Who Is Helle Thorning-Schmidt? Obama 'Selfie' Taker Is Denmark's Prime Minister

President Obama, Helle Thorning-Schmidt
A viral Internet rumor claims that Michelle Obama made the president switch seats after he shared a laugh with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Nelson Mandela's memorial service.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt became a household name Tuesday when a photograph of her taking a smartphone "selfie" with U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron at Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa went viral worldwide.

Most viewers of the image instantly recognized the two men in the intimate trio, but Thorning-Schmidt is not quite as well-known as the prime minister of small Denmark.

But as the picture makes the rounds, many people may want to know more about the European leader, who appeared to have drawn the ire of Michelle Obama on Tuesday, judging by the first lady's scowl in images of the Kodak (or Instagram?) moment.

Thorning-Schmidt, 46, is not a new face on the world scene, despite her relative anonymity, as she was elected Denmark's first female prime minister in 2011, just six years after becoming the first woman to lead the country's Social Democratic Party. Before that, she served in the European parliament from 1999 to 2004.

She is known as a centrist, having led the charge in 2012 for tax reforms that lowered the tax burden for Denmark's rich, but also taking steps to reverse strict anti-immigration measures passed by previous governments.

A graduate of the University of Copenhagen and Belgium's College of Europe, Thorning-Schmidt is regarded as an excellent debater and is sometimes referred to by the nickname "Gucci Helle" because of her love for designer clothing, according to the Danish news outlet VG Nett. She and her husband, Stephen Kinnock, managing director at the Xynteo advisory firm, married in 1996 and have two daughters together. His father is the former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. The couple was struck by scandal in 2010 when allegations about tax evasion by her husband arose, but the charges were dropped by the end of the year.

Danish prime ministers are rarely international celebrities, but in the wake of the Obama "selfie" moment, she may find herself better-known than her predecessors.

Join the Discussion