Biography of Melania Trump

From Fashion Model to First Lady of the United States

First Lady Melania Trump
First Lady Melania Trump is pictured here at a meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand in the Oval Office of the White House in October 2017. Pool/Getty Images News

Melania Trump is the first lady of the United States, businesswoman, and former model. She is married to Donald Trump, the wealthy real estate developer and reality television star who was elected the 45th president in the 2016 election. She was born Melanija Knavs, or Melania Knauss, in the former Yugoslavia and is only the second first lady to have been born outside the United States. 

Early Years

Mrs. Trump was born in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, on April 26, 1970.

The nation was then part of communist Yugoslavia. She is the daughter Viktor and Amalija Knavs, a car dealer and a children's clothing designer. She studied design and architecture at the University of Ljubljana, in Slovenia. Mrs. Trump's official White House bio states that she “paused her studies” to advance her modeling career in Milan and Paris. It does not state whether she graduated with a degree from the university.

Careers in Modeling and Fashion

Mrs. Trump has said she began her modeling career at age 16 and signed her first major contract with an agency in Milan, Italy, when she was 18. She has appeared on the covers of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, GQ, In Style and New York Magazine. She has also modeled for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Allure, Vogue, Self, Glamour, Vanity Fair and Elle

Mrs. Trump also launched a line of jewelry sold in 2010 and marketed clothing, cosmetics, hair care and fragrances.

The line of jewelry, "Melania Timepieces & Jewelry," is sold on the cable television network QVC. She was identified in public records as the CEO of Melania Marks Accessories Member Corp, the holding company of Melania Marks Accessories, according to The Associated Press. Those companies managed between $15,000 and $50,000 in royalties, according to the Trumps' 2016 financial disclosure filing.

Citizenship

Mrs. Trump moved to New York in August 1996 on a tourist visa and, in October of that year, obtained an H-1B visa to work in the U.S. as a model, her attorney has said. H-1B visas are granted under a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in "specialty occupations." Mrs. Trump obtained her green card in 2001 and became a citizen in 2006. She is only the second first lady born outside of the country. The first was Louisa Adams, wife to John Quincy Adams, the nation’s sixth president.

Marriage to Donald Trump

Mrs. Trump is said to have met Donald Trump in 1998 at a New York party. Numerous sources have said she declined to give Trump her telephone number.

Reports The New Yorker:

“Donald saw Melania, Donald asked Melania for her number, but Donald had arrived with another woman — the Norwegian cosmetics heiress Celina Midelfart — so Melania refused. Donald persisted. Soon, they were falling in love at Moomba. They broke up for a time in 2000, when Donald toyed with the idea of running for President as a member of the Reform Party — “TRUMP KNIXES KNAUSS,” the New York Post declared — but soon they were back together.”

The two married in January 2005.

Mrs. Trump is Donald Trump's third wife. Trump's first marriage, to Ivana Marie Zelníčková, lasted about 15 years before the couple divorced in March 1992. His second marriage, to Marla Maples, lasted less than six years before the couple divorced in June 1999.

Family and Personal Life

In March of 2006 they had their first child, Barron William Trump. Mr. Trump had four children with previous wives. They are: Donald Trump Jr., with his first wife Ivana; Eric Trump, with his first wife Ivana; Ivanka Trump, with first wife Ivana; and Tiffany Trump, with second wife Marla. Trump's children to previous marriages are grown.

Role in the 2016 Presidential Campaign

Mrs. Trump largely remained in the background of her husband's presidential campaign. But she did speak at the 2016 Republican National Convention — an appearance that ended in controversy when part of her remarks were found to be very similar to those in a speech delivered previously by then-First Lady Michelle Obama.

Nonetheless, her speech that night was the biggest moment of the campaign and Trump's first term for her. “If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you he’s the guy,” she said of her husband. “He will never ever give up. And most importantly, he will never ever let you down.”

Important Quotes

Mrs. Trump has kept a relatively low profile as first lady. In fact, a controversial 2017 report in Vanity Fair magazine claimed she never wanted to the role. "This isn't something she wanted and it isn't something he ever thought he'd win. She didn't want this come hell or high water. I don't think she thought it was going to happen," the magazine quoted an unnamed Trump friend as saying. A spokesperson for Mrs. Trump denied the report, stating it was "riddled with unnamed sources and false assertions." 

Here are some of the most important quotes from Mrs.Trump:

  • On talking politics with her husband: “Do I agree with everything he says? No. I have my own opinions too, and I tell him that. Sometimes he takes it in and listens, and sometimes he doesn’t.”
  • On how she talks to her husband about politics: "I give him my opinions, and sometimes he takes them in, and sometimes he does not. Do I agree with him all the time? No."
  • On her relationship with her husband: "We know what our roles are and we 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 cannot change a person.”
  • On her husband's controversial positions: “I chose not to go into politics and policy. Those policies are my husband’s job.”
  • On her own political beliefs and how she advises Trump: “Nobody knows and nobody will ever know. Because that’s between me and my husband.”
  • On her appearance: “I didn’t make any changes. A lot of people say I am using all the procedures for my face. I didn’t do anything. I live a healthy life, I take care of my skin and my body. I’m against Botox, I’m against injections; I think it’s damaging your face, damaging your nerves. It’s all me. I will age gracefully, as my mom does.”
  • On her husband's temper: "When you attack him, he will punch back ten times harder. No matter who you are, a man or a woman. He treats everyone equal.”
  • On her husband's presidency: "He is not politically correct, and he tells the truth. Everything is not roses and flowers and perfect, because it is not. He wants America to be great again, and he can do that.. He is a great leader — the best leader, an amazing negotiator. America needs that, and he believes in America. He believes in its potential and what it can be, because it is now in big trouble." 
  • On why she didn't campaign more for her husband: “I support my husband 100 percent, but ... we have a 9-year-old son together, Barron, and I’m raising him. This is the age he needs a parent at home."
  • On the naturalization process and becoming an American citizen: "I came here for my career, and I did so well, I moved here. It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are. You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001. After the green card, I applied for citizenship. And it was a long process."

    Legacy and Impact

    It is tradition that the first lady of the United States use the platform of the highest office in the nation to advocate for a cause during their tenure in the White House. Mrs. Trump took up child welfare, particularly around the issues of cyberbullying and opioid abuse.

    In a pre-election speech, Mrs. Trump said American culture had 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 absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet. We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other.”

    In a speech to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, she said “nothing could be more urgent nor worthy a cause than preparing future generations for the adulthood with true moral clarity and responsibility. We must teach our children the values of empathy and communication that are at the core of kindness, mindfulness, integrity, and leadership which can only be taught by example.”

    Mrs. Trump led discussions on opioid addiction in the White House and visited hospitals caring for babies who were born addicted, as well. "The well-being of children is of the utmost importance to me and I plan to use my platform as first lady to help as many kids as I can," she said.

    Like her predecessor, First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Trump also encouraged healthy eating habits among children. "I encourage you to continue and eat a lot of vegetables and fruits so you grow up healthy and take care of yourself. ... It's very important," she said.

    References and Recommended Reading