WASHINGTON — For the most part, Tuesday night’s state dinner was a star-studded affair.
Marking the visit of French President Francois Hollande, President Obama and his French counterpart toasted each other’s countries before a lavish meal at the White House, and before an entertainment- and political-celebrity-filled crowd that included the likes of Bradley Cooper and his supermodel girlfriend, Mindy Kaling, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, outgoing NBA Commissioner David Stern, Stephen Colbert, and members of Congress and cabinet secretaries.
“We love Americans, although we don’t always say so, and you love the French, but you sometimes are too shy to say so,” Hollande said, according to his translator.
Obama quoted French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville’s assessment that America’s president lived in a “palace that in Paris would be called a fine private residence” and that “the power of the king of France would be nil if it were modeled after the power of the president.”
But seated at the head table Tuesday evening was a surprising mix of non-celebrity, citizen activists picked by the White House for prominent placement.
According to the White House seating arrangement, seated next to the president was Thelma Golden, curator and director of The Studio Museum of Harlem. Next to her: Maryland teacher Jennifer Bado-Aleman. At the other end of table: Kourtney Ballew and her husband Caleb, both young Alabama lawyers who seem to be in family and labor law practices at different Huntsville firms. Eliseo Medina, a Mexican-American labor activist, also got a seat at the head table.
Hollande, who attended stag after his public split with partner Valerie Trierweiler, sat between President and Mrs. Obama, near Colbert (who sat on the other side of the first lady). The French president was also spared the awkwardness of finding a dance partner, as the evening did not include dancing.
It did include music, however, as Mary J. Blige performed at a post-dinner reception around 11 p.m., performing “Ain’t Nobody,” the Rufus & Chaka Khan hit that Blige previously covered.
ABC News’ Ann Compton contributed to this post.