Who is Mela­nia Trump? The un­usual, tra­di­tional, next US First Lady

Fiji Sun - - Comment -

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.”

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