PARIS – A longtime journalist, Valerie Trierweiler knows about searching for just the right words. And as the romantic partner of France's new president, she's doing just that: She feels that the term "first lady" is a bit too old-school.
More than three weeks after Francois Hollande — her companion, boyfriend, significant other, take your pick — took office, Trierweiler still doesn't know what she wants to be called. But she's found one possible role model: Eleanor Roosevelt, the Depression-era first lady in the United States known for her activism and character.
"Look at that! A journalist first lady isn't a novelty," wrote Trierweiler in Paris Match magazine, in a review of a new French biography of Mrs. Roosevelt. The article, published Thursday, was Trierweiler's first since Hollande took office.
In an interview with France-Inter radio also on Thursday, Trierweiler says it's not that she doesn't like the term "first lady" for herself, it's just that it seems a bit "outdated." She and Hollande are not married, something that doesn't seem to bother most French voters.
Trierweiler has spent more than 20 years as a journalist at Paris Match, perhaps France's best-known weekly, mostly as a political journalist. But in 2006, the year after she started up a relationship with Hollande, she stopped covering the Socialist Party that he was heading at the time. She hosted a politically oriented show on cable TV for a few years, ending it last October. A spokesman said she has remained on the Paris Match payroll throughout.
Trierweiler has faced a tricky balancing act in her new role. A twice-divorced mother raising three boys, she has repeatedly said that she plans to keep working to earn a living as head of household.
But pillow talk with France's head of state could let her in on state secrets — and she acknowledged she has come in for some criticism from colleagues who bemoan a possible conflict of interest.
Trierweiler says she's received letters from the French offering ideas about what kind of moniker she might take, with suggestions including "The Sweetheart of France" and "First Journalist."
"It all has to be defined. It's a role above all of volunteering for France," she said.
She bristled at a satirical TV show's depiction of her as hard-charging, and rejected claims by some that she's been too "interventionist" with her husband.
"False. At no time was I interventionist," she told France-Inter, brushing off her critics. "'Ooh-la-la, a woman with a little bit of character — she's scary!' It's always the same old criticisms."