Donald Trump has been dominating the news cycle ever since he announced his presidential campaign bid in June (and let’s be real, he’d been making headlines long before that), but the public knows significantly less about his glamorous wife, Melania Trump. Unlike Donald, who manages to share his opinion whether or not it’s wanted, Melania tends to stay away from the press. She was dragged into the news this week, unfortunately, after an anti-Trump super PAC insinuated that Donald is unfit to be president because his wife has posed nude for magazines. With Donald emerging as the Republican front-runner, it’s time to get to know the woman who could one day become America’s next first lady.
SHE WOULD BE A PRETTY HISTORIC FIRST LADY
Regardless of what you think about a Trump presidency, it’s hard not to concede that Melania would make for a very elegant and rather unique first lady. She would be the first foreign-born first lady since John Quincy Adams’s wife, Louisa Adams, would be the only first lady to be born and raised in a communist country, would most likely be, as the Washington Post put it, the most “linguistically gifted” first lady (she is fluent in four languages), and would be the first to have posed nude for a magazine.
But in some ways, Melania would also be a very traditional first lady. In 1999, when Donald (her then-boyfriend) was considering a presidential bid, Melania described how she envisioned the role: ”I would be very traditional. Like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy. I would support him,” she told the New York Times.
BUT FIRST, WHO IS SHE?
Melania was born in 1970 as Melanija Knavs, in a part of former Yugoslavia that later became Slovenia. Her dad owned a chain of car dealerships and her mother was a clothing designer; she has an older sister, Ines. Melania got into fashion early, walking the catwalk at age 5 and appearing in her first commercial at age 16. She got her big break in the modeling world at 17, when she met renowned photographer Stane Jerko. At 18, she signed with a modeling agency in Milan. She graduated from the University in Slovenia with degrees in design and architecture, and then was off jetting between Paris and Milan on photo shoots. She changed her last name from Knavs to Knauss. She moved to New York in 1996.
Friends describe her as ambitious and career-oriented. Her childhood friend Nena Bedek told theDaily Mail, “She always had higher goals than the rest of us and more ambition. Her goal was to leave Sevnica for Ljubljana and to go abroad.” Ex-boyfriend Jure Zorcic told ABC News in 2016 that she was never a “typical Slovenian girl,” and that she had dreams to “live abroad, in Italy, France, a life of fashion.”
But her subsequent fame has also been surprising to some. “She struck me more like a bookworm. I never expected that she would become a world-famous beauty,” Jerko told the New York Post in 2015. Zorcic told ABC, “Nobody believed 20 years ago that she would live at the top of the world, on Fifth Avenue in Trump Tower — even her!”
HER HARD WORK PAID OFF
From Milan, her career quickly took off, and in the coming years, she appeared on the covers of magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She’s been featured in the pages of Allure, Self,Vanity Fair, ELLE, and more. In 2000, she appeared nude in a British GQ photo spread, and was featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. In 2006, she posed for Vogue in a golden bikini while seven months pregnant.
You may also recognize her from commercials for Aflac insurance or from The View, which she has co-hosted with Barbara Walters, and you may have seen her jewelry line with QVC, or her caviar-infused skin-care line.
Melania is also active in philanthropy, having served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the American Red Cross, and according to her website, she is an active member of the Police Athletic League.
HER RELATIONSHIP WITH TRUMP GOT A LOT OF PRESS
They met in November 1998 at a Fashion Week party in Manhattan. Donald, 24 years her senior, had recently separated from his second wife at the time and was there with another date.
“I saw Melania and I said, ‘Who is that?'” Donald told People magazine in 2015. “She was a very successful model. She was terrific. I tried to get her number, and she wouldn’t give it to me.”
Melania was wary of Donald, who had a reputation of being a ladies man (and, again, was there with someone else). “I said, ‘I am not giving you my number; you give me yours, and I will call you.’ I wanted to see what kind of number he would give me — if it was a business number, what is this? I’m not doing business with you,” she recalled in Harper’s Bazaar in 2016.
Donald gave Melania his number — all of them, actually — and she ended up calling him a few days later.
“I was struck by his energy,” she told Harper’s Bazaar in 2016. “He has an amazing sense of vitality.” They began dating and got engaged in 2004. In 2005, they were married.
That year, Donald told CNN, “Well, we were together five years. We literally have never had an argument; forget about the word ‘fight.’ We never even had an argument. We just are very compatible. We get along. And I just said: You know what? It’s time. It wasn’t a big deal.” They have one son together, Barron, who is 10.
Oh, and in case you were wondering about theirsex life — it’s fantastic. “We have incredible sex at least once a day,” Melania told Howard Stern in 2000, giving way too much information. “Sometimes even more.”
BUT SHE DOES NOT LIKE THE LIMELIGHT
Well, at least when it comes to politics. When Donald announced his candidacy, Melania made it clear she was not going to be a part of the campaign. She told Harper’s Bazaar:
“I’m choosing not to go political in public because that is my husband’s job. I’m very political in private life, and between me and my husband I know everything that is going on. I follow from A to Z,” she affirms. “But I chose not to be on the campaign. I made that choice. I have my own mind. I am my own person, and I think my husband likes that about me.”
Though she has made a few appearances on the trail, these days, she focuses on raising Barron (who, like her, can speak Slovenian) and generally supports Donald from the sidelines. “I have a lot on my plate right now, and I’m busy enough,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “I don’t have a nanny. I have a chef, and I have my assistant, and that’s it. I do it myself. You know, those hours with your child are really important ones, even if it’s just the two of you, being quiet in the car together.”
She has, however, weighed in a few political matters. One area she does support Donald is his stance on immigration. Donald wants to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and build a wall at the Mexican border. “I came here for my career, and I did so well, I moved here. It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers,” she told the magazine. “That is just the person you are. You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001. After the green card, I applied for citizenship. And it was a long process.”
SHE WAS SUBJECTED TO A RUDE, SEXIST AD
Remember that nude photo spread? This is how the anti-Trump super PAC used it — in a sleazy, slut-shaming attack against Donald:
Donald saw this, blamed Ted Cruz, and then lost his shit by threatening Cruz’s wife. But that’s a different story.
BUT DON’T EXPECT HER TO FIRE OFF ANY INSULTS IN RESPONSE
Though her husband picks fights with pretty much everyone, Melania Trump is busy killing them with kindness. Here’s a sampling of her fans, from the New York Times:
“Mrs. Trump is a supportive wife, great mother and a lovely person,” Wendi Deng Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s former wife, said in reply to an email query. “She is incapable of being mean,” said Brad Johns, the celebrity colorist who for years added the caramel highlights to Mrs. Trump’s hair. “She’s not gossipy at all, not bitchy and just really nice, though I know that’s not exciting to hear,” said Robert Janjigian, fashion editor for The Palm Beach Daily News.”It’s interesting that she came in after his last ones, who talked all the time, and is a very quiet and nice person,” said Harry Benson, the seasoned photographer, who has done numerous portraits of Mr. Trump in Palm Beach home with his various wives.”She’s very, very nice, and he’s got absolutely the perfect woman for him, who I’m sure is not just arm candy, though she looks like she is,” said Liz Smith, the gossip columnist.”She’s a really nice person and a fabulous mother,” said Terry Allen Kramer, the Palm Beach socialite and veteran Broadway producer, echoing a point that resounded through more than a dozen interviews with those from Trump family circles.
SHE’S HER OWN PERSON
Melania is quick to tell Donald when she disagrees with his language or his policies and maintains that they are independent people. “I don’t agree with everything that he says but you know, that is normal,” she recently told CNN. “I’m my own person, I tell him what I think. I’m standing very strong on the ground on my two feet and I’m my own person. And I think that’s very important in the relationship.”