Melania Trump (; born Melanija Knavs; [mɛˈlaːnija ˈknaːu̯s], Germanized to Melania Knauss; born April 26, 1970) is the current First Lady of the United States and wife of the 45th U.S. President Donald Trump.
She was born in Novo Mesto, and grew up in Sevnica, in the Yugoslav republic of Slovenia. She worked as a fashion model for agencies in Milan and Paris, later moving to New York City in 1996. Her modeling career was associated with Irene Marie Models and Trump Model Management.
In 2001, she became a permanent resident of the United States. She married Donald Trump in 2005 and obtained U.S. citizenship in 2006. She is the first naturalized U.S. citizen to become First Lady of the United States.
Melanija Knavs was born in Novo Mesto, Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia), on April 26, 1970. Her father, Viktor Knavs, was from the nearby town of Radeče, and managed car and motorcycle dealerships for a socially-owned vehicle manufacturer. Her mother Amalija (née Ulčnik) came from the village of Raka and worked as a patternmaker at the children's clothing manufacturer Jutranjka in Sevnica. As a child, Melania and other children of workers at the factory participated in fashion shows that featured children's clothing. She has an older sister, Ines, who is an artist and her "longtime confidant", and an older half-brother—whom she reportedly has never met—from her father's previous relationship.
Knavs grew up in a modest apartment in a housing block in Sevnica, in the Lower Sava Valley. Her father was in the League of Communists of Slovenia, which espoused a policy of state atheism. As was common, however, he had his daughters secretly baptized as Catholics. When the Trumps met Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2017, Melania brought her rosary and asked the Pope to bless it.
When Knavs was a teenager, she moved with her family to a two-story house in Sevnica. As a high-school student, she lived in a high-rise apartment in Ljubljana. She attended the Secondary School of Design and Photography in Ljubljana, and studied architecture and design at the University of Ljubljana for one year before she dropped out.
She began modeling at five years old and started doing commercial work at sixteen, when she posed for the Slovenian fashion photographer Stane Jerko. When she began working as a model, she transcribed the Slovene version of her last name "Knavs" to the German version "Knauss".
At eighteen, she signed with a modeling agency in Milan, Italy. In 1992, she was named runner-up in the 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 Paris and Milan, where in 1995 she met Metropolitan Models co-owner Paolo Zampolli, a friend of her future husband Donald Trump, who was on a scouting trip in Europe. Zampolli urged her to travel to the United States, where he said he would like to represent her.
In 1996, she moved to Manhattan. Zampolli arranged for her to share an apartment with photographer Matthew Atanianin in Zeckendorf Towers in Union Square. She did ten paid modeling jobs in the U.S. in the seven weeks before she received legal permission to work in the country.
In September 1998, she met real estate mogul Donald Trump at a party that Zampolli hosted at the Times Square nightclub the Kit Kat Club (now the Stephen Sondheim Theatre). Trump and Marla Maples had been separated since May 1997, and he attended the party with Celina Midelfart. When Midelfart went off to use the restroom, Trump approached Knauss and asked for her telephone number. She took his phone number instead, and they subsequently began a relationship and attended the 1990s Greenwich Village hot spot Moomba.
Melania continued her modeling career with her American magazine cover shoots, including In Style Weddings, New York Magazine, Avenue, Philadelphia Style, Vanity Fair and Vogue. While they were dating, her family relocated to New York, where they now live for most of the year.
In 1999, the couple gained attention after an interview on The Howard Stern Show. When she was asked by The New York Times what her role would be if Donald Trump were to become President, she replied: "I would be very traditional, like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy."
In 2000, she appeared with Donald Trump while he campaigned for that year's Reform Party presidential nomination; she also modeled for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Knauss and Donald Trump became engaged in 2004. On January 22, 2005, they married in an Anglican service at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, followed by a reception in the ballroom at her husband's Mar-a-Lago estate. The marriage was her first and his third. 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 to the tune of "The Lady Is a Tramp". The Trumps' wedding ceremony and reception were widely covered by the media. She wore a $200,000 dress made by John Galliano of the house of Christian Dior.
On March 20, 2006, she gave birth to their son, Barron William Trump. She suggested his middle name, while her husband suggested his first name.
In November 2015, she was asked about her husband's presidential campaign and replied: "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." She played a relatively small role in her husband's campaign, which is atypical of spouses of presidential candidates.
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.
In July 2016, her 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".
On July 18, 2016, she gave a speech at 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".
In February 2017, she sued Daily Mail and General Trust, the owner of The Daily Mail, seeking $150 million in damages over an August 2016 article that falsely alleged that she had worked for an escort service during her modeling days. The Mail retracted the article, apologized, and printed the retraction from the blogger they were quoting, who said: "I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them". The lawsuit stated the article had ruined her "unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to establish "multimillion dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world". Her claim raised potential ethical questions with its implication that she intended to profit from being First Lady. On February 18, the lawsuit was amended, removing the language about her earning potential and focusing instead on emotional distress. In April 2017, the parties settled the lawsuit and the Daily Mail issued a statement that said, "We accept that these allegations about Mrs Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them." The Mail agreed to pay her $2.9 million.
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 use of Twitter 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".
She assumed the role of First Lady of the United States on January 20, 2017. She continued living in Manhattan at the Trump Tower with her son, Barron, until the end of his 2016–2017 school year at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School. They moved into the White House in Washington, D.C. on June 11, 2017. Her Secret Service code name is "Muse" (beginning with the same letter as Trump's code name, "Mogul," per Secret Service tradition). Her staff of nine is less than half of that of the two previous first ladies.
She is the second foreign-born woman to hold the title of First Lady, after Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, who was born in 1775 in London to a father from Maryland and an English mother. She is the first First Lady to be a naturalized citizen (rather than birthright citizen), and the first whose mother tongue is not English. At 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m), she is also one of the tallest First Ladies, tied with Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt.
On March 8, 2017, she hosted her first White House event, a luncheon for International Women's Day. She spoke to an audience of women about her life as a female immigrant, and about working towards gender equality both domestically and abroad, noting the role of education as a tool against gender inequality.
During her husband's first foreign trip as President in May 2017, Melania spoke in Italian with children at Bambino Gesù Hospital, a pediatric hospital in Rome.
In January 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that during a three-month period where she lived in New York the previous year, she took Air Force jet flights (between New York City, Florida and Washington) at a cost of more than $675,000 to taxpayers. In comparison, former first lady Michelle Obama's solo travel cost an average of about $350,000 a year.
On January 30, 2018—the night of the State of the Union address— she broke with tradition when she rode with her guests in a separate car in the Presidential motorcade, rather than riding with her husband in the presidential limousine.
On March 13, 2018, Trump scheduled a March 20 meeting with policy executives from technology companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snap, and Twitter, to address online harassment and Internet safety, with a particular focus on how those issues affect children. Trump's office has avoided use of the term "cyberbullying," and Trump has come under criticism for championing Internet civility while her husband's Internet behavior has been noted as uncivil. Trump attended the roundtable event, focusing on how children are affected by modern technology. Trump said "I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic," but "that will not stop me from doing what I know is right."
On April 21, 2018, Trump attended the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush. Trump arranged for the attendance of two White House private residence staffers who had been close to Bush.
Trump took an active role in planning the Trump administration's first state dinner on April 23, 2018, to honor French President Emmanuel Macron. With Brigitte Macron, the French president's wife, Trump visited a Paul Cézanne exhibit at the National Gallery of Art the day before.
On May 7, Trump formally started the Be Best public awareness campaign, focusing on well-being for youth, and advocating against cyberbullying and drug use. The campaign was accompanied by a booklet that was promoted as having been written by Mrs. Trump, but it was nearly identical to a document prepared in 2014 by the Federal Trade Commission. The similarities prompted accusations of plagiarism, to which her office responded by admonishing the press for reporting on the issue. The White House's website originally described the document as "a booklet by First Lady Melania Trump and the Federal Trade Commission" but was changed to "a Federal Trade Commission booklet, promoted by First Lady Melania Trump".
On May 14, 2018, Trump underwent an embolization, a minimally-invasive procedure to deliberately block a blood vessel, to treat a benign kidney condition. The procedure, the most serious medical intervention for a serving United States First Lady since Nancy Reagan's 1987 mastectomy, was successful and there were no complications reported. Trump was discharged from the hospital on May 19; Trump's five-night hospital stay was longer than is typical for an embolization, and the Office of the First Lady did not offer further details. Trump's public profile was significantly reduced for several weeks upon her return to the White House. After greeting three American hostages released by North Korea upon their arrival in the United States on May 10, 2018, Trump made no public appearances until June 4, when she attended a ceremony for Gold Star families. At the latter event, Trump's husband acknowledged her recent absence from the public eye by joking about the possibility that she had left him.
On June 17, 2018, referring to the Trump administration's "Zero Tolerance" immigration policy under which children were separated from their parents, Trump stated that she "hates to see children separated from their families" and wants there to be "successful immigration reform." On June 21 she held a publicly unannounced trip to Texas to get a first-hand look at the crisis, and held a roundtable with doctors, medical staff, social workers and other experts at the Upbring New Hope center.
Vogue has compared Trump's wardrobe as First Lady to that of Jacqueline Kennedy and Nancy Reagan, noting that she prefers "strongly tailored pieces" in bold colors and almost exclusively wears high-end designers.
Trump is involved with a number of charities, including the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Boys Club of New York, the American Red Cross, and the Police Athletic League.
Trump's native language is Slovene. She also speaks Serbo-Croatian. In a May 2017 interview with Greta van Susteren, Trump said that she speaks English, French, Italian, and German.
When the President and First Lady visited Vatican City in May 2017, she revealed that she is a Catholic; this made her the first Catholic to live in the White House since President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline occupied the presidential residence over half a century earlier, making her the second Catholic First Lady of the United States.