Zee Lifestyle gets an exclusive sneak peek at the new face of Bulgari’s Diva Collection, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as we follow her storied life as a model, singer and fashionable first lady, and discover why her very presence is enough to turn heads.
It’s the hush that falls over the room when she walks in, and the furtive glances thrown her way as she passes by—some admiring, others a little envious. It’s the grand welcome given by her equally beautiful and important group of friends, mostly belonging to elite circles, as she is whisked away out of reach beyond a velvet rope. Perhaps it’s in the flick of her hair, or the soft way she says hello as she cuts across the crowd. Maybe she revels in it or perpetuates it; or maybe she isn’t even aware of the effect she has as she makes her way to whatever it is that merits her presence.
Make no mistake—there are different definitions of being a diva.
More often than not, though, it is the attention she generates around her that most significantly earns the title. In some instances, she is put on a pedestal not necessarily for some quirky behavior or talent, but rather because she needn’t do anything as she already exemplifies inspiring qualities that make her stand out from the rest. Such is the appeal of Turin, Italy-born Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who renowned fine jewelry and fashion brand Bulgari has recently named the face of its new “Diva” Campaign.
Like a cat with nine live, this glamorous lady has lived quite a few already and, at 45 (she doesn’t turn 46 until December this year), she shows no signs of slowing down. A model in her young adult years, Bruni’s big break came when she was 19, when Guess president and creative director Paul Marciano picked her to model with Estelle Lefébure in campaigns for the brand. This was in the 90s, and Bruni was then reportedly among the highest paid fashion models.
She eventually switched careers and bcame a singer/songwriter, going on to record her debut album Quelqu’un M’a Dit (which translates to Someone Told Me) in 2002. In one of those intriguing instances when musicians allow rare glimpses into their personal lives, it has been said that the second track in the album entitled Raphael was written for Bruni’s then-lover, the married philosophy professor Raphaël Enthoven, with who she had a son, Aurélien Enthoven, in 2001. She later told Vanity Fair that the relationship was broken off in 2007 because Enthoven thought there was no commitment involved.
Just months after she parts ways with Enthoven, the 39-year-old Bruni would meet the recently divorced French president Nicolas Sarkozy at a dinner party, hosted by advertising mogul and left-wing political adviser Jacques Séguéla. While he was clearly beguiled with her, she would only later reveal to Vanity Fair that she fell in love at first sight, saying his youth and energy surprised her. She lauded his charisma, noting that it is something that doesn’t translate on television.
Their whirlwind romance ended in marriage on February 2, 2008 at the Élysée Palace in Paris—her first, his third. In a life of rare highlights, Bruni found herself even more in the public eye, but in a different capacity. Aside from having an office and staff fin the Palace, she accompanied the French president on state visits, including one to the United Kingdom in the same year they were married, which was marred by a controversy on the eve of their arrival with the publication of her nude photograph, taken during her modeling days, by Christie’s auction house. The photo would reportedly later sell for $91,000. All the controversies would pale in comparison to their joy, however, when she and Sarkozy welcomed their daughter Giulia in October 2011. The young addition to the couple’s life would be the stepsister not only to her son, but also to Sarkozy’s two boys with his first wife and another son with his second.
While there is undeniable interest in her public persona as the wife of the French president—which naturally comes with a lot of criticism—Bruni threw herself into charity work, which included HIV/AIDS causes, animal rights and others. Like all women public figures, from the late Princess Diana to the current USA First Lady Michelle Obama, there would be much interest in Bruni’s wardrobe and personal style. For that much-talked about visit to the Queen of England, the British apparently praised Bruni for her “perfect curtsy and her demure, Jackie Kennedy outfits,” reported Vanity Fair. The magazine article also quoted Lagerfeld, who often used Bruni as a model, as saying, “She’s imaginative, clever and educated. She knows how to behave.”
In a New York Times Style Magazine (T Magazine) blog by Alainna Lexie Beddie, published in July this year, the former French first lady was quoted, “Of course, what I would want to wear in a public situation changed because when you actually have the honor of representing a country, you try to achieve a higher level of elegance to make them happy and proud, you know? But my personal style is basically pants, shoes and T-shirts.”
If Bruni’s charmed life has been fodder for the media, her past has been just as colorful. The legal daughter of Italian concert pianist Marisa Borini, and industrialist and classical composer Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, Carla Gilbera Bruni Tedeschi is of French ancestry on her mother’s side. In 2008, the same Vanity Fair article revealed Carla, her sister (actress and film director) Valeria and brother Virgino (who died in 2006, reportedly from complications of AIDS) grew up in a vast estate. Their family fortune came from the CEAT manufacturing company, founded by her grandfather Virginio Bruni Tedeschi.
In a dramatic turn of events in 1996, when Bruni was 28 and her father was gravely ill, he revealed that he wasn’t her biological father. Her real father was Maurizio Remmert, a classical guitarist who also belonged to a wealthy Turin family. Reportedly, Maurizio had an affair with Carla’s mother when he was 19 and she was “twice his age.” It lasted six years and bore them a daughter. Remmert would later move to Sau Paulo, where he is a grocery magnate.
The family had moved to France in the mid-70s, at a time when the Red Brigades were kidnapping wealthy individuals. In Paris, Bruni attended an Italian school, but she couldn’t wait to start her own life, so she tried modeling after her brother’s girlfriend suggested it to her. “Modeling meant I did not have to rely on my parents or a man,” she says in the same Vanity Fair interview.
When Sarkozy came down from power in May 2012, some people thought Bruni would also be done with him— perhaps an assumption she’d brought upon herself when she was famously quoted for saying that monogamy bored her. Even the list of her reported past paramours, aside from those already mentioned, is worthy of attention; Bruni has supposedly been involved with Eric Clapton (who was said to have written in his memoirs about how hard he had fallen for the then 21-year-old), Mick Jagger (to whom Clapton had reportedly begged not to steal her away; later Bruni would claim she was never his girlfriend officially), actor Vincent Pérez, former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, among others.
“I think most women are like me, contradictory and ambivalent,” Bruni said to The Guardian in a June 2013 article entitled Carla Bruni: Sarkozy and Me. Of course, her being contradictory would also translate to controversies over things like her reported intervention and exertion of influence over Sarkozy with regards to the extradition of a woman leader of the Red Brigades terrorist movement (which existed from 1976-82) to Italy for “humanitarian reasons.” Yes, the same Red Brigades that would have kidnapped Bruni’s family had they chosen to stay in Italy.
Then, there are the things she would say to the media—for instance, she’s had to explain herself for a 2012 quote about feminism in a Vogue article—and even people supposedly alluded to in her songs (one of which was purportedly about François Hollande, the Socialist who defeated Sarkozy in his presidential re-election bid). In her defense, she would tell The Guardian, “I never really write like that. It’s hard to explain, but when I write, I don’t have such a precise idea in my head. I don’t say, okay, I’m going to write a song about X.”
Naturally, one so fascinating will never escape the interest of the media. These days, the former first lady has gone back to making music, while her husband “practices law and makes speeches.” With the succeeding French president quite unpopular and Sarkozy being hinted to return and save the nation, Bruni is busy with her own matters: working on her fourth album Little French Songs. When asked about her freedom to pursue her music once again, Bruni told TIME Magazine in a recent interview, “It wasn’t such a lack of freedom at all, really. But of course, I couldn’t go on tour and I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to do as a musician but, you know, time flies. So five years flew, and here I am and I can go back on tour.”
Courting more attention, one of the tracks, Mon Raymond, is rumored to be dedicated to her husband. She calls him “pirate” and an “atomic bomb,” in which the former describes a different side of his stately persona, while the latter “means someone looking hot, sexy… and an explosive type of person,” she says. Bruni also told The Guardian, “They’re not used to being muses— men. They’re used to being the artist. The minute you put them in the muse position, they go ‘what?’”
On her end, if there’s anything Bruni is used to, it’s being a muse.
This makes her perfect for Bulgari’s new Diva campaign, where she stars in the brand’s haute joaillerie ad campaign shot in Rome by noted photographer Terry Richardson. Of Bulgari, The Telegraph quotes the now 45-year-old diva as saying, “Bulgari is, for me, the symbol of passion, and of this vivid and colorful Roman gaiety.”
Of course, there’s a parallelism between Bruni, who was born in Italy but raised in France, and Bulgari, the Italian luxury goods company that has been owned by the French firm LVMH since 2011—making this a perfect partnership of sorts. More than that, however, the brand has found its diva personified—one who has remained who she is, even after all her experiences in the fashion, entertainment and even political circles. “My personal style’s never really changed,” she tells T Magazine blog. She’s the kind of woman who warns against overdressing for formal occasions and ending up looking like “a Christmas tree,” and who lauds the simplicity and elegance of the black evening dress, the economy of a tuxedo and a nice pair of earrings, and noting there’s nothing wrong with dressing casual at times. The very woman who has been photographed wearing the most luscious, jaw-dropping jewelry from the prestigious brand, but is never outshone by them.
Perhaps we’ve seen people who think they are divas—we run into them at parties and social gatherings, we see them trying hard to make and keep such an impression. The real difference between them and someone like Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is that this lady simply is—in the best sense of the word.
Q&A with Carla Bruni Sarkozy
What is your personal relationship with jewels? An item of jewelry is not like any other object. It is more intimate than anything else. Physically intimate of course, because it adorns the body, right next to the skin, often close to where the heart is beating, like a drop of perfume, at the hollow of a wrist, behind the ear, at the base of the neck. But it is yet more intimate for having a meaning, a significance that goes beyond it. Jewelry belongs to the world of feelings, it touches matters of the soul. It declares a passion, betokens love, carries a memory, symbolizes a belief, seals an engagement, awards an honor, protects from misfortune… From the simplest of rings to the most sophisticated necklace, an item of jewelry always has a personal story to tell. This is an idea that pleases me. I love it when things have a story.
What does Bulgari represent to you? Bulgari is for me the symbol of passion and of this vivid and colorful Roman gaiety. Colorful… like the stones of the 70s bracelet that my aunt wore when I was a child. I loved that bracelet. I loved its joy, its fantasy. I dreamed of one day possessing such a wonder of my own! I was told that like me it came from Italy to Paris. Perhaps that was part of why I loved it too. I later discovered that the treasure I so coveted came from Bulgari… Is it chance or this bracelet that brought us together?
Which Bulgari “facet” intrigues you most? What a lot of stories have been told by Bulgari since it began! How can one not marvel simply at the sound of this name that fascinates and bewitches? This name that more than any other evokes Rome, its Dolce Vita and the golden age of the Cinecittà. Three murmured syllables and we are already dreaming! We dream of the tumultuous and legendary love affair between Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, we imagine ourselves a heroine of Visconti, we see Anita Ekberg running barefoot through the narrow streets to escape the paparazzi, we see ourselves in turn as Monica, Silvana, Sophia, we run laughing down the steps of the Piazza di Spagna…
And which one of jewellery- making in particular? The passion of the master jeweler who teaches his art to his apprentice from generation to generation. The same of Sotirio Bulgari, the Greek silversmith who arrived in Rome at the end of the 19th century and passed his skills on to his sons. It is the meticulous work of the jeweler, the polisher, the setter…
As a model I have had the opportunity to work with the leading Haute Couture and Haute Joaillerie houses and to wear their creations. I have come to know the different crafts and gained an infinite appreciation for the master craftsmen, for their apprentices, for the seamstresses referred to in haute-couture as “petites mains”. With love of their craft, with a yen for perfection and with humility, they all contribute to the creation of unique and exceptional pieces. With my Foundation, we have also developed a program aimed at showcasing these magnificent crafts and encouraging school leavers into these professions. For some of these crafts are disappearing. And without craftspeople, the story ends, the magic is extinguished.
But thanks to companies such as Bulgari, for whom beauty and excellence rhyme, these ancient skills are preserved, traditions are kept alive. You only have to see the delicacy of a Bulgari jewel to realize that the crafts here are a fully-fledged art form. Each piece of haute Joaillerie is a total masterpiece of purity and finesse. And what originality, what creativity!
How did you feel about representing the image of Bulgari High jewellery? It makes me very proud and very happy to have been chosen to represent the image of Bulgari for Haute Joaillerie. In a way, this fine jewelry house is already familiar to me. I feel connected with its romantic history and with its Italian soul which breathes life and joy and I sincerely hope to honor it.
by Annie S. Alejo