US Presidency: Ivanka Trump claims her father, Donald, is a feminist
Next stop, the White House? Chrissy Iley meets Ivanka Trump, savvy businesswoman, eldest daughter of ‘The Donald’ and the secret weapon in his bid for the US presidency.
I’m on the 25th floor of the Trump Tower in the heart of New York City, sitting opposite Ivanka Trump. She’s a dazzling presence – tall and elegant. At 34, she’s the eldest daughter of Donald Trump – the billionaire businessman and would-be US President – and his first wife, 67-yearold Ivana, Czech-American socialite and former model.
Ivanka’s skin is luminously moisturised. Her hair, though silky, golden and long, is contained. Let’s not forget that in the world of hairstyles, few have had as much impact as her mother’s rock-hard beehive or Donald’s swoop-over. Ivanka looks more like her mother, but has inherited her father’s superhuman work ethic. She sleeps, she says, only “about four and a half hours a night”. In March this year, she gave birth to her third child, Theodore. Just a week later, she was back and busy on her dad’s campaign trail, looking poised, super-slim and ready to take on the world.
“As a young girl growing up, my father told me I could do anything I set my mind to,” Ivanka says and that’s exactly what she did.
She was a model for a brief time, before graduating with an economics degree from the prestigious Wharton business school in 2004. Along with her two elder brothers, Ivanka is an executive vice-president at the Trump Organisation. She has her own successful fashion brand and she’s writing a book titled Women Who Work. Oh yes, and she and her siblings are very influential in their father’s bid to win the US election in November.
Donald, 70, now with his third wife, Melania Knauss, helmed the US edition of The Apprentice, and is taken more seriously in his home country than in other parts of the world. In America, a growing number of people look up to the man who isn’t afraid to say what many think.
Donald has five children – three from his first marriage plus one each from his second and third, the youngest of whom, Barron, is 10. Yet it is the elder three who wield the greatest influence over their father’s political ambitions.
Ivanka and her brothers Donald Jr, 38, and Eric, 32, are all major players in the Trump presidential crusade, travelling on his campaign plane and sitting with him at his conference table.
In June, Ivanka and her siblings successfully pressed their dad to sack one of his top aides, campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski, who they worried had become a control freak. Reports suggest it was Ivanka who delivered the ultimatum to their father, threatening to distance herself from the campaign if Lewandowski was not removed.
She was right, of course. People were complaining that Corey was becoming too abrasive – particularly towards women.
All three children work at Trump
Tower, on the floor below their father’s office. When we meet, it is clear Ivanka intends to remain above the fray. While her father thrives on the buzz of saying the first thing that comes into his head, Ivanka carefully manicures her thoughts. In person, she’s measured, impressive and athletic-looking. A giant desk separates us. It’s filled with books, notes, her magazine covers and a printed card with what appears to be the Trump manifesto – it reads:
“We are Determined, Respectful, Engaged, Ambitious, Motivated, Dedicated, Optimistic”.
I’m flustered as I grapple for my tape recorder. Ivanka’s voice is soothing as she recommends one of her own handbags to me. It has many compartments and a charger for your phone.“It’s coming in the new collection,” she says.
The fashion line is only a small part of what’s occupying Ivanka’s time alongside the Trump campaign, the family’s real estate deals and, of course, her three kids. She tells me she’s literally always running home to check on them. There’s a camera linked to the office, too, so she knows what they’re up to.
Ivanka recently tweeted that baby Theodore started sleeping through the night at two months. “With each child, we got them on a sleep schedule in a quicker fashion,” she explains. “Arabella [her eldest daughter, aged five] was a disaster because we didn’t know what we were doing. It tooka year. Joseph [aged two] was half that, but with Theodore, we’re learning.”
Her husband, Jared Kushner, is also involved with Donald’s campaign.
He’s a businessman – the publisher of the New York Observer and head of his family’s real estate development venture, Kushner Companies.
The pair married in 2009 after Ivanka converted to Judaism for him. “I’m incredibly in love with him and he’s my best friend,” she says.
Jared was raised Orthodox. Ivanka is observant of the Sabbath and has learnt to cook kosher. “I was a terrible cook. I’ve always loved entertaining and having people in my home, but I would normally order food. When I got married, I decided that was something I would learn how to do,” she says.
As well as an apartment in Manhattan, the pair has a cottage at one of the Trump golf clubs in New Jersey, next to her father’s. She and her family escape there at weekends. She says Donald is an “excellent” grandfather. “My kids love him and we spend a lot of time together, especially during the summer. It’s very cute that my daughter has picked up little things from him. A couple of months ago, we were walking down the street and she spotted a pothole in the road. She points at me and looks at it, and says, ‘Grandpa would not like that.’ We laugh and then she goes,
‘You know, that sort of meticulousness that he has.’ He is incredibly close with my children.”
Ivanka’s eyes light up when talking about her dad. “My father has tremendous warmth. He is a fiercely loyal person to his family and friends. He has an amazing – and albeit sometimes wicked – sense of humour. He has been an unbelievable father.”
Donald doesn’t realise that his ‘jokes’ can often be taken out of context – and Ivanka hasn’t always been shielded from them herself.
A former Miss Universe contestant recalled the time the magnate drew attention to Ivanka’s obvious visual appeal, asking, “Don’t you think my daughter’s hot?” Ivanka was 16 at the time...
Does she think his sense of humour has been taken in the wrong way? “Potentially,” she says, cautiously. Perhaps he shouldn’t joke so much in public, I suggest. Ivanka demurs, as she does about all his controversial politicking. Rather than try to defend him, Ivanka says, “He is also authentic. A component of his success has been that people respect the fact that he’s incredibly honest with his opinions and in politics that’s remarkably rare, if not unheard of. So I think that’s a refreshing quality. Regardless of whether people agree or disagree with a certain political stance, I do think there’s an appreciation that he is not afraid to say where he stands on a given issue.”
My father has tremendous warmth. He is a fiercely loyal person.”
People who are the most successful are the most passionate.”
So, Team Trump. Would she, could she, join his political team? It has been suggested she would be his perfect foil. “Oh, gosh, he’s keeping me busy here at Trump. I also have my own business and a young family. Quite a few things on my plate and I’m very happy.” It’s not exactly a denial.
Then there are Donald’s controversial public statements. So what does Ivanka think about her father’s suggestion to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the US and banning Muslims from entering the country? She’s not going to tell me – those questions are off limits. She sails on unruffled, super-controlled, immune to his turbulence. The best I can do is ask how things would change if she was to get the title First Daughter. “You’ll have to ask me in a year from now. I’m an adult now, so it would be a different experience than if I were a child. But I’m still a daughter.”
She is also close friends with the former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton. “Yes, we’ve known each other for years and she’s a wonderful person, and a very good friend.” So despite their parents running against each other, their bond remains.
Ivanka is very much a feminist. “I 100 per cent believe in gender equality, so by definition, that makes me a feminist, which I’m very proud of.”
She also thinks her father is a feminist – despite accusations against him of misogyny, objectifying women and generally cussing them out. “I do, yes, and it’s a big reason I am the woman I am today. He always told me and showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to if I married vision and passion with work ethic. He also surrounded me with strong female role models who have done just that since I was a little girl. People talk about gender equality – he has lived it. He has employed women at the highest levels of the Trump Organisation for decades, so I think it’s a great testament to how capable he thinks women are and has shown that his whole life.”
I think Ivanka has always been a daddy’s girl. She used to watch
Donald in the office and on construction sites when she was little. She becomes more hesitant at this. You can see her choosing words carefully. “Yes, I did. I think there’s a genetic component as well as an experiential component to my love for real estate. Both my parents really loved what they did professionally and shared their passion with us starting from a young age. It’s no coincidence that my brothers and I like showing up for work. That’s what they modelled for us, but they didn’t force it upon us.
“The number one thing my father said to me my whole life was that you need to find what you’re passionate about because life is too short to do something you don’t love, and if you are not passionate you will never be great.
And I’ve noticed that to be true. People who are the most successful are the most passionate.”
Born and raised in New York, Ivanka was a straight-A student and responsible for earning her own spending money, which is why she took up modelling. In her book The Trump Card, she writes, “Models were the meanest, cattiest, bitchiest girls on the planet. Entitled, unsupervised, under-educated and pampered teenagers whose every success came as the direct result of someone else’s disappointment.”
She got out of that fast, went to uni and worked before joining Trump.
Ivanka isn’t someone who thinks a famous family is a curse – despite what she went through when her parents divorced in 1992 and she learnt about her father’s mistress, the actress Marla Maples, who became his second wife.
Reporters would ask about her father’s sexual prowess and she was hounded by the paparazzi. Yet, the Trump name is, she says,“a tremendous blessing”, adding, “I look at the great fortune I’ve had my entire life. Some people think having a successful or famous parent can be paralysing, in that they feel they could never live up to what was accomplished by the generation before them. The flip side is that it can be a great motivator if you harness that energy and use it productively.”
She is close to both her parents and believes their divorce “brought me closer to my father, not because I was taking his side, but because I could no longer take him for granted”.
So she supported him, a week after giving birth, on the podium in New York. Wasn’t that hard? “I try to live my life in accordance with my priorities,” Ivanka insists. “My family is always my first priority.” She believes her attitude to raising children is very different from that of her mother’s generation. “There used to be a work life and a home life. Now there is one life,” she says. “No one I know has a work wardrobe any more, or an area of their closet that’s designated for work. We transition through roles more fluidly. Technology has been a huge enabler of that because it became normal to respond to work emails at 11 at night and therefore permissible to pick up the phone when your child was calling at the end of the school day.
“I don’t do it all myself. I’m very fortunate to have childcare to help me while I’m at work.”
In fact, she rejects “the concept of ‘having it all’ because that’s the wrong way to look at things. It implies there’s one definition for personal and another for professional success, and I don’t believe that to be true. And I think people are trying to cast women as uniform and one-dimensional. A better way to look at it is, you are the architect of your own life and you have to live in accordance with the things you prioritise.”
Ivanka has recently embraced running. “I absolutely hated it,” she says. “Then I trained for a half marathon. Now I run with my husband on Saturday mornings. I’m probably the only person who runs without music, without a phone. It’s great to be able to talk to him.”
Every year, she and Jared like to go to Turnberry in the UK, which she says “is without doubt the greatest golf resort in the world”. She thinks the only way to really get to know someone is on a golf course.
She claims not to be a “particularly good” golfer, though I doubt there’s much that she’s not exemplary at. She disagrees and worries that I might think she’s too perfect. “You know, I get very messy. I don’t want to project an image that everything is easy because that’s not helpful to women, because raising children is really tiring and exhausting. I sleep very little and I don’t advocate that, but there are things that I want to accomplish. I will leave the office early to have dinner with my kids, put them to bed and get back to work rather late. It’s a choice I feel good about. I’m okay about losing a little bit of sleep to create a schedule that works for my life.
“I’m also of my generation, a millennial woman who is ambitious. I have a lot of things to accomplish professionally. And I swing for the fences.” What does that mean? “It’s a baseball expression. It means I dream big.” And live big? “No, I don’t. I don’t live to excess.”
Indeed. Everything about her is contained, balanced, the antithesis of her father. I like her, but I still don’t feel I know who she really is. I put it another way – if she were a shoe, what kind would she be? “Oh, I’d be my Carra pump.” She takes off a coral stiletto from her own collection and shows it to me. “It’s my go-to. Remarkably comfortable – I could run a marathon in these.” But that heel is four or five inches high... “They’re comfortable. I would never wear a shoe that would require me to teeter around.” Mystery still unsolved. A woman in stilettos can only run a marathon if she’s Ivanka Trump.
I’m of my generation, a millennial woman who is ambitious.”
Right: Donald Trump with his family (from left) Tiffany, Donald Jr, Melania, Ivanka, Eric and two of his grandchildren.
Above: Ivanka with mum Ivana and brother Donald Jr (right). Above left: After her father married Marla Maples (left), Ivanka says she grew closer to him because she could no longer take him for granted.
Left: Ivanka is loving life with her husband Jared, their daughter Arabella, son Joseph and cute baby Theodore.