Melania Trump: 25 Things You Might Not Know About The First Lady

Despite more than a year of heavy scrutiny for Donald Trump, we still know surprisingly little about his wife, First Lady Melania Trump.

See related Melania Trump: How the First Lady lets her fashion do the talkingIvana Trump: The president’s ex-wife continues her ‘first lady’ feud with MelaniaIvanka Trump: 18 facts you didn't know about Donald Trump's daughter

Aside from a disastrous speech at the Republican National Convention, which was found to be partially plagiarised from First Lady Michelle Obama, the former model kept a fairly low profile during the election campaign.

Commentators speculated as to why Melania could not be seen stumping for her husband across the country, as past wives have done.

Perhaps the campaign feared her status as a foreigner – complete with 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 be to blame. Melania is "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 the businessman'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 some of the things you might not know about the new first lady.

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Credits Ethan Miller/Getty Images for SHOWTIMEDescription 

8. A well-known international model, Melania is the only First Lady to have posed nude, for a French men's monthly magazine in the 1990s.

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. 

She refused to give Trump her number 

The billionaire 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. 

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2. Rumour has it that when the billionaire real estate tycoon first asked for her number at a party, Melania said no.

Hillary Clinton 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.

She grew up in communist Yugoslavia and speaks five languages

Slovene, English, French, Serbian and German, if you want to know. That linguistic prowess could come in handy at White House functions, but it has been suggested her thick accent is the reason she makes few public speeches alongside her immigrant-bashing husband.

Melania was raised away from the glamour of New York high society in a concrete tower block in then Yugoslavia during the rule of Marshal Josip Tito. Now that her husband has become president, Melania is the first first lady to be born in a communist nation and only the second to be born abroad, after Louisa Adams, the English wife of sixth president John Quincy, who served from 1825 to 1829.

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3. Trump's defeated presidential rival Hillary Clinton was a guest at their wedding, along with her husband Bill. Among the other 350 friends, family and celebrities who attended the ceremony at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Florida estate were Heidi Klum, Barbara Walters and Simon Cowell.

She has a secret half-brother

While preparing a profile of the first lady for GQ, reporter Julia Ioffe made a startling discovery – Melania's father, Victor Knavs, who the former model describes as traditional and hardworking, fathered a secret son before marrying Melania's mother.

Knavs agreed to pay child support after a court battle proved he was Denis Cigelnjak's father, a claim he initially contested. However, he has never contacted his son nor acknowledged his existence. Now aged 50, Cigelnjak still lives in the family's native Slovenia.

Melania initially said the reports were false but later, confronted with court documents, claimed she had misunderstood the question and had known about her half-brother "for years".

She is the first Catholic in the White House since the Kennedys

Following her visit to the Vatican earlier this year when Pope Francis blessed a rosary for her, Melania’s spokeswoman confirmed the First Lady is a practising Catholic.

But there are still lots of unknowns, “as this first lady has managed until now to keep her religious practices under wraps” says the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Good Housekeeping claims she was secretly baptised as a child, as the atheist Communist regime in her native Slovenia officially banned the practice of religion.

However, the Daily Mail says it is “unclear when Mrs Trump became a Catholic”. Growing up as the daughter of a Communist Party member in rural Slovenia, her family maintained the outward appearances of being atheists, according to people in her childhood village of Sevnica who spoke to in late 2015.

Accordingly, the paper says Melania and her sister were not baptised and did not make their First Holy Communion with other children their age.

Donald Trump is a life-long Presbyterian, and they were married in a Florida Episcopal church.

Whatever her history, Melania is the first Catholic to live in the White House since JFK and his wife Jacqueline in the early 1960s.

She didn’t want Donald to be President

One of the more explosive revelations to emerge from Michael Wolff's tell-all book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was that neither Donald or his wife, expected, or wanted him to become president:

“Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy.”

The plan, claims Wolff, was for Trump to “win by losing” so he could launch his own TV channel, his campaign's Chief Executive Steve Bannon would become “the de facto head of the tea-party movement” and his wife, “who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn't become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching”.

He goes on to say the inauguration was not much better, with Donald Trump “angry that A-level stars had snubbed the event, disgruntled with the accommodations at Blair House, and visibly fighting with his wife, who seemed on the verge of tears”.

The book also insinuates the first couple have separate bedrooms, the first pair to do so since the Kennedys.

In response to the claims, the First Lady’s spokeswoman hit back, saying “Mrs Trump supported her husband's decision to run for president and in fact, encouraged him to do so. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did”.

She makes waves with her fashion choices

While she is well known for making waves with her outfits, Melania took it to a whole new level during a recent trip to hurricane-ravaged Houston.

Accompanying her husband on a whistle-stop tour of Texas, she was photographed walking across the White House lawn in sky-high stilettos as part of an outfit that also included tailored capri pants, an army green bomber jacket with ruched sleeves and aviator sunglasses.

The look drew an immediate reaction on twitter, with Maria Del Russo saying the First Lady looked like a Flood Watch Barbie while comedian Jessica Kirson quipped that she could pick up debris with her heels.

Melania over here looking like Flood Watch Barbie. Pretty sure Loubs aren't waterproof, babes.

— Maria Del Russo (@maria_delrusso) August 29, 2017

Others were slightly less amused, tweeting that it showed a complete lack of respect for those that had lost their homes in the flooding while another user wrote: "If you don't want to play the part at least look the part Melania, Not a cat walk. A Flood Walk."

People are wondering why she is wearing shoes that cost more than some folks rent to meet people who just lost everything but sure

— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) August 29, 2017

In response to the Twitter onslaught, a spokesperson for the First Lady told Vogue that the critics were failing to concentrate on what matters, following one of the worst storms in US history. However, they went on say that Melania would be changing into something more appropriate on the plane, which she duly did, arriving in Corpus Christie wearing black trousers and a white button up shirt and white tennis shoes.

But no sooner had the furore subsided than the couple were accused of using the disaster to promote their own products after the president and first lady wore on-sale campaign merchandise during events related to Hurricane Harvey three times in four days.

For a third time, Trump is using Hurricane Harvey as product placement for a hat he sells for $40

— Gabriel Snyder (@gabrielsnyder) August 29, 2017

While Donald's '45/USA' hat goes for $40, "a glance at Trump’s website shows his wife’s FLOTUS hat is not currently for sale there" says the HuffPost.

The news site did not receive a response from her director of communications, Stephanie Grisham, when asked about the hat but that didn't stop others from wonder how long it would be before it goes on sale.

She is at her best outside the US

Melania may have found her "comfort zone" when she accompanied her husband to Paris after the G20 meeting, said the Washington Post. Overseas trips might be Melania's chance to shine, the paper opined. The First Lady "garnered positive reviews for her reserved demeanour and adherence to diplomatic protocols on Bastille Day" in Paris, said the Post. The multi-linguist even "spoke French with sick children" on a hospital visit.

Since 1901, when Ida McKinley visited Mexico, foreign trips have been an essential for First Ladies, author Kate Andersen Brower told the Post. But, she added, it is "bizarre" that Melania seems to be more active and visible abroad than at home. Melania has made several foreign trips with her husband since he became President – and the Post noted: "On each she has stood behind a podium and spoken publicly, something she rarely does in the United States."

Melania may have been away from home in Paris – but she was on familiar ground, CNN noted. She lived in the French capital when she was an aspiring model in the 1990s. The broadcaster praised Melania's "growing ease and comfort on the global stage" and claimed that she remains detached from the controversy threatening the rest of her husband's administration.

She got her own all-female Japanese police protection unit

Accompanying her husband on a two-day visit to Japan, Melania is being guarded by an all-female police protection unit.

Assigned to the First Lady and her step-daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump, who arrived ahead of the main party, the special Japanese police department has been established to guard female dignitaries.

Dressed in smart black suits and white button-down shirts, the unit used for this trip “was initially put together as part of preparation and training for the 2020 Summer Olympic games, which will be held in Tokyo” says CNN.

CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow, who served on Michelle Obama’s protection detail said: “Typically, by providing this sort of unit, law enforcement is trying to be respectful and not too intrusive. They think it’s more welcoming to have an all-female crew.”

However, it remains the job of the US Secret Service to provide primary protection for the First Family with local units mainly concerned with providing additional support in the event of an emergency or to assist in travel arrangements.

She is an 'asset to the Trump administration'

Melania still has to deliver on her campaign promise to tackle online bullying, but she has made numerous visits to children's hospitals around the world since becoming First Lady and they have proven immensely popular.

The "optics" of Melania speaking to sick children in their native language is an "asset to an embattled Trump administration", says Newsweek.

However, "they also represent a stark contrast to her husband's advocacy of a Republican health care plan that would force millions of Americans to avoid hospital visits altogether."

Her trips have helped give Melania higher approval ratings than Hillary Clinton during her time as first lady of the US.

"Extraordinary moments from her excursions have made international headlines as she's travelled from one country to the next," Newsweek says, "including a young boy in Belgium finally hearing he’d receive a heart transplant just hours after meeting the first lady."

She is more popular than her husband

A year on from her husband’s inauguration and a new poll from CNN found the first lady is more popular than the President.

The survey found Melania has a 47% favourable rating compared to just 40% for Donald Trump. The First Lady has for the most part seen steady positivity for much of the past year, peaking in March at 52%, but holding in the mid-to-upper 40s for the past several months.

Those who have no opinion of her whatsoever still stands at 16%, which is high for a first lady after one year in the White House, although she has a much lower profile than some of her predecessors, most notably Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, while she searches for a cause to champion.

Interestingly, while an immigrant herself, her favourability numbers among those born abroad only stands at 23%, while 50% of those born in the United States give her a positive ranking. She remains more popular among women than men and with people over the age of 50.

She is the only first lady to have posed nude

Three years before she met Donald, Melania posed nude for a French men's monthly magazine. The "bombshell" photo set, obtained by the New York Post, shows her lying naked in a bed alongside Scandinavian model Emma Eriksson.

Photographer Jarl Ale de Basseville, who took the pictures, says the images are "beauty and not porn", adding: "I always loved women together because I have been with a lot of women who desired the menage a trois."

An unnamed insider said Melania behaved "like a true professional" during the shoot and was "charming throughout". 

Donald, meanwhile, said: "In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common."

She sued the Daily Mail for reporting on escort allegations

Earlier this year, Daily Mail paid an undisclosed sum to Melania after it reported on false allegations that she once worked as an escort.

Its double-page spread, published last August, during the US election campaign, was titled: "Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump". It was later taken down from the website.

Melania filed a libel claim in February reportedly seeking damages of $150m (£120m).

A statement read out at the Royal Courts of Justice in April said the article included "false and defamatory claims… which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling".

It continued: "The allegations strike at the heart of the claimant's personal integrity and dignity."

The Daily Mail published a retraction and an apology in both the newspaper and on its website, saying: "We accept that these allegations about Mrs Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologise to Mrs Trump for any distress that our publication caused her. To settle Mrs Trump's two lawsuits against us, we have agreed to pay her damages and costs."

The amount paid was not disclosed, but it is understood to be around $3m (£2.4m) which would cover her legal actions the Daily Mail in the UK and the US.

She is also the subject of another recent legal action

In September she threatened legal action against an English language school in Croatia over a series of billboards featuring he face.

The ads show the US First Lady alongside the slogan “Just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English”. Melania said the campaign used her image without consent and gave the school 24 hours to remove the billboards or face legal action.

“This is not the first time Ms Trump has instructed lawyers to protect her image”, BBC Balkans correspondent Guy De Launey reports.

In Slovenia, a honey producer was told he could not put the name Melania on his labels but that didn’t stop her hometown, Sevnica, from marketing a range of products featuring her image and branded “First Lady”.

She was once 'sworn in as US president'

Years before her arrival at the White House, Melania appeared in a low-budget Slovenian fashion advert in which she was sworn in as president of the United States.

The then 23-year-old model was seen leaving a plane, being escorted by the Secret Service, chatting with reporters and going through an inauguration ceremony.

The ad, which has been rediscovered by the US Spanish-language TV network Univision, was intended to depict "the first woman president of the United States on the day of her inauguration".

Jozica Brodaric, one of the ad's scriptwriters, said: "It is the most extraordinary historical coincidence. [Melania] looked refined, elegant, really presidential."

In "another bizarre moment of foreshadowing" in the advert, Melania is seen signing a document on immigration, the Daily Star says.

Natalija Gorscak, director of Slovenian National Television, says: "In the document, she is approving three people to cross the border between two countries, it's an immigration document."

According to the Daily Star, the advertisement has "led to speculation that the reason [Melania] is so miserable being the President's wife is because she was actually destined to be president herself".

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