'It's his mind I love': Meet Melania Trump, America's new first lady

By Jane Vorster
10 November 2016

Everything you need to know about the woman stepping into Michelle Obama's shoes.

Great. It’s a word Donald Trump uses a lot.

The real-estate tycoon has promised that if he’s elected as America’s 45th president – which now isn’t as farfetched a prospect as it was a year ago – he’ll make the country “great again”.

And he’s made no secret of the fact he considers himself to be a great man. On the campaign trail to secure the Republican Party’s presidential nomination he’s grabbed every chance to brag about his astonishing wealth, his success, his private jet and even the size of his penis.

He’s also sung the praises of his “beautiful” wife, Melania, telling everyone she’d make a “great first lady”.

Only time will tell if she does, but what’s clear is that she must have a great deal of patience to put up with him. Imagine having to listen to his insane banter 24/7?

Fortunately Mrs Trump is every bit as unconventional as her husband. It’s easy to see why the eccentric billionaire dotes on Melania (45).

The former model from Slovenia is almost a quarter of a century younger than he is. Something else that probably counts in her favour is she really seems to believe that Trump (69) – whose reality TV show, The Apprentice, turned him into a worldwide star – is the bee’s knees.

In a recent interview she revealed that during their 20-year relationship they’ve never had a major row. “We don’t have fights. We disagree but that’s okay. That’s very good in the relationship,” she says.

While his behaviour on the campaign trail has left many people bristling, Melania, his third wife, is unlikely to have batted an eye.

In the past she’s stunned people with her own over-the-top brags about their love-life – in an interview a while back with American shock jock Howard Stern she claimed she and her husband have “incredible sex” at least once a day, “sometimes even more”.

When the Trumps move into the White House she’ll be the first foreign- born first lady since Louisa Adams, the British-born wife of 1820s president John Quincy Adams.

It will also be the first time a third wife has become first lady and she’ll also be the first to have posed naked for a glossy magazine.

In 2000 British GQ photographed Melania lying nude on a fur blanket handcuffed to a leather briefcase aboard her future husband’s private jet.

Clearly she’s wholeheartedly embraced her role as a trophy wife. So it’s surprising she hasn’t been more visible in Trump’s campaign – you’d think he’d be showing her off just like he flaunts his luxury cars and private jet.

But barring a few appearances at his side she’s kept a low profile. Analyst Frank Luntz reckons Trump is smart not to parade her around.

“The Republicans take a traditional view of marriage, and she isn’t a traditional spouse.”

But don’t make the mistake of writing her off as a bimbo. Melania speaks six languages (Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, English, Italian, German and French) and in addition to launching her own jewellery collection and pricey skincare range, which includes a caviar-infused moisturiser, she’s made a handful of appearances as guest host on the American TV talk show The View.

But she’s put all of this on hold while Trump is on the campaign trail to ensure life remains as normal as possible for their 10-year-old son, Barron, who’s the spitting image of his dad.

When interviewed she’s declined to say what kind of first lady she’d be, but back in 1999 when Trump was seeking the presidential nomination for the independent Reform Party she wasn’t so shy.

“I’d be very traditional. Like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy. I’d support him,” she said.

Melania reckons it’s this traditional approach that’s the secret to the success of their marriage. They both know what their roles are and are happy with them.

“I think the mistake some people make is they try to change the man they love after they get married. You can’t change a person. You accept the person,” she says.

“Donald loves business – he breathes business. I love that about him. It’s important to understand each other. If you need to change someone, it will never work.”

Their penthouse apartment, which occupies the top three floors of the 68-storey Trump Tower in New York City, was designed to evoke the Palace of Versailles in France and features a hall of mirrors and ceilings handpainted with cherubs.

It couldn’t be more different from Melania’s modest upbringing. The daughter of a car dealer and a fashion designer, she was raised in communist-era Yugoslavia in the small industrial town of Sevnica.

At age 17 Melania Knauss landed her first modelling job and was soon jetting off to Paris and Italy to pose for photographers such as Helmut Newton and Mario Testino.

In 1996, aged 26, she moved to New York. Two years later she met Trump, then 52, at a fashion industry party. He asked for her phone number but she refused to give it to him.

“He was with a date so of course I didn’t give it to him,” Melania says. But she did let him give her his number. Melania phoned a few days later.

What attracted her to him? “His mind, his amazing mind,” she says in her thick accent.

Seven years later, wearing an elaborate $100 000 (then R650 000) Christian Dior gown, she married Trump in a lavish ceremony in Palm Beach, Florida.

Celebrity guests included Diddy, Heidi Klum and Bill and even Hillary Clinton. Back then the Trumps and the Clintons were on friendly terms but these days they’re sworn enemies because of all the abuse the billionaire has hurled at Hillary (68), a presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, on the campaign trail.

Melania doesn’t see anything strange about this. “It was a different time,” she says. “It was 2005. Donald wasn’t running for the office. He was friends and got along with many, many people.”

Now it’s not about friendship; it’s about winning the most important job in America. And it looks as if Trump can count on his beautiful wife to support him every step of the way.

Sources: The New York Post, Harper’s Bazaar, The Washington Post, The Daily Mail

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