Amy Serafin in The Smart Set:
If you were to go looking for evidence of France’s huge North African population, you’d find it in the grim public housing projects of the suburban cités, in the gritty peripheral neighborhoods of Paris, and near my home in the relatively privileged 5th arrondissement, where the Great Mosque draws enormous crowds on Fridays and during Ramadan. You would be hard pressed, however, to find many North Africans in the corridors of French business or political power, where they are close to invisible.
And yet, for the last year and a half, a woman of Moroccan-Algerian descent has become famous as one of the most influential and glamorous figures in France. Rachida Dati is the minister of justice, and until recently one of President Sarkozy’s closest confidants. She is a self-made success story who radiates chutzpah, for lack of a better word. She’s also single — and pregnant. As of this writing, the identity of the father is still a secret, and guessing it has become one of the top dinner-party games throughout Europe.
Dati was born in a small town in Burgundy in 1965, the second child of 12. Her father was a mason from Morocco, her mother a French-born Algerian. To please her Muslim parents, Dati wed at age 26, but regretted her decision and had the marriage annulled soon afterward. She studied business and obtained a master’s degree in law.
She has always demonstrated an uncanny talent for meeting the right people. In 2002 she contacted Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then interior minister, offering to advise him on immigration issues.