Evelin Ilves: 'I didn't want to be all style, no substance' ({{commentsTotal}})

Evelin Ilves, who divorced from Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in April, has launched a book about her time as the country's First Lady.

The book describes the period when she stood beside her former husband as a politician's wife, from the time when Toomas Hendrik Ilves was still an MP and later MEP, up to his nomination and work as the president.

Prior to Toomas Hendrik Ilves's election as president in 2006, she was running their jointly-owned guesthouse in Ärma, but after the appointment, it was no longer possible for security reasons.

In an exclusive interview with ETV, Evelin Ilves said that when her husband assumed office, she wanted to carry on working, but the current arrangement does not provide many opportunities for Estonian First Ladies to continue with their professional careers. “They said that I could be a public relations person for an animal shelter, for example,” Ilves, who rejected the suggestion, recalled.

Instead, Evelin Ilves started championing a number of social initiatives, such as promoting healthy eating and living.

Her obsession with healthy eating became well known. She once famously said that many candies, including the ones made by Estonia's most cherished confectionery maker Kalev, contain “crap” – a reference to high-level saturated fat content. Her words hit a nerve in Estonia because most of its inhabitants have grown up consuming Kalev sweets. Ilves later apologized.

Ilves said in an interview that she didn't want to be “all style and no substance”, a first lady who looks good, but doesn't offer anything worthwhile behind the appearance. Promoting healthy lifestyle and increasing awareness about unhealthy food provided her with a cause, she explained.

Toomas Hendrik and Evelin Ilves (then Int-Lambot) married in 2004, but they had been previously dating for several years – the president met his wife while working as Estonia's foreign minister in 1997. They announced their divorce in April, 2015. Both will continue to look after their daughter.

Although Evelin Ilves studied medicine at the University of Tartu, she has spent most of her professional career in advertising and public relations, being one of the original author's behind “Welcome to Estonia” slogan.

Editor: S. Tambur

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