Melania Trump made it to NYC, but things weren't what she expected. It was in 1996 that Melania Trump would finally arrive in The Big Apple, thanks to her agent Paolo Zampolli, but according to a GQ profile, the then-26-year-old model's big plans were fading — almost as quickly as her American modeling contract — and with it, her visa. "[It's] a frustrating age for models, the late 20s. It's not a friendly industry," Trump's former roommate Matthew Atanian mentioned, in the same GQ article.
The stunning transformation of Melania Trump
Melania Trump is the statuesque, bronzed, and stunning "better half" to the 45th president of the United States. Unapologetically coiffed to the nines, and often underestimated as shy and unassuming, she is a steady powerhouse: mother, executive, philanthropist, and unwavering partner-in-chief. All the world's eyes upon her, she has been thrust into the political spotlight. Forced to answer for her husband, and herself, while proving to an entire country of vastly differing views that she is worthy of our admiration and capable of forging an aspirational path for women that allows for both traditional values, as well as illuminated progress. No small task for any woman. Even for one who seems to have it all.
An easy target, the media has devoured her personal history, like wolves to prey. But even though her frame may be lean, she has proven unshakeable. She is a willing participant, ready to face the challenges ahead, while maintaining a fierce confidence in herself. She is strong. She is graceful. And with a beauty that originates in her heart, she is a force to be reckoned with. And on Friday, January 20, 2017, she stepped her Louboutin-clad foot into the White House as First Lady of the United States of America.
Melania Trump was born a Knauss in Yugoslavia
Melania Trump was born Melania Knauss, on April 26, 1970 in the industrial town of Novo Mesto, in the former Yugoslavia. Light years away from the opulent NYC penthouse and the White House she eventually called home, she spent her earliest years kicking around in a stark, Communist-era apartment block, looking out onto factory chimney stacks, according to the AP (via People).
The New York Times reports her father, Viktor, worked as a salesman, and her mother, Amalija, was a children's clothing designer. "I think I can say [Novo Mesto] was too small for her," childhood friend Mirjana Jelancic shared with the AP (via People). "Even as a child, she dreamed of moving," even saying that her favorite subject in school was geography. Jelancic, principal at the elementary school where they both formerly attended, further described Melania to ABC News: "She was a very good student. She was an angel."
Melania Trump developed a passion for fashion at a young age
Melania Trump contented herself with what would emerge as lifelong passions, even as a young child. In an interview with Parenting magazine, she recounted her earliest inspiration: "I always liked beauty and fashion. My mom was in the fashion business. I was 5 years old when I did my first catwalk," she recalled. "My mom loved fashion, we loved to travel and go to Italy and Paris. I was always very tall and skinny. Sometimes I was teased, but I was never embarrassed. I always liked myself. I knew what I wanted to do. I found my passion at such an early age. It helped with my confidence."
The budding supermodel was afforded a fortunate upbringing compared to many of her peers — thanks to her hardworking parents — participating in after-school gymnastics, and traveling to Italy and Austria to ski during the winter, as reported in Harper's Bazaar. She also cultivated a sure hand as an artist, perhaps learned from her mother, according to GQ. "Melania never wore anything from the store," a friend told the magazine. She sketched out original ideas, and the sewing would be tasked to her mother and sister.
In a modeling fairytale as old as time, Melania Trump emerged from humble beginnings, only to be discovered by photographer Stane Jerko at the age of 16 in 1987, according to GQ. Trump was attending the Secondary School of Design and Photography in Ljubljana, the now-Slovenian capital, and was living in an apartment purchased by her father, The New York Times reported. And while Jerko spotted her waiting for a friend after a fashion show, the aspiring model was no easy sell. "School was the most important thing to her," he told GQ.
But, true to her passion, she soon had a change of heart. According to GQ, Jerko taught Trump how to pose, and photographed her just a few weeks after their first encounter. Without shoes. "I didn't have shoes for her because she had very big feet. The other models had smaller feet," Jerko remembered, in the GQ interview. But, he assured, "When you live on big feet, you live big."
Newly signed to a modeling agency in Milan, the 18-year old Trump's career forced her to drop out of architecture school, The New York Times reported. Also featured in the same article, a famed second place finish in Jana Magazine's Slovenian Face of the Year contest in 1992. She would find success in Paris and Milan, according to GQ, but the arresting beauty had her steely eyes, and her dreams, fixed on the rock-n-roll sister of all fashion meccas, New York City.
Melania Trump made it to NYC, but things weren't what she expected
It was in 1996 that Melania Trump would finally arrive in The Big Apple, thanks to her agent Paolo Zampolli, but according to a GQ profile, the then-26-year-old model's big plans were fading — almost as quickly as her American modeling contract — and with it, her visa. "[It's] a frustrating age for models, the late 20s. It's not a friendly industry," Trump's former roommate Matthew Atanian mentioned, in the same GQ article.
"She wasn't working every day, she was going to castings every day and not succeeding... She said things were very different in Europe, that she had been more successful." He continued, explaining: "She aired frustration over the work issue."
Melania Trump did what she had to do to land modeling gigs
But the resourceful Melania Trump didn't throw in the towel. As reported in GQ, "She went on casting calls for alcohol and tobacco ads, which her under-age competitors couldn't be hired for. Once, she landed a Camel ad, a billboard in Times Square." A self-described homebody, she preferred to stay home, and maintained her physique by walking with ankle weights and eating seven pieces of fruit a day — but Trump's former roommate Matthew Atanian told the magazine that she may have resorted to additional means. "She went away for a two-week vacation, then came back, and was more... buxom," he said. "She admitted it to me. She just said it needed to be done to get more lingerie jobs."
Of particular note is her now infamous British GQ spread, in the nude, in 2000. In a 2015 interview with Barbara Walters, Melania gracefully acknowledged her former career, "I think people will always judge. That's part of the job that I was doing; I was [a] very successful model. Nothing more than you see every year in Sports Illustrated."
"I was not star-struck," Melania Trump confided to GQ about the first time she met her future husband. She recalled in the magazine that she had been invited to a NYC party at the Kit Kat Club by Zampolli. It was NY Fashion Week in 1998, and 28-year-old model was about to meet another Zampolli invitee, Donald Trump.
But it wasn't love at first sight. "I didn't know much about [him]," she told GQ. And she wasn't about to give her number to a 52-year-old billionaire who, though already separated from his second wife actress Marla Maples, had arrived with a date. Instead, she snagged his digits. She told GQ, "If I give him my number, I'm just one of the women he calls. I wanted to see what his intention [was]. It tells you a lot from the man what kind of number he gives you. He gave me all of his numbers."
Her friend Atanian revealed to GQ, "She had some trust issues with him at the beginning. She kept her apartment to have her own space because of this." But peace would be made, as the two struck up a romance again shortly after. A hometown friend speculated in the same article, "It's about all that power and protection. I think she needed a strong man, a father figure."
A sucker for a good deal, Mr. Trump purchased his wife's 12-carat, emerald-cut Laurence Graff diamond ring at a $1.5 million — 50 percent off, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He would later replace her puny pebble, with a 25-carat on their 10th anniversary, Harper's Bazaar reported.
The Hollywood Reporter clocked the wedding gown's train at 13 feet, and the veil at 16 feet, saying the bride "could barely walk" in the nearly 300 feet of ruched satin — it was so spectacular, it landed the cover of Vogue. The same article reported that her sister Ines stood by her side as maid of honor in Vera Wang. New York event designer Preston Bailey told The Hollywood Reporter that he created the bride's "very classic, very creamy and white color palette" event, recalling, "She said, 'I want something that is very elegant but not over-the-top'." And afterward, the newlyweds had a reception tipping the scales at $35 million. No small number for the woman who grew up wearing handmade clothes.
Melania Trump's never hired a nanny for her son, Barron
Melania Trump became mother to son Barron in March of 2006, at the age of 35 — the same year she became a U.S. citizen. While she does have a chef and an assistant, she assumed a traditional mothering role to her son without the help of nannies, telling Parenting, "We know our roles. I didn't want [Donald] to change the diapers or put Barron to bed."
Trump maintains motherhood as her priority. She shared her secret with Parenting: "It is so important to have good listening skills. ...I don't push my thoughts or likes or dislikes. I want him to grow to be his own person. I think [it's] important to give a child room to make mistakes in order to learn."
Since the start of her husband's often-volatile presidential campaign, Trump has remained a comforting buffer for her son. "We're dealing with [hateful comments], and I'm teaching [Barron] the right way and giving him morals... and teaching him values at home," she told Us Weekly. She continued, "Of course, we both miss [Donald] because he is on the road a lot, but [Barron] understands and he's doing great."
This is Melania Trump's philosophy on staying happy in her marriage
Melania Trump confidently stated to Parenting, "My life is very normal — for me. Maybe for some people they would not think that. But for me it is. I know my husband. We have a great relationship. We are both very independent. We know what our roles are and we are happy with them."
She continued, "I don't think you need to be with your husband every minute of every day. Both people should do what their passion is and then get together in the mornings and evenings and share and experience life and have a great time. You know that saying, 'Work hard and play harder?' That's what we do."
Before stepping into the role of First Lady, Trump always had things going on that were just for herself. She kept active in creating a skin-care line, jewelry collections, and a few appearances as guest host on The View.