Born on April 26, 1970, Melania Trump is a former model and current third wife of real estate billionaire and 2016 Republican President-Elect Donald Trump.
Melania Trump (born Melanija Knavs, germanized to Melania Knauss) was born on April 26, 1970 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia (then part of communist Yugoslavia). Her father was a car dealer and her mother was a designer for children’s clothing. She grew up in a modest home with her younger sister and later discovered she had an older half brother, whom her father had from a previous relationship.
At 16 Trump began modeling and two years later, signed on with an agency in Milan. Although she attended the University of Ljubljana, she dropped out after one year to pursue her modeling career. (Since 2006 she had previously claimed she had earned a degree in architecture and design from the university.)
In her early days of modeling, Trump worked in Milan and Paris, before moving to New York in 1996. There she gained steady work, working with well-known photographers like Patrick Demarchelier and Helmut Newton and landing covers on magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar (Bulgaria), Vanity Fair (Italy), GQ (for which she posed nude in January 2000) and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Marriage to Donald Trump
Melania met her future husband Donald Trump at a New York fashion party in 1998. Although she first refused to date him, the couple eventually began establishing a relationship and were engaged in 2004. The following year they married in a lavish Palm Beach, Florida ceremony with celebrity attendees including Shaquille O’Neal, Barbara Walters, Kelly Ripa, Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, and President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who was then a Senator from New York state.
In 2006, Trump gave birth to Barron William Trump. Their son is husband Donald’s fifth child. That same year she also became a U.S. citizen.
Controversial First Lady in the Running
When Donald Trump announced his intentions to make a 2016 presidential bid for the White House, the normally private Melania was pushed into the national spotlight along with her past modeling work, some of which were considered racy. One of the first controversial images that began circulating online was her 2000 British GQ spread that had her lying naked on a fur blanket.
But the controversy didn’t stop there. In July 2016, Melania Trump gave a speech at the Republican National Convention, which in some parts, were found to be identical to Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. Initially claiming she wrote the speech, Trump was lambasted by the media and the public for plagiarism.
Shortly thereafter, Trump staff writer Meredith McIver took responsibility for the gaffe, claiming she accidentally included part of Obama’s speech in Trump’s talking points. McIver issued the following statement explaining what transpired:
“In working with Melania on her recent first lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech.”
Not long after, more controversy followed. On July 30, 2016 the New York Post published nude photos of a then 25-year-old Melania Trump, including one where she lay in bed with another woman. Many of the photos were published for a men’s French magazine that is no longer in circulation.
Discussing the nude photos, Donald told The Post: “Melania was one of the most successful models and she did many photo shoots, including for covers and major magazines. This was a picture taken for a European magazine prior to my knowing Melania. In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common.”
In November, Melania Trump delivered a rare speech on the campaign trail outlining how fighting cyberbullying would be a priority for her if she were to become first lady. “We need to teach our youth American values: Kindness, honesty, respect, compassion, charity, understanding, cooperation,” said Trump. News outlets were quick to point out the irony that her husband is known for his use of the social media platform Twitter to insult and taunt opponents and critics. That same month, her husband won the election.
Melania Trump has a successful jewelry line on QVC, as well as a skincare line. She has appeared in an Aflac commercial, co-hosted on The View, and appeared on her husband’s NBC reality show, Celebrity Apprentice.
Trump is fluent in five languages: Slovenian, English, French, Serbian and German.