after his divorce from his second wife Cecilia Ciganer-Albaniz.

Photographs of the pair at the Disneyland theme park outside Paris were splashed in newspapers and magazines a month later, confirming Bruni as Sarkozy's new "queen of hearts".

Bruni later accompanied Sarkozy on vacation to Egypt and Jordan.