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Tattooed German first lady turns heads

Germany's new first lady Bettina Wulff has been turning heads with her towering height, striking looks, glamorous outfits — and a large tattoo on her right shoulder. Some compare her to Michelle Obama: young, dynamic and independent.
/ Source: Reuters

Germany's new first lady Bettina Wulff has been turning heads with her towering height, striking looks, glamorous outfits — and a large tattoo on her right shoulder.

The 36-year-old communications manager, who met her husband on a business trip, became an instant media darling in Germany even before Christian Wulff, 51, was sworn into office Friday as Germany's youngest postwar president.

Bettina Wulff, a single mother before Wulff abandoned his wife of 18 years for her, has been compared in German media with Carla Bruni and Michelle Obama: young, dynamic and independent.

All three first ladies have been called the epitome of modern women in their respective countries. All have won praise for their fashion awareness and trendsetting styles, and symbolize a new generation.

"Will Bettina Wulff become Germany's Michelle Obama?" asked Bunte, a celebrity magazine, about Germany's first lady.

There were as many pictures of Bettina Wulff in a tight black dress — discreetly covering her shoulder tattoo — in German newspapers after his election Wednesday than there were of Christian, Germany's 10th post-war president.

"Picking her was the best decision Wulff ever made," wrote Die Zeit newspaper. "Germany will have a first lady whose picture soldiers will love pinning up in their lockers."

She was working in communications at tire maker Continental in 2006 when she met Wulff, then state premier of Lower Saxony.

"I wasn't waiting for someone to come along and sweep me off my feet," she once said. "I always assumed that I was going to have to take care of myself and I've kept doing that all along."

'Dream son-in-law'
Wulff, with his clean-cut good looks and friendly smile, was seen as a "dream son-in-law" before his unexpected divorce.

He was never shy about putting his first wife — a 51-year-old lawyer — and their daughter on display as a tacit model of traditional family values.

For years the Wulffs appeared together as a picture postcard family in Sunday newspapers and magazine cover stories.

But Wulff, a Roman Catholic and a leader in his Christian Democrat party, risked his reputation and career when he announced he was leaving his wife for the younger woman.

"Extra-marital affairs by other politicians would have caused a scandal," wrote Stern magazine this week. "But Christian Wulff and Bettina Koerner had no such problem.

"Wulff went on the offensive in the summer of 2006 when he appeared with his new flame. He gave a short speech announcing his marriage was over and introduced Koerner as his new love."

Modern views
Wulff married Koerner in 2008 but has sometimes had to defend her modern views on marriage and the fact that she continued working as a communications manager for a retailer.

"Hey, I've got a cool wife," Wulff said. He said she bought tickets a while ago for a U2 rock concert in Hanover in August and even though he is now president he hopes they can attend.

Bettina Wulff showed off her tattoo, an intricate black design, to photographers at an awards ceremony in Lower Saxony a year ago. "I've had it for a long time," she said. "I like the shape and I don't have any problem with it."