Beautiful and entirely loyal to her husband and his success, a traditional United States first lady Melania Trump has been labelled as a kind of retro presidential spouse, a modern-day Jackie Kennedy. Like the former Mrs Kennedy, Mrs Trump, now 50, speaks four languages: Slovenian, French, German, and English.
In 1998, President Donald Trump, was 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 tycoon tried it on that year with a young model, at a party in New York, he couldn’t quite finish 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 later and the pair tied the knot in a star-studded bash at his Florida estate. Fast-forward again and Melania Trump is now the First Lady of the United States.
When President Donald Trump first implied 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 has been a less-than-traditional First Lady: she is the first lady to have previously posed nude for a magazine.
During the last presidential race, supporters of Ted Cruz Trump’s rival for the Republican nomination in 2016 confiscated on her work as a model, covering an image of her posing naked with the warning: “Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady. Or you could vote for Ted Cruz”.
Early in 2016, a lewd phone interview with Mr and Mrs Trump by shock-jock radio presenter Howard Stern emerged, in which Mr Stern asked the first lady about what she was wearing (“almost nothing”) and how frequent 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 allegations of misogyny.
The first lady Melania Trump has also sued the Daily Mail over an article she alleged infers that she was a sex worker in the 1990s. The newspaper accepted to pay damages and apologised to Mrs Trump in April 2017.
Her treatment has been compared by some critics to “slut-shaming” – the practice of criticizing women over certain ways of dressing or acting.
Mrs Trump was conceived 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 supposedly claimed on her professional website that she held a degree, but it later surfaced that she dropped out during her first year. The website was eventually scrapped entirely and redirected to Trump’s business site.
At 18, she signed with a modelling agency in Milan and began flying around Europe and the US, resurfacing in high-profile ad campaigns. It was at a party at New York Fashion week when she met Donald Trump.
Just like her husband, she never drinks, according to reports, and shies away from late-night parties. She had her own branded jewellery business and was allegedly involved in the design process.
The couple tied the knot in 2005 and had a son, Barron, in 2006.
She did not immediately move in to the White House with her husband after his election victory, remaining in New York until the end of Barron’s school term before joining the president in Washington in 2017.
Since moving in she has helped out with the annual White House Christmas decorations.
The first lady has seemingly bribed her background with her husband’s critics on immigration proclaiming 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.”
In July 2020, a statue of the First Lady in her native Slovenia which some compared to a character from The Smurfs was burnt, causing a police investigation.
The first lady has largely steered clear of the political strain, enclosing her appearances to standing by her husband’s side. “I chose not to go into politics and policy,” she said in a 2016 interview with GQ “Those policies are my husband’s job.”
Her one big moment of the 2016 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 as planned.
Critics quickly noticed remarkable similarities with Michelle Obama’s convention speech in 2008, and the providing plagiarism drama overshadowed what she had to say.
In 2018 she caused big dispute after wearing a jacket with the words “I really don’t care, do you?” written on the back on a trip to a migrant child detention centre.
“It was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticising me,” she later told ABC news. “I want to show them I don’t care.”
Despite these incidents she still remains something of mysterious quantity compared with her predecessors. She does advise her husband, she told GQ, but she remains uncommunicative about it what she says.
“Nobody knows and nobody will ever know,” she said. “Because that’s between me and my husband.”