Remember the summer of 2010 and Michelle Obama’s holiday jaunt to Spain with her two daughters and a select group of friends which unleashed a storm of criticism, with accusations of jet-set living at taxpayer expense even as millions of Americans struggled to make ends meet in a lagging economy.
“Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette…than an average mother of two,” drummed Andrea Tantaros in The New York Daily News, gifting headlines like ‘Let them eat Tapas’.
Well, Michelle Obama has had a good presidential election in 2012. And the French, home of that same Marie Antoinette, absolutely adore her.
You see, the lovely Carla Bruni was a tough act to follow after Président Nicholas Sarkozy exited the Elysée Palace.
She’s now the villain in a new biography out last month (October) La Frondeuse (The Troublemaker). The book details the bedroom farce of French political life and reveals that Valérie had an affair with a minister in former Président Sarkozy’s government.
Enter a new first lady in the unlikely shape of black American Michelle Obama.
In contrast, the French see Michelle Obama as beautiful, intelligent, funny, smiling; a perfect marriage, two lovely daughters “whom she has been able to protect from the turbulence of power and fame” – or so says the author of a different biography, “Michelle Obama, L’Icone Fragile” by Sophie Coignard and launched this month (November).
Coignard is one of France’s best-selling and most prolific non-fiction authors. The book is being heavily promoted in newspapers, TV talk shows and magazines (“Michelle has won the duel of the first ladies,” enthused the magazine Paris Match on the cover of a recent issue).
According to Forbes, for the French, this first lady can do no wrong. In France, for so long less than enthusiastic about the U.S. and its world influence, she ranks alongside American idols like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, and according to a Forbes article, has for the French that “air of beauty and elegance not seen since Jackie Kennedy.”
It’s a long way and in the right direction from the Spanish trip.
Posted by: Judith Ingleton-Beer @ IBA