Melania Trump profile: ‘I would be very traditional.... like Jackie Kennedy’

Almost 200 years since last foreign-born first lady took office

Barron Trump and his mother Melania Trump stand on stage after Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech. Photograph:  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Barron Trump and his mother Melania Trump stand on stage after Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Slovenian native Melania Trump will in January become the first foreign-born first lady of the United States since 1825 (following English-born Louisa Adams, spouse of John Quincy Adams).

The 46-year-old model is the third wife of Donald Trump and was born Melania Knaussa in 1970 and grew up in the tiny Slovenian town of Sevnica (population, 5,000).

She lived in an apartment block in Sevnica with her family as a child. When she was a teenager, the family moved to a modest two-storey house above the Sava river on the outskirts of town, which sits below a well-maintained medieval castle.

Residents say her father sold car parts and her mother worked for a factory that made a brand of children’s clothing very popular in communist Yugoslavia, before the country fell apart in the 1990s.

A life of relative obscurity might have followed had a fashion photographer not spotted her when she was a student at the University of Ljubljana, and whipped her off to a modelling career in Milan and Paris.

That brought her to New York in 1996, and to a party at the Kit Kat Club two years later where she was introduced to Trump, 24 years her elder and separated at the time from his second wife, Marla Maples.

They married in 2005 at his own Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Palm Beach, inviting 450 guests including Hillary and Bill Clinton. A year later their son Barron was born.

In December 1999, a writer for the New York Times asked then Melania Knauss a question that at the time seemed quite fanciful. If her then boyfriend Donald Trump ever made it to the White House, what kind of first lady would she be?

Trump was at that point running for the presidential nomination of he Reform Party and his chances of going all the way to the Oval Office were zero. Besides, his relationship with Knauss was barely a year old.

So what did Melania – now – Trump reply to that 1999 question? “I would be very traditional,” she said. “Like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy. I would support him.”

During the campaign Mrs Trump had to fend off several controversies.

She entered a media storm in July after delivering a major speech to the Republcian convention when it emerged that that parts of it appeared to have plagiarised Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic national convention in 2008. It was later blamed on a Trump campaign staff member.

In August she denied working illegally in the US in the mid-1990s, after pictures from a naked photoshoot that were published on the front page of the New York Post raised questions about her immigration status

After the controversy over her husband’s remarks about groping women, made when they were newly married, emerged she defended him: “The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader.” she said on October.

Just days before the election vote Mr Trump sent his wife Melania to deliver a speech outside Philadelphia in her first solo campaign appearance in a final push to win over suburban female voters.

Following her husband’s victory, her hometown of Sevnica savoured the win as a likely boon for tourism , while a former schoolmate remembered her as “creative and innovative”.

“Sometimes the pressure of the media was too hard. The people of Sevnica are not used to it. On the other hand, the global attention is positive because Sevnica is developing into a tourist destination,” mayor Srecko Ocvirk said.

“Even as a child Melania was creative, innovative and Sevnica was too small for her,” said Mirjana Jelancic, Melania’s friend who is now a headmistress of Melania’s elementary school.

“She was reserved and when I heard that Donald was running I said (to myself) this will be hard for her. She never wanted to be in the spotlight,” Jelancic said. “She was excellent at her job (in the campaign).”

The head of the town’s health centre, which received a donation from Melania in 2005 when she was pregnant with her son Barron, said she believed Melania would be a success in the White House, as well.

“Melania will be an excellent first lady who will take Slovenian values of generosity, loyalty and trust to the United States and the world,” Vladimira Tomsic said.

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