PARIS – Emmanuel Macron has long been described as a fresh face in French politics. As it turns out, the appellation may be literal as well.
The French magazine Le Point revealed Thursday that France's 39-year-old new president has spent 26,000 euros ($30,000) on makeup services in his first three months in office – that's $10,000 a month, or about $330 a day. All at taxpayers' expense.
In the rest of the French press, the revelations only added to a growing sentiment that Macron – who currently enjoys an approval rating of just 36 percent – has gone too far in cultivating what some see as a kinglike persona.
According to Le Point, the Élysée Palace paid a makeup artist, identified only as Natacha M., on two occasions: once for 10,000 euros, and then again for 16,000 euros. The fees were apparently for doing up the president in advance of news conferences, public appearances and various travels. A spokesman for the Élysée, which faced sharp and swift criticism, announced on French television shortly after the news broke that the budget "will be reduced significantly."
This latest makeup scandal was quickly compared to the revelations from last year that the administration of former French president François Hollande, a Socialist, paid about $11,000 a month on the president's haircuts. By comparison, Macron actually spends more or less the same on makeup than his last two predecessors, according to Le Point: Hollande spent slightly more per quarter, while Nicolas Sarkozy spent slightly less.
But for a new president floundering in the polls, the optics are less than ideal. In France, the average disposable annual income per capita is roughly 25,000 euros ($29,700), according to the OCED. That is slightly less than Macron's makeup expenditure.
The news ultimately came in the same week that Macron's Élysée was forced to back down officially from an informal earlier proposal that Macron's wife, Brigitte Macron, be given an official title with her own independent budget beyond the funds already allotted for her staff. More than 300,000 citizens signed a petition against the proposal, and the Élysée confirmed in a Monday statement that "the spouse of the head of state will not benefit from any remuneration for her role."
But most of all, the makeup news comes at the end of the August recess, right before the French parliament convenes to discuss one of the most controversial issues here: labor reform – and, in particular, the potential cuts in government spending that labor reform would mean.
Macron, a self-styled political centrist, ran on promises to reform France's famously rigid labor market to stimulate growth. He has repeatedly made clear his view that slashing public spending is an absolute necessity to achieve that goal, which has lost him a considerable amount of support in the eyes of the public. In July, for instance, Macron insisted that military spending would have to temporarily decrease by approximately $1 billion. Pierre de Villiers, France's top general, resigned in protest.
Somewhat predictably, Macron's opponents have wasted no time in piling on the criticism.
As the staunchly right-wing Francois Asselineau, a former presidential contender who advocated of "Frexit," wrote on Twitter: "The image of France once again humiliated. With his 26k (euro) of makeup per quarter, #Macron becomes the laughingstock of the entire planet."