International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde is one of the rare uber-powerful people who seems to be having a good time in the public eye.
Whether giving speeches on the global economic outlook or power dining at Fiola Mare, the silver-haired Frenchwoman who heads the 188-nation organization comes off as completely at ease. We sat down with her at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Wednesday night before she picked up Foreign Policy magazine‘s “Diplomat of the Year Award” in front of a crowd that included Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochberg and Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero.
For Lagarde, who hand-shook her way through the crowd before perching on a chair in the hotel’s ballroom to chat about her go-to disguise and her distaste for selfies, it was just another Wednesday night.
I’ve read that you’re a vegetarian and and eat very healthfully — how do you pull that off that when you go to dinners like this all the time?
My staff does a great job of alerting people that I don’t eat meat, but if they’ve forgotten or the people seating me have forgotten, I just put the meat aside, cover it with salad, and pretend that I have really enjoyed my main course.
Now I see why you’re getting that award for diplomacy. You probably don’t have a lot of free time, but when you do, what’s your favorite way to spend a day in D.C.?
I like to go to various nice restaurants. I’m lucky to have Rasika [West End] near my apartment.
I like to ride my bike all by myself. With a helmet, people do not recognize me. I cover the hair, I put glasses on, and I ride along the river. I go up to Bethesda on the trail. I love to go to the Dupont Circle market on Sunday. It’s expensive, but lovely.
As the head of IMF, you must be pretty good with money. Have you ever bought something that you regretted?
I buy way too many shoes.
What’s something you bought that you love?
My house in Normandy. It’s peaceful and quiet. There’s a huge garden where I’ve planted roses. It’s a beautiful place to hide and think.
Your circle of friends includes some very powerful women. What’s it like when you hang out?
Typically, we are relaxed. We talk about things of interest to us — how we can improve the situation, make the world a better place. As well as other things, like how do you operate when you have bags of people trying to take selfies with you? That’s not such a nice thing, because you haven’t had any makeup or you don’t feel good about it.
I’d love to hear you chatting with Michelle Obama for advice about selfies.
She says no selfies. I think I will move there. Photos, I’m okay. But selfies — I think they’re so yuck. People don’t even look at you anymore or talk to you, they’re just obsessed with that machine.
Complete this sentence: ‘I am scared of …’
Um … [long pause]. Maybe very nasty animals or people?
[Once the interview’s over, Lagarde returns a few moment later.]
“On second thought,” she says, “I’m not afraid of anything.”
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