Rock Chick

Ser­e­nad­ing Sarkozy. Flash­ing on the cat­walk. Ooh la la... it’s Carla Bruni!

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE -

While liv­ing at the Élysée Palace in Paris with Ni­co­las Sarkozy, mod­el­turned- singer Carla Bruni liked to play her freshly com­posed tunes to her hus­band, then Pres­i­dent of France. One night, she was keen for his opin­ion on one song in par­tic­u­lar: Mon Ray­mond, a thinly dis­guised love let­ter to Sarkozy in which she com­pares his vigour to that of a ‘bombe atomique’ (when the song was re­leased, the French press ex­plained, not with­out sar­casm, that ‘ev­ery­one knows Ray­mond is an ac­cept­able nick­name for Ni­co­las’.)

‘ I write at night, so most of the time I would go into the bed­room with the gui­tar and ask him for his opin­ion. “Hey, wake up! Lis­ten to this!” And some­times he’d be asleep! And this is the Pres­i­dent! “I have to think about the econ­omy, I don’t want to think about Ray­mond!” So af­ter that I stopped wak­ing him up. But I think he liked it.’

In the song, Bruni de­scribes Ray­mond as ‘stun­ning... when he en­ters the room, good heav­ens, the air turns elec­tric’.

She also croons: ‘Al­though he wears a tie, my Ray­mond is a pirate/ He storms aboard for his prize, as if stak­ing his life for it.’

Are you sure the man dubbed Su­per­sarko wasn’t em­bar­rassed by all this emot­ing?

‘A ques­tion of is he ten­der enough?’

‘Men are not so used to be­ing muses,’ she says. ‘I could un­der­stand [em­bar­rass­ment] from some­one who is com­pletely pri­vate, like say a doc­tor or den­tist – and all of a sud­den his wife is a song­writer and she writes a song about him. “Oh my God, all my pa­tients are gonna know!” But for some­one as pub­lic as my hus­band, and with so many mean, stupid lies be­ing writ­ten about him, I think Ray­mond is nice! I think it’s not a prob­lem. Af­ter his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, Ray­mond is like a feather pass­ing by in the spring or sum­mer!’

Bruni, one of the world’s most glam­orous and beau­ti­ful women, and a for­mer lover of both Mick Jag­ger and Eric Clap­ton, met Sarkozy in late 2007 at a din­ner party. She was a hugely suc­cess­ful for­mer model and late-bloom­ing pop star ( her de­but al­bum, 2002’s Quelqu’Un M’A Dit/Some­one Told Me, sold two mil­lion copies). He was less than a year into his pres­i­dency and was in the process of di­vorc­ing his sec­ond wife, Cé­cilia Ci­ganer-Al­béniz. Bruni was also sin­gle, hav­ing split from her boyfriend Raphaël En­thoven. The pair chat­ted in­tently that night, and were soon dat­ing. They mar­ried in Fe­bru­ary 2008 and had a daugh­ter, Gi­u­lia, in 2011.

Did Bruni fear los­ing her hard-fought in­de­pen­dence when she first moved into the pres­i­den­tial palace? ‘It’s not a ques­tion of in­de­pen­dence be­cause I kept my in­de­pen­dence. It was a ques­tion of, is he ten­der enough for me? I like ten­der­ness. Life is bru­tal enough. But I saw his kind­ness and gen­eros­ity like that,’ she says about Sarkozy, snap­ping her fin­gers. ‘And he’s open, never judg­ing any­body. It’s funny be­cause I wasn’t re­ally into pol­i­tics but I’m much more judg­men­tal than he is. If some­one be­trays him he’s like [shrugs], “Oh you know, hu­man be­ings do that.” ’

That said, Bruni ad­mits that, as an artist, things were dif­fer­ent for her by the time she re­leased her third al­bum in 2008. ‘My man was still Pres­i­dent. But it didn’t re­ally af­fect my mu­sic. It af­fected more the pro­mo­tion – I couldn’t re­ally tour be­cause of the se­cu­rity rea­sons.’ But, she adds, ‘you know, five years goes fast’.

These days, her amour is out of of­fice (he was de­feated in 2012), but Bruni’s po­lice se­cu­rity de­tail re­mains in place – Sarkozy is still a pow­er­ful fig­ure on the French po­lit­i­cal scene, and ru­mours abound that he will again run for of­fice.

Nonethe­less, to­day Bruni, 46, is much freer to pur­sue her mu­si­cal am­bi­tions. She re­leased her fourth al­bum, Lit­tle French Songs, last year and has been tour­ing the world with her band. She has also made three one-hour doc­u­menta- ries on BBC Ra­dio 2, Post­cards From Paris.

Mean­while be­ing on the road is giv­ing Bruni a jolt of free­dom and she is clearly lov­ing the op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote the new al­bum. She en­ters the posh Parisian ho­tel suite the pic­ture of head-turn­ing el­e­gance – but is soon can­didly and hi­lar­i­ously be­moan­ing her fail­ing eye­sight and grey roots. Tall and lean, supremely con­fi­dent and sharp as a tack, Bruni is the ul­ti­mate yummy mummy, chic and glow­ing with beauty and brains.

It’s a com­bi­na­tion that helped pro­pel her to the very top of the modelling world. Her cur­rent low-key re­turn to the lime­light is in stark con­trast to those wild days when as one of the

hand­ful of su­per­mod­els – along with Naomi Camp­bell, Linda Evan­ge­lista, Christy Turling­ton, Cindy Craw­ford, He­lena Chris­tensen and Clau­dia Schif­fer – she dom­i­nated fash­ion in the Nineties.

To the young Carla, raised in priv­i­lege in Turin and then Paris (her fa­ther was a wealthy Ital­ian in­dus­tri­al­ist who re­lo­cated the fam­ily to France af­ter the left-wing ter­ror­ist group Red Bri­gade threat­ened to kid­nap the seven-year old Bruni), modelling was her pass­port to free­dom. Af­ter leav­ing school she stud­ied art and ar­chi­tec­ture at the pres­ti­gious Sor­bonne be­fore drop­ping out to pur­sue modelling.

‘It was my dream when I was young to go to New York, to Lon­don, to ev­ery sin­gle con­ti­nent,’ she says in the doc­u­men­tary. ‘So it was an easy way of trav­el­ling and in­de­pen­dence, which were the two things I re­ally craved when I was 18 years old… I mean, I was tall and thin enough, but apart from that I just wanted a job that took me away from home, be­cause my gen­er­a­tion all left home quite early. The new gen­er­a­tion stay with their par­ents. But our gen­er­a­tion were all gone at 18.

‘It’s the time of life when you’re free. When I look back at these years I only see the en­ergy of youth and the fun of be­ing young.’

Bruni be­came the face of cam­paigns for Ar­mani, Ver­sace, Gal­liano and many more be­sides, and a reg­u­lar cover star on glam­orous mag­a­zines all over the world. In­evitably, the young Bruni soon drew the at­ten­tion of some high- prof i le ad­mir­ers. In his 2007 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Eric Clap­ton wrote of fall­ing for the then 21-year-old model: ‘Very sexy… a re­mark­able fig­ure.’

They dated briefly at the be­gin­ning of the Nineties, but at a Rolling Stones party in New York, an­other age­ing rocker made a move. Clap­ton spotted Mick Jag­ger’s in­ter­est in Bruni and begged the Stones front­man to steer clear: ‘Please, Mick, not this one. I think I’m in love.’ The plead­ing fell on deaf ears. Within days, Bruni and Jag­ger had be­gun a clan­des- tine af­fair, a de­vel­op­ment that also didn’t go down well with Jerry Hall, with whom Jag­ger had four chil­dren.

Bruni and Jag­ger were lovers for seven or eight years. And speak­ing to Van­ity Fair in 2008, Bruni said she and the rocker re­mained friends af­ter the re­la­tion­ship ended.

‘I have a good re­la­tion­ship with all the boyfriends I had,’ she said. ‘Some­times I’m the god­mother of their chil­dren. I’m al­ways good friends with their wives.’

Al­though not, she ad­mit­ted, with Jerry Hall. ‘I never met her,’ she said. ‘And I was never

Clap­ton begged Jag­ger to steer clear

of­fi­cially Mick’s girl­friend. I was never into his fam­ily and all that.’

Modelling made Bruni world-fa­mous and turned her into a multi- mil­lion­aire. She ap­peared on some 250 mag­a­zine cov­ers and de­sign­ers couldn’t get enough of her. Re­flect­ing to­day, she downplays the su­per­model tag with typ­i­cal good hu­mour and mod­esty. ‘I hap­pened to be a model in this time where all the mod­els were so fa­mous. It had noth­ing to do with qual­ity, it had to do with the time. The me­dia were in­ter­ested in the mod­els.’

She re­calls one par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable Vivi­enne West­wood fash­ion show, where she was due on the cat­walk in a fake-fur coat and un­der­neath it a fake-fur g-string. ‘It looked very like, how can I say… from afar you could think, “Oh my God, this is not a g-string!”

‘And so I asked Linda [Evan­ge­lista], “What would you do with this out­fit if you were me?”’

Evan­ge­lista told her to walk half­way down the run­way with the coat firmly closed – then put her hands on her hips and let the coat flap open. ‘So that’s what I did! And they all thought it was me!’ she says, mean­ing the as­sem­bled fashionistas thought the fake fur of the g-string was any­thing but. ‘And it was this enor­mous

Above: Carla Bruni with hus­band and for­mer Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy in New York, 2008

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