|First Lady of the United States
January 20, 2017
April 26, 1970
Novo Mesto, SR Slovenia, SFR Yugoslavia
|Spouse(s)||Donald Trump (m. 2005)|
|Alma mater||University of Ljubljana (withdrew)|
Melania Trump (born Melanija Knavs;[a] April 26, 1970; anglicized to Melania Knauss) is a Slovene-born American former model who is married to American businessman and President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump.
Born in Slovenia, she became a permanent resident of the United States in 2001 and a citizen in 2006. She is to assume the role of First Lady of the United States on January 20, 2017. She will be the second foreign-born First Lady of the United States, following Louisa Adams in 1825, and the only First Lady to date not to have been born a citizen of the United States or in what would later become the United States.
Melanija Knavs was born in Novo Mesto in the southeast of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, part of Yugoslavia, on April 26, 1970. She is the daughter of Amalija (née Ulčnik) and Viktor Knavs, who managed car and motorcycle dealerships for a state-owned vehicle manufacturer. Her father was from the nearby town of Radeče. Her mother came from the village of Raka, and was a patternmaker at the children's clothing manufacturer "Jutranjka" in Sevnica.
She grew up in a modest apartment in a housing block in Sevnica, in Slovenia's Lower Sava Valley. She has a sister and an older half-brother, whom she reportedly has never met, from her father's previous relationship. Although Melania's family comes from a Roman Catholic background, her father, to the dismay of their relatives, wished for her to not receive the Christian sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion due to his commitment to Marxist-Leninist atheism.
When she was a teenager, the family moved to a two-story house in Sevnica, and as a high school student, she lived in a high-rise apartment in Ljubljana. Melanija attended the Secondary School of Design and Photography in Ljubljana, and studied at the University of Ljubljana for one year before dropping out. She speaks six languages: Serbo-Croatian, English, French, Italian, German, and her native Slovene.
Career and immigration to the United States
She began modeling at age 16, when she posed for the Slovenian fashion photographer Stane Jerko. At 18, she signed with a modeling agency in Milan, Italy. She was named runner-up in the 1992 Jana Magazine "Look of the Year" contest, held in Ljubljana, which promised its top three contestants an international modeling contract.
After attending the University of Ljubljana for one year, she modeled for fashion houses in Milan and Paris. She then relocated to New York City in 1996, her contract and visa negotiated by Italian businessman Paolo Zampolli. Through her lawyer, she has indicated she first entered the United States on a business visitor visa in August 1996. She obtained an H-1B visa in October 1996. After that, she regularly returned to Slovenia to obtain a series of four more one-year work visas because, at the time, Slovenians could only obtain one-year visas in the United States. In November 2016, the Associated Press reported that she was paid $20,056 for 10 modeling jobs in the United States in 1996 before she had legal permission to work in the country. In response, her lawyer stated the documents on which AP relied "have not been verified, [and] do not reflect our records including corresponding passport stamps."
Following her immigration to the United States, she appeared on the covers of Harper's Bazaar (Bulgaria), Ocean Drive, In Style Weddings, New York Magazine, Avenue, Allure, Vanity Fair (Italy), Vogue (following her marriage to Donald Trump), and GQ (UK). She was featured as a bikini model in the 2000 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. As a model, she was associated with Irene Marie Management Group and Donald Trump's Trump Model Management.
Marriage to Donald Trump
After moving to New York City in 1996, Melania met her future husband Donald at a Fashion Week party in New York City in September 1998, while he was still married to, but separated from, Marla Maples; Donald attended the event with another date, Celina Midelfart, and Melania initially refused to give Donald her phone number. Melania broke off the relationship shortly after it began, but the couple reconciled after a few months. Their relationship gained attention after a 1999 interview on The Howard Stern Show. In 2000, Melania appeared with Donald while he campaigned for that year's Reform Party presidential nomination. Their relationship gained additional publicity after the 2004 launch of Donald's business-oriented reality television show, The Apprentice. Donald described their long courtship in 2005: "We literally have never had an argument, forget about the word 'fight' ... We just are very compatible. We get along."
After becoming engaged in 2004, Donald and Melania were married in an Anglican service on January 22, 2005, at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, followed by a reception in the ballroom at Donald's Mar-a-Lago estate.
The event was attended by celebrities such as Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, Rudy Giuliani, Heidi Klum, Star Jones, P. Diddy, Shaquille O'Neal, Barbara Walters, Conrad Black, Regis Philbin, Simon Cowell, Kelly Ripa, then-Senator Hillary Clinton, and former president Bill Clinton. At the reception, Billy Joel serenaded the crowd with "Just the Way You Are" and supplied new lyrics about Donald to the tune of "The Lady Is a Tramp". The Trumps' wedding ceremony and reception were widely covered by the media. Melania wore a $200,000 dress made by John Galliano of the house of Christian Dior.
In March 2006, Melania gave birth to Barron William Trump. Melania suggested his middle name, and her husband suggested his first name. As an infant, Barron reportedly occupied his own floor in the Trumps' apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan, but often slept in a crib in his parents' bedroom. He plays golf with his father and is reported to be fluent in Slovene. He is said to like wearing a suit and tie, and Trump's nickname for him is "Mini-Donald".
Role in 2016 U.S. presidential election
In November 2015, when asked about her husband's presidential campaign, Melania said: "I encouraged him because I know what he will do and what he can do for America. He loves the American people and he wants to help them." Trump played a relatively small role in her husband's campaign—atypical of spouses of presidential running mates.
In July 2016, Melania's official website was redirected to Trump.com. On Twitter, she stated that her site was outdated and did not "accurately reflect [her] current business and professional interests." This change came after it was widely noted by the media that the website had falsely claimed for more than 10 years that she had a degree in architecture and design from the University of Ljubljana. Her biography in the 2016 Republican National Convention official program also incorrectly stated that she had obtained a degree in Slovenia.
On July 18, 2016, Melania gave a speech on the first day of the 2016 Republican National Convention. The speech contained a paragraph that was nearly identical to a paragraph of Michelle Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. When asked about the speech, Trump said she wrote the speech herself "with as little help as possible". Two days later, Trump staff writer Meredith McIver took responsibility and apologized for the "confusion".
On September 1, 2016, Melania filed defamation lawsuits against British tabloid the Daily Mail and Webster Tarpley, a Maryland political blogger, stemming from their publication of allegations that Melania worked as an escort for a gentlemen's club in Italy in the 1990s. Tarpley and the Daily Mail published retractions and apologies.
First Lady of the United States
Melania is expected to assume the role of First Lady of the United States on January 20, 2017. She will be the second foreign-born woman to hold the position (after Louisa Adams, the British-born American wife of John Quincy Adams who served from 1825 to 1829) and the only First Lady to date not to have been born a citizen of the United States or in what would later become the United States.[b] At 5 foot 11 inches, she will also be one of the tallest First Ladies to hold the office, tied with Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt who were also that height.
When asked by The New York Times in 1999 what her role would be if Donald Trump were to become president, Melania replied: "I would be very traditional. Like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy." In 2016, she told CNN her focus as First Lady would be to help women and children. She also said she would combat cyberbullying, especially among children, having quit social media herself due to the "negativity".
Five days before the election, she told a crowd of supporters in Pennsylvania: "Our culture has 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 terrible when that happens on the playground. And it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet." Regarding the contrast of her platform with her husband's pattern of Twitter attacks during his campaign, Melania said shortly after the election that she had rebuked him "all the time" but that "he will do what he wants to do in the end."
- The Slovenian pronunciation is [mɛːˈlanija ˈknaːws]
- Louisa Adams, though (prior to Melania Trump) the only First Lady born outside of the United States, was the daughter of an American father (Joshua Johnson, the American Consul in London) and American citizenship was, therefore, her birthright. Melania Trump, meanwhile, only became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2006.
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In line with their father's officially atheist Communist beliefs, Melania and her sister were not baptized and did not make their first holy communion with the other children, a decision which did not escape Catholic relatives.
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Her Web site states that she obtained a degree in architecture and design from the University of Ljubljana when in fact she dropped out in her first year.
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The beauty of The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea was unadorned, with only giant bows fashioned from orchids and white roses at the end of each pew and simple but elegant white arrangements on the candlelit altar. The bride walked down the aisle carrying only an ancient rosary not to Lohengrin or Wagner, but to a vocalist singing Ave Maria in an exquisite soprano voice. The Rev. Ralph R. Warren performed the traditional Episcopalian service at the landmark church, which was filled to capacity.
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