Biography says French first lady's demure image is facade

11th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

An unauthorised biography of French first lady Carla Bruni paints an unflattering picture of the Italian ex-supermodel claiming she lives a solitary life, neglects her charitable works and forces her husband to socialise with her former lovers.

"Carla, A Secret Life" by former journalist Besma Lahouri discloses that following her marriage to President Nicolas Sarkozy a presidential adviser was assigned to help rebrand Bruni, whose former lovers include Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, as a demure political wife.

It also alleges that Bruni, 43, has had extensive plastic surgery despite denials, and had a 20-year relationship with a Paris surgeon.

The disclosures appeared in a report Saturday in British newspaper The Times, which has been given the book ahead of publication along with the French weekly Marianne.

Describing, Bruni as a "female Don Juan", the book, which the author says the Elysee Palace tried to discourage, says she has maintained contact with former paramours.

"Since he married the woman that some called a 'man-eater', (Mr Sarkozy) has to put up every day with this burdensome tribe. Singers, philosophers, lawyers, bosses, men of the press or politics."

No less than three such men were house guests at Bruni's Riviera villa last year during Sarkozy's first holiday there.

Bruni had finally met her match in her marriage to Sarkozy with a "man even more unpredictable than her", Lahouri said.

After their whirlwind romance and 2008 marriage, the Elysee Palace embarked on a carefully managed image makeover of the new first lady led by presidential aide Pierre Charon.

"Carla had warned me 'they are going to say a lot of things about me, about my past life. Things, photographs are going to come out'... So we had to help give her a new image. That of a shy young woman...," he told Lahouri.

That image was successfully projected during Bruni's state visit to London in March 2008 when she was feted by the British media for her effortless chic.

Behind the scenes, however, the book says she lives a solitary life and Lahouri describes her foundation to fight AIDS as "an empty shell".

Lahouri, also the author of a best-selling biography on French footballer Zinedine Zidane, spent two years interviewing family friends and Bruni colleagues.

She found her to be "attractive and impetuous, free and calculating... faithful in friendship and fickle in love."

But she added that she believed Bruni's true nature was a long way from that of the "well-brought up girl with her head bowed".

"I did not set out to be unkind but to reveal what she really is... The image of Carla Bruni is totally false," she said.

Lahouri says Charon attempted to deter her from writing the book, warning her, "It's not worth it. It's too complicated."

The Elysee had also tried to obtain a copy of the manuscript and was now hinting at possible legal action, she said.

The book is in contrast to another biography due to be published this month which was produced with Bruni's cooperation.

In "Carla et les Ambitieux" (Carla and the Ambitious), authors Yves Derai and Michael Darmon concentrate instead on her life as first lady.

Lahouri's biography will be published on Wednesday by Flammarion.

© 2010 AFP

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