Melania Trump: everything you need to know about America’s next First Lady

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Moya Crockett
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She scowls, she pouts, and she’s worried about cyberbullying. We’re going to be seeing a lot more of her over the next four years – so here’s the lowdown on the woman who’ll be taking over residence of the White House.

  • She’s an immigrant

    What is it with anti-immigration male politicians marrying foreign women? (See also: Nigel Farage.) Melania Trump was born Melanija Knavs in Sevnica, Slovenia – although it was part of Yugoslavia in 1970, the year of her birth.

    She won’t be the first foreign-born first lady of the United States: that honour goes to Louisa Adams, the wife of sixth president John Quincy (in office 1825-29), who was born in England.

    Melania obtained an H-1B visa (which allows models to enter the country as “highly skilled workers”) shortly after arriving in the States and her green card in 2001, becoming a US citizen five years later.

    Interestingly, Trump is a fierce critic of the scheme that allowed his wife entry into the US and has vowed to rail against the “rampant, widespread H-1B abuse”, saying in March: “These are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay.”

  • She was a successful model

    Melanija ditched her birth name when she started modelling, and started working under the moniker Melania Knauss. She travelled to New York in 1996, where ID Models founder Paolo Zampolli gave her a contract.

    She earned over $20,000 from 10 modelling jobs before she had legal permission to work in the US, according to a report by the Associated Press.

  • She’s smart

    The erstwhile Melanija Knavs educated herself as she worked as a model across Europe, and is fluent in English, French and Serbo-Croat.

    She also studied architecture and design at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, which should stand her in good stead for one of her first roles as First Lady: turning the White House into a home, alongside an interior design team and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.

    However, she wasn’t quite smart enough to come up with her own speech at the Republican national convention in July – instead reciting one that sounded uncannily similar to a 2008 Democratic convention speech by Michelle Obama.

  • She didn’t succumb quickly to Trump’s, er, charms

    Melania and Trump famously met at Manhattan’s Kit Kat Klub in 1998. Trump had recently separated from his second wife Marla Maples and had arrived at the party with a date, but quickly ditched her when he spotted 28-year-old Melania (he was 52 at the time).

    However, when Trump asked for Melania’s number, she refused to give it to him – and asked for his instead. “If I give him my number, I’m just one of the women he calls,” she later recalled. “I wanted to see what his intention is.

    “It tells you a lot from the man what kind of number he gives you. He gave me all of his numbers.”

    “I’m not starstruck,” she said in another interview. “We had a great connection, we had great chemistry, but I was not starstruck. And maybe he noticed that.”

  • She said the sexual assault claims against her husband were lies

    Melania came to Trump’s defence after that video footage emerged of him boasting about sexual assault – and other women came forward to accuse him of assaulting them.

    In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, she called the accusations made against her husband “lies”, and said that he had been “egged on” into “boy talk”.

    “Did they ever check the background of these women? They don’t have any facts,” she said.

    Melania said that she didn’t “know the person that would talk that way”, and that she “was surprised… that he would say that kind of stuff in private.”

  • She’ll be a traditional first lady

    Melania has been hypothesising about what kind of first lady she’d be since at least 2000, when Trump first spoke publicly about his aspirations of running for office.

    “I would be very traditional like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy,” she told reporters back then.

    Stylist Phillip Bloch, who has worked with both of the Trumps and attended fashion shows with Melania, agrees that she will be a “classic first lady”. “She’d be great at picking out the china patterns,” he told GQ in April.

    Melania has also said that she will keep out of her husband’s policy decisions, unlike more politically engaged First Ladies such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosalynn Carter and – sob – Hillary Clinton.

  • She’s concerned about cyberbullying

    Melania and Trump’s only son, 10-year-old Barron William Trump (pictured with his parents), will never know an adolescence without the background hum of social media. Perhaps because of this, Melania – who isn’t particularly active on her own verified social media accounts – has indicated that cyberbullying will be the cause she takes up as First Lady.

    “I see now in 21st century, the social media, it's very damaging for the children,” she said. “We need to guide them and teach them about social media because I see a lot of negativity on it and we need to help them.”

    Some people – including Lady Gaga – have noted the irony of Melania’s commitment to social media bullying, given that Trump is prone to attacking people on Twitter. When asked what she would change about her husband, Melania did reply: “His tweeting.”

  • She’s tough

    Perhaps because so many people view her husband as a misogynistic bully, Melania has long been at pains to remind people that she’s not a pushover. In a 2005 interview with Larry King, she said: “To marry a man like Donald, you need to know who you are. You need to be very strong and smart.”

    Appearing on CNN in the aftermath of the sexual assault allegations against Trump, she warned her interviewer, Anderson Cooper: “Don’t feel sorry for me.

    “People talk about me like, ‘Oh, Melania, oh poor Melania’,” she continued. “People don’t really know me.

    “I’m very strong. I can handle everything. Don’t feel sorry for me.”