From nude photo shoots and a creepy phone call to a $100,000 wedding dress and a secret half-brother
The United States will have a new first lady in January, but despite more than a year of heavy scrutiny for Donald Trump, we still know surprisingly little about his wife, Melania.
She kept a fairly low profile during the Republican’s election campaign, aside from a disastrous speech at the Republican National Convention in July, which was found to be partially plagiarised from current First Lady Michelle Obama.
Commentators speculated as to why Melania could not be seen stumping for her husband on the campaign trail across the country, as past wives have done.
Perhaps the campaign feared her status as a foreigner – complete with a heavy accent – would undermine Trump’s appeal to anti-immigrant voters. If so, they were probably wrong, says Vox, whose polling of US voters found “European immigrants are perceived very differently from Latin American or Middle Eastern immigrants”.
Trump’s chequered marital history could also have been to blame. Melania will be “the first third wife to take up residence in the White House”, says i24 News, and giving her a high-profile position in the campaign would risk increased media focus on Trump’s two previous marriages and multiple infidelities.
Or was she simply not interested in the spotlight?
The world will probably find out much more about Melania Trump over the next four years. But, for now, here are 16 things you might not know about the next first lady.
1 Melania is Donald’s third wife
The former Melania Knauss started dating Donald Trump in 1998, married him in 2005 and gave birth to their son, Barron, the following year. Before Melania, Donald was married for a few years in the 1990s to Marla Maples, a television personality, former beauty queen and mother to their daughter Tiffany Trump. The couple met while the businessman was still with his first wife, Czechoslovakian Ivana Zelnickova, who he had married in 1977. They have three children – Ivanka, Eric and eldest child Donald Trump Jr, who, at 38, is eight years younger than his stepmother Melania.
Ivana and Donald were leading socialites in New York during the 1980s, but their marriage ended with a very public divorce in 1992. Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders says some of the inspiration for the show’s fashionista Patsy Stone, played by Joanna Lumley, came from Ivana, who often sports a high blonde beehive.
2 She refused to give Trump her number
A real estate mogul asked Melania for her number at a party in New York in 1998 – and she said no.
Melania, then 28, was there at the invitation of Paolo Zampolli, the Italian businessman who set her up as a model in the US. The property tycoon – future husband Donald, then a notorious playboy – had arrived with another woman, but he sent her to the bathroom so he could chat up the model.
However, Melania knew his reputation so when he asked for her number she refused and instead asked him for his details.
She told GQ magazine: “If I give him my number, I’m just one of the women he calls.”
She waited to see if he would give her a personal or a business number, to assess what his intentions might be. “It tells you a lot from the man what kind of number he gives you,” she said.
Trump, it seems, was serious, giving her “all of his numbers”, she revealed.
3 The Clintons went to her wedding
Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the 350 guests when Melania and Donald tied the knot at the groom’s landmark Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. According to GQ, the bride wore a $100,000 Dior dress with 1,500 crystals, which took a “legendary” 550 hours to make. It had a 13ft train and the bride wore a 16ft veil. However, the gown was so difficult to walk in that Melania changed into a Vera Wang hand-ruched silk tulle Grecian dress for the poolside after-party. Her 12-carat, emerald-cut Graff wedding ring is said to be worth £1.5m.
Melania’s sister, Ines, was the maid of honour and Donald’s two sons, Donald Jr and Eric, served as best men. Guests including Heidi Klum, Barbara Walters and Simon Cowell “slurped caviar and Cristal in the shadow of a five-foot-tall Grand Marnier wedding cake”, says GQ, while the Hollywood Reporter says the seven-tier “chef-d’oeuvre” weighed more than 200lbs.
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