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 wasdragged into the newsin March, unfortunately, after an anti-Trump super PAC insinuated that Donald is unfit to be president because his wife has posed nude for magazines. Here’s what you need to know about America’s first lady.
She’s a Pretty Historic First Lady
Regardless of what you think about a Trump presidency, it’s hard not to concede that Melania makes for a very elegant and rather unique first lady. She’s the first foreign-born first lady since John Quincy Adams’s wife, Louisa Adams, theonly first ladyto be born and raised in a communist country, most likely, as theWashington Postput it, the most “linguistically gifted” first lady (she is fluent in four languages), and the first to have posed nude for a magazine.
But in some ways, Melania is also very traditional first lady. In 1999, when Donald (her then-boyfriend)was consideringa 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 theNew 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 hasan older sister, Ines. Melania got into fashion early, walking the catwalkat age 5and appearing in her first commercial at age 16. She got herbig breakin the modeling world at 17, when she met renowned photographer Stane Jerko. At 18, she signed with a modeling agency in Milan and was then offjetting betweenParis and Milan on photo shoots. Shechanged her last namefrom Knavs to Knauss. She moved to New York in 1996.
While she previously stated that she graduated from a university in Slovenia with degrees in design and architecture, her official biography now says that she “paused her studies to advance her modeling career,”according to Huffington Post.Bojan Pozar and Igor Omerza, two Slovenian authors, wrote a biography about the future first lady, in which they reported that Melania left the University of Ljubljana’s architecture school after one year to focus on modeling.
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 toldABC Newsin 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 theNew York Postin 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 likeVogue andHarper’s Bazaar. She’s been featured in the pages ofAllure,Self,Vanity Fair, ELLE,and more. In 2000, she appeared nude in a BritishGQphoto spread, and was featured in theSports Illustratedswimsuit edition. In 2006, she posedfor Voguein a golden bikini while seven months pregnant.
You may also recognize her from commercials for Aflac insurance or fromThe 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, andaccording 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 toldPeople magazinein 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 inHarper’s Bazaarin 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 toldHarper’s Bazaarin 2016. “He has an amazing sense of vitality.” They began dating and got engaged in 2004. In 2005, they were married.
That year, Donaldtold 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 toldHarper’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 madea few appearanceson 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 toldHarper’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.” Melania revealed in an interview withUS Weeklythat she’s very involved in her son’s life and travels to his school for drop-offs, pick-ups and school events.
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’sa 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 theNew 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 recentlytold 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.”
Her Campaign Speeches Have Been Controversial
Melania’s campaign speech during the Republican National Convention was quickly panned when journalists reported that parts of it wereplagiarizedfrom a speech Michelle Obama delivered at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Melania refrained from delivering another campaign speech until the final week of the election, when she promised totackle cyberbullyingand women’s rights as first lady. The speech was quickly criticized by reporters andpolitical commentators, who noted that Donald Trump routinely insults people on Twitter.
The Internet Couldn’t Get Enough of Her Meeting With Michelle Obama
After her husband was officially named the president-elect,Melania went to the White Houseto have tea with current first lady Michelle Obama. The two talked about their families and raising children, and it’s safe to say they avoided discussing that infamous speech.
But that didn’t stop the internet from having a field day andcreating several memespoking fun at the future first lady:
When she and her husband met the Obamas on inauguration day, she brought Michellea box from Tiffany & Co.
She Has Sued Over Media Coverage
In September 2016, Melaniafiled a lawsuit in Marylandagainst theDaily Mailand Maryland blogger Webster Griffin Tarpley, claiming they published false and defamatory statements about her being involved in an escort service. Following the suit, theDaily Mail and Tarpleypublished retractions, and Tarpley issued an apology to the Trump family. The suit against Tarpley was settled, and the suit against theDaily Mail was dismissed after a Maryland judge concluded that Maryland courts “do not have jurisdiction over Mrs. Trump’s claims,”according to the New York Times.
In February 2017, Melania’s lawyer refiled the suit against the Daily Mailin New York Supreme Court. Her lawyer argued that the article caused Melania’s brand to lose “significant value” and could cost her “multimillion dollar business relationships,”according to theWashington Post.
Melania’s lawyer also sent a letter toPeoplemagazine in October 2016 concerning an article that claimed Donald Trump made unwanted advances toward aPeoplewriter.According to Fortune, the letter does not address the incident with Trump but instead demanded a retraction a passage in the article where the writer claims to have had a friendly encounter with Melania on the street months after the alleged assault.
In both incidents, Melania was represented by Charles Harder, the lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan when he won a $140 million verdict againstGawker.
She Did Not Move Into the White House Immediately After the Inauguration
Donald Trump moved into the White House after the inauguration, but Melania and Barron are staying in New York City for now, so that Barron can finish up his school year. Though she’s made a few public appearances —reading Dr. Seuss to children in a New York hospital,hosting a lunch on International Women’s Day— she’s been mostly “reclusive and elusive,” according to theWashington Post.The paparazzi have even given up trying to get a shot of her. “This is not just low-profile, but no profile,” Katherine Jellison, an Ohio University history professor, told thePost.She’s also facedrumorsabout the state of her relationship, but a friend said they are“laughable and fictional.”
But as of April 3, the White Housereleased Melania’s first official portraittaken in her “new residence.” While the photo features Melania wearing a sleek black blazer and a 13-carat emerald-cut diamond she received from Donald Trump, people across social media were mostly commenting on how the photo looks heavily airbrushed.
She’s Concerned With How Trump is Portrayed in the Media
According to a report fromPolitico, the First Lady is paying close attention to how her husband is covered in the media, and she’s not happy with the leaks purportedly coming from his staff. She’s been known to alert Trump when there are negative stories about him, and she’s concerned that some people on his team — White House press secretary Sean Spicer in particular, Politico claims — aren’t doing enough to defend him.
Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone said that “She’s very private and she’s very smart. Anyone who thinks she’s a mannequin doesn’t get it. She has excellent instincts into who is trying to exploit their influence with him.”