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Meet some of the colorful, wildly inexperienced members of France’s new parliament

They include a female professional athlete, a self-taught cyber guru, and “the Lady Gaga of Math.”

Cédric Villani, one of France’s new members of parliament, never appears in public without a silk bow tie
Joel Saget / Getty Images

A math genius known as the “Lady Gaga of math.” A self-taught cyber guru. A female professional handball player. A 27-year-old economist orphaned in the Rwandan genocide.

Meet the newest members of France’s parliament. They’re young, they’re diverse, and many have zero political experience.

Recruiting these candidates was a key part of newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron’s strategy to revamp French leadership. As Amélie de Montchalin, a 32-year-old first time parliamentarian, told Vox on Friday, Macron attracted candidates to run by promising to prioritize skill over loyalty or political experience.

He wanted a parliament that was more representative of France — and boy did he get it.

The “Lady Gaga of math: Cédric Villani

Picture of French mathematician Cédric Villani with French President Emmanuel Macron
Eccentric mathematician Cédric Villani with French President Emmanuel Macron
Frederic Stevens / Getty Images

Before winning nearly 70 percent of votes in a Southern Paris suburb, 43-year-old Cédric Villani already stood out from the hundreds of other candidates, appearing at events with an ever-present, oversized silk bow tie and large spider brooch.

Often called the “Lady Gaga” of mathematics, Villani has traveled the world to convince people that math is sexy. He won the Fields Medal (considered the highest prize possible for a mathematician) in 2010, and was awarded the French national legion of honor in 2011 — the highest order of merit for any civilian.

Until very recently, Villani had no interest in politics whatsoever.

In the video below, he said he was only inspired to join the election by the opportunity to work with Macron’s younger, and more moderate government.

“Together, with other people of goodwill, we can do something,” he said.

The self-taught cyber guru: Mounir Mahjoubi

A picture of French member of parliament Mounis Mahjoubi
Mahjoubi is part of Macron’s inner circle and is known to have been crucial to his presidential campaign
Swanny Mouton / Flickr

33-year-old Mounir Mahjoubi, a son of Moroccan immigrants, will become the youngest member of Macron’s cabinet as a junior minister for digital affairs.

Mahjoubi, who had no experience in politics prior to this election, led Macron’s digital strategy. He worked particularly hard to live-stream videos of Macron, from his rallies to more intimate moments, such as the time Macron walked straight into a picket line of angry factory workers chanting “Marine for president.” Macron talked and listened to these protestors, explaining why his rival Marine Le Pen wouldn’t be able to prevent their factory from shutting down. By the end of the video, he had calmed the protestors down.

This digital strategy worked: Macron wound up with the most live-streamed videos among all the candidates, many of which were watched by millions.

But Mahjoubi really secured his place in Macron’s inner circle when he disrupted hacking attempts from Russia during the last few days of the campaign. He led a “cyber-blurring” effort, creating numerous false email accounts and filling them with fake documents to throw the hackers off.

The former entrepreneur is also one of the few political representatives of immigrant and minority communities France — a country that has long grappled with integrating immigrant communities.

As the Guardian reported, Mahjoubi comes from a world often invisible to white upper-class French citizens who have dominated parliament. As a child, Mahjoubi traveled across Paris to use the free computers in museum foyers; as an adult, he entered the startup industry after realizing that his Arab-sounding name was turning employers off his resume.

But none of these experiences was as definitive as spending his teen years working as a technician at a call center. At 16, he took on a part-time job at Club Internet, France’s first internet-service provider. He ended up staying there for eight years, through his degrees in law and business.

“I learned life,” Mahjoubi said of his time at the call center “Because with 9,000 calls, that’s 9,000 lives you’re stepping into — it makes you humble. You listen, you help.”

The female professional handball player: Aude Amadou

Aude Amadou has been a professional handball player for 17 years. The 37-year-old was frequently the captain of her teams in Nice and Toulun Saint-Syr, where she played division 1 and 2 handball.

Now, she’s retiring from professional sports to focus on her new role in parliament, which she has said needs her full attention.

Like many of the other citizen-candidates, Amadou didn’t have a strong interest in politics prior to the election, but was drawn in by the movement under Macron, which she said “has regained the values ​​of the sport, the spirit, and the team.”

The 27-year-old economist: Hervé Berville

Screenshot / En marche cotes d’armor Youtube

Hervé Berville was orphaned in the Rwandan genocide before being adopted by a couple in Brittany at the age of four. He went on to obtain degrees from the London School of Economics and France’s Sciences-Po.

Berville was working as a researcher for Stanford University in Kenya last year when he was jolted to enter politics by the populism that led to the election of President Trump.

"The day after Trump's election in November, I resigned and I returned,” he said.

Berville is just 27 years old, but he’s not even the youngest En Marche candidate elected: that honor goes to 24-year-old Typhanie Degois, who beat out Dominique Dord, a conservative with the Republican Party who has been in parliament since 1997.

These newly-minted officials are all pretty unorthodox, but France’s political leadership could have been much, much weirder

There was Marie Sara, a former bullfighter, who lost narrowly in an effort to unseat the Front National for En Marche; Marion Buchet, a female ex-fighter pilot who lost to an incumbent from the Socialist Party and Isabelle Laeng (aka Cindy Lee), a former stripper who ran for the presidency on behalf of the “pleasure party,” and got close to 200 votes.

A campaign poster for Cindy Lee, leader of the Pleasure Party in France
The 2017 election was also the third time that Isabelle Laeng tried to run for the French presidency.
LucEdouard / Flickr

Safe to say, the French election was anything but boring, but now these new officials need to get down to business.

Macron took a risk when he decided to recruit candidates with little political experience and it paid off this weekend when French voters gave En Marche an absolute majority over the government. Now, Macron and the people he picked need to show the French people and the world that this new model of French politics can actually work.

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