It’s not often you see politicians blush and, even if he has the humility to do so, the next time Macron faces the French public – which, incidentally, isn’t something he seems all that keen on doing – it will no doubt raise questions as to how deeply he had to dig into the taxpayer’s purse to achieve such a convincing shade of rouge.
After a summer in the Élysée Palace, France’s president is well and truly in the doghouse. His current unpopularity was highlighted in the French press last week when it emerged that he had made two payments of €10,000 ($11,952) and €16,000 ($19,123) to a mystery makeup artist – known simply as Natacha M. – for her services, which included helping the president fight the harsh lights and fatigue of news conferences, public appearances, and travel.
A spokesman from the president’s office confirmed the amounts and said that they were ‘suited to the moment’s urgency’, stopping short of claiming that they were simply because he’s worth it. However, they did state that a less costly makeup regime was being considered.
Nevertheless, this toe-curling revelation won’t sit well with average French workers who, with a salary of €25,000 ($29,880), earn slightly less in a year than their president splurges on cosmetics in a single quarter. His approval rating of 62% after winning the election in May has slipped to just 36% according to a recent Ifop poll printed in Le Figaro. This is 10% lower than his predecessor François Hollande – commonly referred to as the least popular president of the Fifth Republic – at the same point in his first and only term. Worse still, only 23% of people believe Macron is changing the country for the better. Stats like these would erode the foundation of any presidency.
Aside for his fashion faux pas, Macron, a relative newcomer to politics, has been rubbing the electorate up the wrong way with a number of his reform policies. The most damaging occurred earlier this month, when a petition signed by 300,000 people quickly forced him to backtrack on a proposal to give his wife, Brigitte, the official title of First Lady and her own public-funded budget. This was an epic miscalculation given the current nepotism scandal in French politics and his previous statements on the issue.
A bad August is likely to be followed by an even worse September, when the French government returns from recess to discuss one of the most bitterly contested issues in recent times: labor reform. Macron wants to radically reshape the French labor market by making it easier for bosses to dismiss under-performing staff, and to give more flexibility to the 35-hour cap on the working week if it’s agreed upon at the company level. Without widespread public support, it’s unclear how he can expect to push these changes through.
While Macron’s policies may still set him apart as a reformer, albeit an unsuccessful one for the moment, this makeup scandal, and the inability to effectively conceal it, puts him very much in line with the last two men to occupy his office. Hollande, a Socialist, spent €6000 ($7170) a month on a full-time makeup artist and an additional €10,000 ($11,952) per month on his personal hairdresser. Republican Nicolas Sarkozy had a slightly more modest monthly beauty budget of €8000 ($9562).
Across the Channel, politicians have rather less extravagant spending habits: Tony Blair spent just £1800 (€1946) on cosmetics during his first six years in power and David Cameron’s hair stylist, Raffaele ‘Lino’ Carbosiero, earned a comparatively measly £90 (€97) per cut and dry – though he was awarded an MBE for ‘services to hairdressing’ after reorienting the Prime Minister’s parting.
However, Germany’s Angela Merkel once again demonstrates that women do it better in politics, with her weekly €65 haircuts.
As for US politics, it’s unclear how much Donald Trump spends to achieve the look that has led late night’s Samantha Bee to describe him as a ‘screaming carrot demon’, ‘grotesque orange caterpillar’, and ‘tangerine-tinted trashcan fire’.