France`s election of Socialist Party candidate François Hollande, 57, as president has drawn attention to Valerie Trierweiler, 47, who will become the country`s next first lady. She is different from her predecessors in many aspects.
For one, she is the partner of the president-elect, not his wife since they are not married, and will probably become the first single first lady in France. Moreover, she plans to keep her job as a journalist and raise her children even after entering the presidential mansion, effectively becoming the first “working mom” to serve as first lady.
Hollande is also set to become France`s single president since he won the election while living with Trierweiler as an unmarried couple after getting a divorce.
The U.K. daily Guardian said on its website Sunday, “If François Hollande has styled himself as Mr. Normal – recently photographed buying fruit compote in a Paris supermarket – and changed the image of conventional presidents during the campaign period, his partner, Valérie Trierweiler could revolutionize the unofficial role of France`s first lady.”
Trierweile’s life is typical of the French working class. She was born in Angers in 1965 as the fifth of six children of her disabled father and her mother, a ticket collector at an ice skating rink. After majoring in history and politics at Paris University I (Pantheon Sorbonne), she worked as reporter with Profession Politique, a political journal, and the weekly Paris Match.
Trierweiler earned fame as host of a political show at Direct 8, a cable TV channel, from 2005. In the presidential campaign, she supported Hollande on the sidelines by snubbing editorial meetings of media companies.
Compared to his woman, Hollande was far better off while growing up. Born to an otolaryngologist in Rouen in 1954, he said in his memoir that he was often in conflict with his father, a hard-line rightist. Hollande reportedly began following leftist ideology due to his antipathy toward his father and influence from his mother, who was a social worker. He decided to become a politician because of his mother as well.
Hollande supported François Mitterrand for president while in college in 1974, and joined the Socialist Party in 1979 at the recommendation of Jacques Attali, a senior adviser to Mitterrand, before being elected to the House of Representative at Correze in 1988.
Replacing his political mentor Lionel Jospin as Socialist Party chief in 1997, Hollande emerged as a key figure of the party when Jospin was defeated by Jean-Marie Le Pen of the right-wing National Front party and retired after the presidential primaries in 2002.
Hollande met Trierweiler in 1988. Having just debuted in politics as member of the House of Representatives that year, he met his eventual partner while she was working as a reporter for PP. He keeps seeing her and fell in love with her in 2005, and the couple eventually moved in together the next year.
At the time, Hollande was living separately from his former partner Marie Segolene Royal, a fellow Socialist Party member who lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 French presidential election, after having four children with her. Trierweiler was a divorcee with three children from two previous marriages.
Hollande, who faced criticism for lacking networking skills and an inferior presence, became the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party due primarily to the fall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former chief of the International Monetary Fund, because of a sex scandal.
Hollande took over as the candidate also because he was free from scandals involving “women, money and lies,” unlike his rival Sarkozy, and thus garnered support from centrist voters. His image as an “ordinary person” was considered more competitive by party members over Sarkozy`s image of being self-righteous and arrogant.
Trierweiler also approached people with the image of a thoroughly ordinary person. In a recent interview, she said, “I spend my time buying clothes at the market and collecting scattered socks under children’s beds.”
She also found fault with Hollande, saying, “He shops and cooks but never shuts cupboards and the door after entering a room.”
Such frankness enabled Hollande to appear as a friendlier candidate to voters, according to analysts.
In a media interview last month, Trierweiler said, “Even if Hollande wins the presidential election, I won`t quit my job as a journalist. I have three children, and I want to earn money myself and I don’t want to live with government money.”
French media, however, say she cannot continue her media career as first lady due to complicated issues including protocol and security