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A rendezvous with Carla

By Arthur Dreyfus | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-15 07:39

Carla Bruni [Photo provided to China Daily]

What can be said about Carla Bruni that hasn't already been put to paper? The Italian-born epitome of elegance is a woman of many facets - international supermodel, acclaimed singer, wife of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and, recently, respected philanthropist. During our talk in her recording studio, I encounter several members of Carla's family: her five-year-old daughter Giulia (when she enters the room, her mother rushes toward her, speaking in Italian: "Chichina, amore della mamma, bella, vieni qui! Vieni qui subito!"), her beloved little dog and, of course, the ex-president. In this exclusive interview, she candidly reveals her thoughts on the power of art and education, her insights into the fashion world and some unrevealed details about her upcoming album

Thank you for welcoming China Daily Lifestyle Premium. First, I'd like to discuss the Fondation Carla Bruni Sarkozy, which you created a few years ago.

The idea came from a desire to help others. My husband was the French president at the time and I discovered many issues that I didn't know many people had. So I tried to help in my own way with a foundation that would focus on culture and education. We did quite a lot of work in those five or six years - and a little less now, because it's not easy to raise funds. It's a full-time job.

You've said helping impoverished students meet artists wasn't only about entertaining, but also about giving them a sense of dignity. Could you expound on that?

Art, creation, music - every sort of art - gives children a different perspective on things. We've discovered that little children with talent in music gain confidence and self-esteem as soon as they get opportunities to learn and practice.

Through an instrument, they become "someone" in the eyes of their parents, of society. It's not just about music, either. With artistic improvement, they get better at mathematics, writing, everything - as if music gave them wings.

So it comes from self-esteem?

Mostly - and from believing in something, from having something in your life that matters more than anything else. Art gives you that.

Your foundation has worked in prisons, hospitals, and houses for the homeless and the elderly. Have you visited those places?

Yes, I've been there almost every time we have given concerts there. It has been incredibly successful. We gather the very best artists and, for the people who aren't able to move, we also play music in their hospital rooms.

Music as medicine ...

I'd like to think so. Music is not a primary need - it's obviously not like food or water - but it changes something in the air. It conveys instant pleasure and it creates bonds.

Back to your foundation, it also deals with the issues surrounding illiteracy. For many people, not being able to read is a shameful thing that they often keep secret.

There are three million people who suffer from illiteracy in France. Those people are not - as many would reckon - immigrants or people in the streets. In fact, most of them have jobs. When you can't read, can't drive, can't go to the post office or talk with the staff, you're disabled. So it is often kept secret and they do feel ashamed. But they're intelligent people. They just "missed the train" when they were young, because no one helped them.

Through my foundation, I've been working closely with the associations that deal with this prominent issue. A few years later, illiteracy became a "national cause" - and I'm proud of that.

You've described education as the "indispensable superfluous" - could you explain that?

I used the word "superfluous" because we don't think of education as something to live or to die for, but it's indispensable because without it, we're animals.

You were raised in a very artistic family. Do you consider that life has been generous from the start and is that why you wanted to give something back with this foundation?

Oh yes, very much. I've been quite lucky. It's a very good experience to give things away - to give time, money if you can, to people in need. Even in a selfish way, it's a great satisfaction.

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