Valérie Trierweiler, the partner of French President François Hollande, today described her difficulties in adjusting to a new role as France's "first girlfriend", saying that it was like doing a parachute jump "without a parachute".
Ms Trierweiler, in an interview with Le Monde, took the first step of a PR makeover, acknowledging that she had been in denial about her change in circumstances since Mr Hollande won the presidency. She worked as a political journalist for the weekly magazine Paris-Match for 20 years and initially believed that she would continue as an "observer". But she now accepts that she is a player, a "public person", as she calls it, and that her initial reaction had been "an unconscious rejection of the role". She has only entered Mr Hollande's office in the Elysée Palace three times since May, she says.
Ms Trierweiler, 47, has had an uncomfortable few months and negative media coverage. Last June, she fired off a tweet in support of the politician competing against her love-rival, Ségolène Royal, the former partner of Mr Hollande and the mother of their four children. More recently, she let it be known that she would be a witness at the marriage of gay friends, once legislation permitting same-sex marriage is approved. And she agreed to pass on a letter to Mr Hollande from protesters opposed to government plans for a new airport outside Nantes. Asked about the political nature of her actions, Ms Trierweiler responded: "One learns." Regarding the now infamous tweet, she says she regrets not having apologised earlier. She added that the moment of realisation that she had crossed "to the other side of the wall" was when she was the subject of a book by two journalists last September. They claimed in La Frondeuse (The Troublemaker) that a decade ago, while married, she had been the lover of a prominent right-wing politician, Patrick Devedjian at the same time that she was sleeping with the Socialist leader. She sued. "That got me back in the saddle, it gave me a boost" she said. "I said to myself that I wasn't going to let it get me down." The libel case, in which she is seeking €80,000 in damages, caused fresh controversy after Mr Hollande wrote to the court in her support, as a "private citizen".
Ms Trierweiler still contributes book reviews to Paris-Match. And in her new role, she has let it be known that she will be choosing the colour of the tablecloths at state dinners.