Who is Melania Trump? The unusual, traditional, next US First Lady
In 1998, Donald Trump, already fabulously wealthy and charismatic but possessed of a still ordinary-looking head of hair, was probably used to getting a phone number when he asked. But when the property mogul tried it on that year with a young model, at a party in New York, he couldn’t quite close the deal. “I am not giving you my number,” countered 28-year-old Melania Knavs. “You give me yours, and I will call you.” Fast-forward seven years and the pair tied the knot in a starstudded bash at his Florida estate. Fast-forward again and Mrs Trump will soon be the next First Lady of the United States. But who is she?
A ‘traditional’ First Lady
Glamorous and entirely devoted to her husband and his success, Mrs Trump has been cast as a kind of retro presidential spouse, a modern-day Jackie Kennedy. Like the former Mrs Kennedy, Mrs Trump, now 46, speaks four languages: Slovenian, French, German, and English. When Mr Trump first hinted at tilting for the top office, in 1999, she told reporters: “I would be very traditional, like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy.” But there are ways in which she will be a lessthan-traditional First Lady: she will be the first to have posed nude for a magazine. Supporters of Ted Cruz seized on her work as a model, overlaying an image of her posing naked with the warning: “Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady. Or you could vote for Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”
Earlier this year, a lewd phone interview with Mr and Mrs Trump by shockjock radio presenter Howard Stern resurfaced, in which Mr Stern quizzed Mrs Trump about what she was wearing (“almost nothing”) and how often she had sex with Mr Trump (“every night, sometimes more”), and described her to Mr Trump as “that broad in your bed”. The interview prompted accusations of misogyny. Mrs Trump is suing the Daily Mail and a US blogger for $150m (£114m), her lawyer says, over articles she claims infer that she was a sex worker in the 1990s. Both the blogger and the Daily Mail have retracted their articles. Mrs Trump used her social media accounts to hit back and her treatment has been compared by some commentators to “slutshaming” - the practice of attacking women over certain ways of dressing or acting.
From Slovenia to New York
Mrs Trump was born Melanija Knavs in Sevnica, a small town about an hour’s drive from Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, to a relatively well-off family. Her father Viktor worked for the mayor of nearby Hrastnik before becoming a successful car salesman. Her mother, Amalija, designed prints for a fashion brand. Melania studied design and architecture in Ljubljana. It was claimed on her professional website that she held a degree, but later emerged that she dropped out during her first year. The website has now been scrubbed entirely and redirects to Mr Trump’s business site. At 18, she signed with a modelling agency in Milan and began flying around Europe and the US, appearing in highprofile ad campaigns. It was at a party at New York Fashion week that she met Mr Trump. Like her husband, she never drinks, according to reports, and shies away from late-night parties. She has her own branded jewellery business and is reportedly involved in the design process. The pair married in 2005 and had a son, Barron, in 2006. Her parents spend a significant amount of time in New York, helping care for Barron, though they do not speak English, according to reports. Mrs Trump has apparently squared her background with her husband’s attacks on immigration - declaring that she did everything by the book. “It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers,” she told Harpers Bazaar. “You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa.”
‘Policies are my husband’s job’
Mrs Trump has largely steered clear of the political fray, confining her appearances to standing by her husband’s side. “I chose not to go into politics and policy,” she said in an interview with GQ. “Those policies are my husband’s job.” Her one big moment of the campaign came when she took centre stage on the first day of the Republican National Convention in July for the traditional spousal speech, and it did not go well. Commentators quickly noticed remarkable similarities with Michelle Obama’s convention speech in 2008, and the ensuing plagiarism scandal overshadowed what she had to say. Mrs Trump’s lawsuit against the Daily Mail has put her in the spotlight once again, but she remains something of an unknown quantity compared with her predecessors. She does advise her husband, she told GQ, but she remains tight-lipped about it what she says. “Nobody knows and nobody will ever know,” she said. “Because that’s between me and my husband.”