America’s First Lady, Melania Trump, is arguably the most complex woman in the nation’s history to hold that title. With the grace and poise that may exceed that of Jackie Kennedy, this foreign-born super model has a checkered past and a rather mysterious present. The general public seems to admire her, but knows little about her. Here are some facts you need to know about the elusive celebrity hostess of your White House.
Like it or not, when America elects a president, it also elects a First Lady. President Trump came to the White House as an anomaly to say the least. It is only fitting that he brought with him an equally enigmatic spouse. Born April 26, 1970, in Novo Mesto, Slovenia (then part of communist Yugoslavia) as Melanija Knavs (pr. “navs,” [j’s and k’s are silent in Slovenian]), she grew up in a modest home with her older sister, Ines. Her father, Viktor Knavs, was a card-carrying communist who managed a state-owned car dealership. Her mother, Amalija Knavs, worked in a children’s clothing factory as a designer. Melania was closer to her mother than to her father who traveled a lot on business. She has a half-brother, Denis Cigelnjak, from her father’s out-of-wedlock relationship that none of the family including Viktor has ever met. I have to wonder when Denis is going to show up on a liberal media newscast as another thorn in the Trump family’s side.
At age 16, Melania obtained some local modeling gigs. The family moved to the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana where Melania was quickly scouted as a model. Her father’s fortunes in the car business increased with his Communist Party affinity, and he drove a Maserati during Melania’s high school years. She enrolled in Ljubljana University in 1987 majoring in art and design, but dropped out after a year to pursue a modeling career. She and her sister moved to Milan then Paris as both began working with well-known photographers. They changed their last names to Knauss (pr. “noss”), the Germanized name for Knavs. Melania Knauss moved to New York in 1996 where she landed covers on magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, GQ, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She posed nude for a section of a French magazine and for provocative pictures in other publications , something I assume she regrets now. She entered the U.S. on a work visa and soon received her green card for permanent residency. The green card was issued under the EB-1 program which grants residency to immigrants who demonstrate “extraordinary ability.” She became a U.S. citizen in 2006. She considers citizenship in this country the greatest privilege on the planet and says she cannot and will not take our freedoms for granted.
Melania met the recently separated Donald Trump at a New York fashion party in 1998. She first rejected his request for a date refusing to give him her phone number. Later, she agreed to take his number and call him. The couple eventually began a relationship and were engaged in 2004. The following year, they married in a lavish million-dollar Palm Beach, Florida, ceremony attended by celebrities galore including Bill and Hillary Clinton (little did Hillary know…). Melania was 35, Donald was 59. It was her first marriage; his third following wives Ivana (1977 to 1992) and Marla Maples (1993 to 1999). There is no contact among the three ex-wives. In 2006, Melania gave birth to Barron Trump.
Keenly business minded, she launched a jewelry collection, “Melania Timepieces & Jewelry,” in 2010. In 2013, she debuted a skin care line, “Melania Caviar Complexe C6.” Both brands have enjoyed significant success. She speaks five languages–English, French, Serbian, German, and Slovenian. She has taught Barron Slovenian and French.
Viktor and Amalija eventually followed their daughter to the United States where they now live, alternating between Trump Tower in New York City and Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach. They are adamant about staying behind the scenes. Sister, Ines, is single and now lives in New York residing in the $2 million apartment owned by the Trumps and previously occupied by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Melania is very close to her sister and considers her as best friend and confidant. Barron spends considerable time with his grandparents in New York particularly during the Trumps’ official travels. Below are pictures of the Knavs (left) and Ines Knauss (right, with Melania). Isn’t it uncanny how much the Knavs look like Donald and Melania?
The last thing Melania ever dreamed of was being America’s First Lady. She kept a rather low profile during the 2016 campaign finding it difficult to transition from her role of mother and business woman to the harried political scene. After her husband’s unexpected victory, she retreated with her son and family in familiar New York until the school year ended before relocating to the White House. After a year-and-a-half, she is still adjusting. Her’s and Donald’s has not been a model marriage. They have worked through alleged affairs, travel separations, and little time to themselves. They differ on many political issues. She is, nonetheless, a devoted wife and nurturing mother. Although her life as First Lady is not one she chose or even desired, she urged her husband to run for president. She was concerned that he would regret not doing so, but she never thought he would win. However, she considers her job as First Lady a duty and wears the title proudly, honorably, and capably. She maintains a respectful popularity among most Americans and many foreigners including some of our enemies. I would have to say she provides a much needed and delicate balance to the often caustic environment of the White House.