Melania Trump

Slovenian model, wife of Donald Trump and First Lady of the United States
Melania Trump
Melania Trump at the Inauguration.jpg
First Lady of the United States
Assumed office
January 20, 2017
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Michelle Obama
Personal details
Born Melanija Knavs
(1970-04-26) April 26, 1970 (age 46)
Novo Mesto, SR Slovenia,
SFR Yugoslavia
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Donald Trump (m. 2005)
Children Barron Trump
Residence Trump Tower

Melania Trump (born Melanija Knavs[1] [mɛˈlaːnija ˈknaːu̯s], April 26, 1970; Germanized to Melania Knauss[2]) is the First Lady of the United States, married to President Donald Trump. Born in Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia, she became a permanent resident of the United States in 2001 and an American citizen in 2006. Prior to marrying Donald Trump, she worked as a model; by 2016 she considered herself a "full-time mom."[3] Melania Trump is the second foreign-born First Lady of the United States, following Louisa Adams in 1825.

Contents

Early life

News report from Voice of America

Melanija Knavs was born in Novo Mesto in the southeast of Slovenia, which was then part of Yugoslavia,[4][5] on April 26, 1970.[6] She is a daughter of Amalija (née Ulčnik) and Viktor Knavs, who managed car and motorcycle dealerships for a state-owned vehicle manufacturer.[7][8] Her father was from the nearby town of Radeče.[7] Her mother came from the village of Raka,[9] and was a patternmaker at the children's clothing manufacturer "Jutranjka" in Sevnica.[7][10] When later working as a model, she changed the Slovene form of her last name Knavs to the German Knauss.[11]

She grew up in a modest apartment in a housing block in Sevnica, in Slovenia's Lower Sava Valley.[1] She has a sister[12] and an elder half-brother, whom she reportedly has never met,[13] from her father's previous relationship.[7][14]

When she was a teenager, the family moved to a two-story house in Sevnica,[15] and as a high school student, she lived in a high-rise apartment in Ljubljana. Melanija attended the Secondary School of Design and Photography in Ljubljana,[16] and studied at the University of Ljubljana for one year before dropping out.[17][18][19] She declares speaking six languages: English, French, Italian, German, Serbo-Croatian, and her native Slovene.[20]

Career and immigration to the United States

Trump began modeling at age 5 and started doing commercials at 16,[21] when she posed for the Slovenian fashion photographer Stane Jerko.[22] At 18, she signed with a modeling agency in Milan, Italy.[23] She was named runner-up in the 1992 Jana Magazine "Look of the Year" contest, held in Ljubljana, which promised its top three contestants an international modeling contract.[7][24]

After attending the University of Ljubljana for one year,[25] she modeled for fashion houses in Milan and Paris. She then relocated to New York City in 1996,[23] her contract and visa negotiated by Italian businessman Paolo Zampolli.[7] Through her lawyer, she has indicated she first entered the United States on a business visitor visa in August 1996. She obtained an H-1B visa in October 1996. After that, she regularly returned to Slovenia to obtain a series of four more one-year work visas because, at the time, Slovenians could only obtain one-year visas in the United States. In November 2016, the Associated Press reported that she was paid $20,056 for 10 modeling jobs in the United States in 1996 before she had legal permission to work in the country. In response, her lawyer stated the documents on which Associated Press relied "have not been verified, [and] do not reflect our records including corresponding passport stamps."[26][27]

Following her immigration to the United States, she appeared on the covers of Harper's Bazaar (Bulgaria), Ocean Drive, In Style Weddings, New York Magazine, Avenue, Allure, Vanity Fair (Italy), Vogue (following her marriage to Donald Trump), and GQ (UK).[28] She was featured as a bikini model in the 2000 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.[29] As a model, she was associated with Irene Marie Management Group and Donald Trump's Trump Model Management.[30]

Applying as a model of "extraordinary ability", Melania obtained a green card and became a lawful permanent resident in 2001; she gained United States citizenship in 2006.[31]

Marriage to Donald Trump

 
Melania Trump shaking hands with President Bill Clinton in 2000
 
Melania and Donald Trump during the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation (MC-LEF) 20th Annual Semper Fidelis Gala at New York City, April 22, 2015

After moving to New York City in 1996,[32] Melania met her future husband, Donald Trump at a Fashion Week party in New York City in September 1998. He and Marla Maples had separated in May 1997; divorce proceedings were finalized on June 8, 1999.[1][33] Donald attended the event with another date, Celina Midelfart, and Melania initially refused to give Donald her phone number.[24] Melania broke off the relationship shortly after it began, but the couple reconciled after a few months.[7] Their relationship gained attention after a 1999 interview on The Howard Stern Show.[34] In 2000, Melania appeared with Donald while he campaigned for that year's Reform Party presidential nomination.[34] Their relationship gained additional publicity after the 2004 launch of Donald's business-oriented reality television show, The Apprentice. Donald described their long courtship in 2005: "We literally have never had an argument, forget about the word 'fight' ... We just are very compatible. We get along."[33]

After becoming engaged in 2004, Donald and Melania were married in an Anglican service on January 22, 2005, at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, followed by a reception in the ballroom at Donald's Mar-a-Lago estate.[35][36]

The event was attended by celebrities such as Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, Rudy Giuliani, Heidi Klum, Star Jones, P. Diddy, Shaquille O'Neal, Barbara Walters, Conrad Black, Regis Philbin, Simon Cowell, Kelly Ripa, then-Senator Hillary Clinton, and former president Bill Clinton.[36][37] At the reception, Billy Joel serenaded the crowd with "Just the Way You Are" and supplied new lyrics about Donald to the tune of "The Lady Is a Tramp".[36] The Trumps' wedding ceremony and reception were widely covered by the media.[32] Melania wore a $200,000 dress made by John Galliano of the house of Christian Dior.[36]

On March 20, 2006,[38] Trump gave birth to her only son Barron William Trump. Melania suggested his middle name, and her husband suggested his first name.[39]

Role in 2016 U.S. presidential election

 
Melania supporting the Donald Trump presidential campaign

In November 2015, when asked about her husband's presidential campaign, Trump said: "I encouraged him because I know what he will do and what he can do for America. He loves the American people and he wants to help them."[40] Trump played a relatively small role in her husband's campaign—atypical of spouses of presidential running mates.[41][42][43]

 
Melania speaking at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland

In July 2016, Trump's official website was redirected to Trump.com. On Twitter, she stated that her site was outdated and did not "accurately reflect [her] current business and professional interests."[44] This change came after it was widely noted by the media that the website had falsely claimed for more than 10 years that she had a degree in architecture and design from the University of Ljubljana.[45] Her biography in the 2016 Republican National Convention official program also incorrectly stated that she had obtained a degree in Slovenia.[19][46]

On July 18, 2016, Trump gave a speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. The speech contained a paragraph that was nearly identical to a paragraph of Michelle Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.[47][48][49] When asked about the speech, Trump said she wrote the speech herself "with as little help as possible".[50] Two days later, Trump staff writer Meredith McIver took responsibility and apologized for the "confusion".[51]

First Lady of the United States

 
Melania as First Lady, with President Donald Trump, at the Liberty Ball on Inauguration Day

Melania assumed the role of First Lady of the United States on January 20, 2017. She is the second foreign-born woman to hold the position (after Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, who was born in 1775 in London to an American father and British mother).[52][53][54][55] She is the first First Lady to be a naturalized (rather than birthright) citizen of the United States,[56][57] the first to speak English as a second language,[58] and the first to be fluent in more than two languages.[57] At 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m), she is also one of the tallest First Ladies to hold the office, tied with Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt.[59] She is expected to continue living in Trump Tower with her son Barron at least until the end of the 2016-17 school year.[60][61]

Her Secret Service code name is "Muse" (beginning with the same letter as Trump's code name, "Mogul", per Secret Service tradition).[62]

When asked by The New York Times in 1999 what her role would be if Donald Trump were to become president, Melania replied: "I would be very traditional. Like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy."[8] In 2016, she told CNN her focus as First Lady would be to help women and children. She also said she would combat cyberbullying, especially among children, having quit social media herself due to the "negativity".[63]

Five days before the election, she told a crowd of supporters in Pennsylvania: "Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers. It is never OK when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied, or attacked. It is terrible when that happens on the playground. And it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet."[64] Regarding the contrast of her platform with her husband's pattern of Twitter attacks during his campaign, Melania said shortly after the election that she had rebuked him "all the time" but that "he will do what he wants to do in the end."[65]

In February 2017, Trump sued Mail Media, the owner of The Daily Mail, seeking $150 million in damages over an August 2016 article which alleged that she had worked for an escort service during her modeling days. The Mail had already retracted the article and apologized.[66] The lawsuit claimed the article had ruined her "unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to establish "multimillion dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world".[67] Commentators said her claim raised ethical questions about potentially wishing to profit from her position as First Lady.[68] On February 18, the lawsuit was amended, omitting the language about her earning potential and focusing instead on emotional distress.[69]

The first White House event led by Trump was a luncheon for International Women's Day on March 8, 2017. Trump spoke to an audience of women about her life as a female immigrant, and about working towards gender equality both domestically and abroad, noting the role of education as a tool against gender inequality.[70][71][72]

In March 2017, Slovenia honored her by introducing "First Lady" wine, a red wine produced in the region near her hometown of Sevnica.[73]

References

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External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Michelle Obama
First Lady of the United States
2017–present
Incumbent