Dear Carla Bruni-Sarkozy: You're Wrong About Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in Strasbourg, France, April 2009.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in Strasbourg, France, April 2009.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

I'm not surprised, at this point in our political history, that Michelle Obama would be under attack. When she stands out as the half of the presidential couple with the super-high ratings, isn't it only natural that somehow, some way, somebody would come out with guns a-blazin', trying to destroy her credibility?

What's odd is that it's the first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who seemingly is making the dig this time. In what was described by some news reports as an authorized biography of the controversial former model, current singer and notorious lover of many, Bruni-Sarkozy describes asking Michelle Obama how she feels about being first lady. Mrs. Obama's alleged response? "Don't ask! It's hell. I can't stand it!"


I find that hard to believe. Impossible, actually. Having spent an extended amount of time in Michelle Obama's company (I wrote a cover feature on her for Ebony magazine and produced several other cover stories about her and/or her husband), I can tell you that our first lady is careful and direct about what she says — and to whom she says it.


During the campaign, she announced that she would not be inviting new friends into her fold — too much time and too hard to establish trust while living in a fishbowl. And after interviewing about a dozen of her closest friends and confidants, I know that her friends' lips are sealed when it comes to anything even remotely personal about their girl. So it makes no sense that Mrs. Obama would suddenly have lost her way and uttered such a thought — that she hates her role and can't wait for the next two years to end. Fat chance she would have let such a sentiment slip out of her mouth (if she even felt that way in the first place).

Honestly, those sentiments sound more as if they could have been channeled straight out of Bruni-Sarkozy's brain. She is the one who has lived freely, enjoying the role of supermodel-turned-international superstar. Sure, being married to French president Nicolas Sarkozy comes with its perks. But freedom to do and be whatever she wants is not exactly part of her current equation.

I wonder, too, if the writers of this biography wanted to create what so many want to see: a catfight between two beautiful, style-setting international superstars. From the moment they stood together on Michelle Obama's first official trip to France in April 2009, people have been comparing and contrasting their styles. At the time, it seemed a harmless exercise.

(Michelle Obama's spokeswoman released a statement categorically denying the book's claims, as did the French Embassy in Washington. Bruni-Sarkozy is now "completely distancing herself from the book.")


Even if the Tea Party attempts to use this to say, "Here's one more example of the first lady blundering and saying what she really means and then trying to cover it up" — e.g., the "really proud of my country" brouhaha — I don't think it will work.

Michelle Obama is smart. Quick. Grounded. Tough. And smooth. All at once. She learned from her mother when she was a child not to worry about what other people think of her. She lives by that credo. She also learned to love her family and her country above all else.


The vision and the commitment that she has brought to the White House and to the nation through her attention to nutrition, her focus on eradicating childhood obesity, and her promise to honor veterans and their families prove that she is in this game for the long haul.

Her added, not-so-secret weapon is her steadfast connection to her husband, who happens to be president of the United States. She is a modern-day, stand-by-your-man kind of woman. And while Michelle Obama didn't start off wanting this job for herself or her husband (as she openly stated at the beginning of the campaign), she stepped into the role full-on. Michelle Obama is not a quitter. That doesn't mean she hasn't had her days of feeling weary. But trust that not even in a weak moment would she have confided something so personal to someone outside her inner circle.


So, Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy, heaven only knows where you got those "quotes" that found their way into your biography. My guess is they came out of your own head.

A previous version of this article misstated the marital status of French president Nicolas Sarkozy prior to marrying Carla Bruni.


Harriette Cole is the president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. She is a life stylist, a best-selling author and a nationally syndicated advice columnist. She has also served as the editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine, the founding editorial director of Uptown magazine and the fashion editor of Essence magazine.

Harriette Cole is the author of the book of meditations 108 Stitches: Words We Live By and a contributing editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter

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