Many would agree that President Donald Trump is perhaps the most-disliked man in American politics. But what many don’t acknowledge is the story of the woman who has been by his side the entire time…
Fluent in five languages, Melania Trump came to the United States only two decades ago. In her short time in America, she’s gone from an international model to First Lady of the United States. These facts are readily known, but there is a whole story behind the First Lady, and one that is rather inspiring…
Before her First Lady fame, Melania was a model. Her name, before changing a couple of times, was Melanija Knavs.
Born in Slovenia
Melania was born in Slovenia, then a part of Yugoslavia, in 1970, making her 24 years younger than her president husband.
Melania’s father Viktor Knavs managed a car and motorcycle dealership, and her mother Amalija worked as a patternmaker for a children’s clothing manufacturer.
Melania began modeling at just five years old. She modeled commercially for the first time at 16 years old for a Slovenian fashion photographer named Stane Jerko.
When she began to work as a model, Melania decided it would be best to change her last name “Knavs” to its German version, “Knauss.”
After graduating from high school, Melania attended the University of Ljubljana for one year. Before dropping out, she studied architecture and design.
At 18 years old, the future First Lady signed with a modeling agency in Milan, Italy. Then, in 1992, she won second place in the “Look of the Year” contest held by Jana Magazine. She was awarded with an international modeling contract.
After winning an international modeling contract, Melania bounced between fashion houses in Paris and Milan, eventually meeting a man named Paolo Zampolli, the co-owner of a modeling agency in 1995. Zampolli was friends with an American real estate mogul named Donald Trump.
Coming to America
In 1996, Melania Knauss moved to New York City, Manhattan specifically, where the young model shared an apartment with photographer Matthew Atanian in Union Square.
Melania immediately got to work, completing 10 modeling jobs in just seven weeks before earning legal permission to work in the country.
Meeting the Donald
In 1998, Zampolli introduced Melania to Donald Trump at a party in a Times Square nightclub. Trump was attending the party with another woman, but asked Melania for her phone number anyways. Melania refused, and instead took his number.
Guests of Howard Stern
The relationship became widely known after the couple appeared on The Howard Stern Show in 1999. The New York Times asked Melania what type of First Lady she would be if Trump ever became president…
Engagement and Marriage
The budding relationship between Melania and Trump soon bloomed into an engagement in 2004. The next year, the two married in Palm Beach, Florida.
Many household names attended the Trumps’ wedding. The guest list included family friends like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Matt Lauer, Star Jones, P. Diddy, Shaquille O’Neal, Simon Cowell and many others…
Becoming a Mother
In 2006, Melania became a mother for the first time, giving birth to Barron William Trump, her one and only child.
It was 2010 when Melania launched her jewelry line, Melania Timepieces and Jewelry. She also ventured into the market of skin care with her own collection. Both companies eventually end their relationship with the First Lady.
Fast forward to 2015. In regards to her husband becoming president, Melania said, “I encouraged him because I know he will do what he can for America. he loves the American people and he wants to help them.”
Talking to CNN
Melania told the news network that she would focus on women and children as First Lady, specifically on the issue of cyber-bullying among children.
Just before the election, Melania made a statement to 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.”
2016 Republican National Convention
In July of 2016, Melania gave a speech at the 2016 RNC. Media outlets highlighted that a specific portion of the speech reflected almost identical to one spoken by then First Lady Michelle Obama.
Becoming First Lady-elect
To the surprise of many, though not all, Donald Trump won the presidential election of 2016. This meant that the model from Slovania would eventually become First Lady of the United States.
One month after her husband’s inauguration as president, Melania sued Daily Mail and General Trust, seeking $150 million for an article that claimed she worked as a prostitute during her modeling days.
The blogger eventually filed a retraction claiming they “had no legitimate factual basis” to make the claims. The lawsuit was eventually settled in 2017.
Early Days as First Lady
Instead of moving directly into the White House in Washington, D.C, Melania stayed in Manhattan with son Barron, until he finished school.
Secret Service Nickname
As is tradition for the Secret Service, high-level personal in the White House are given nicknames. Donald Trump was given the nickname “Mogul” while Melania was given the name “Muse”.
The First Lady of the United States always has her own staff. Melania’s staff of only nine people was less than half of that of the previous two first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush.
Two Peas in a Pod
Melania Trump was the second of only two first ladies born outside of the United States. The first was Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams. Louisa was born in London in 1775.
Standing at an above average 5 feet 11 inches, Melania also ties Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt for the tallest First Lady.
First White House Event
In March of 2017, Melania held her first official White House event for International Women’s Day. She spoke about her life as an immigrant and her fight toward gender equality both in America and abroad.
It was reported in 2018 that while Melania lived in Manhattan instead of Washington, D.C., she flew between New York, Florida and D.C. many times. The trips cost more than $675,000.
On the night of President Trump’s State of the Union address, instead of riding in the presidential limousine with her husband, she rode separately but still within the motorcade.
In March of 2018, Melania held a meeting with executives from Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snap, and Twitter to talk about online harassment and Internet safety. Melania made the following statement at the meeting: “I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic, [but] that will not stop me from doing what I know is right.”
Dinner with Leaders
Melania took the initiative to plan the first state dinner to honor French President Emmanuel Macron, with his wife Brigitte.
On a solo trip to Africa, Melania visited Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt to talk about conservation, children, and families.
In an unprecedented move, First Lady Melania called for the firing of Deputy National Security Advisor Mira Ricardel. Ricardel was later moved to another role within the administration.
Be Best Campaign
In May of 2018, Melania started the Be Best campaign. The campaign focused on well-being for children, and advocating against cyber-bullying and drug use.
More Accusations of Plagiarism
Melania promoted the Be Best campaign with a booklet written by First Lady Melania Trump and the Federal Trade Commission, which many accused was plagiarized. Fact-checking website Snopes looked into the accusations, finding them “Mostly False.”
About Children Separated at the Border
With the country outraged after media coverage of the United States-Mexico border, where children were being taken from their families, Melania wanted the country to know how she felt about the White House’s “Zero Tolerance” policy regarding immigration.
Words and Action
Regarding the family separations, Melania said she “hates to see children separated from their families” and wants there to be “successful immigration reform.” She then took a trip to Texas to speak with doctors, medical staff, social workers and other at the Upbringing Hope Center to help the situation for all parties at the border.
A Wonderful First Lady, Regardless
There are many critics of the 45th President of the United States, but that should not take away from the amazing story the First Lady had forged for herself. Married to perhaps the most-disliked man in American politics, Melania holds her position with purpose, grace, and beauty, and is an honorable addition to American history.