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Melania Trump: a dozen things you didn’t know

Dec 4, 2019
The Week Staff

From nude photoshoots to a secret half-brother, the life of Donald Trump’s wife

Melania Trump has had a busy 24 hours in the UK, visiting Downing Street, Clarence House and Buckingham Palace as part of a three-day visit.

The US president and his wife flew in on Monday to mark the 70th anniversary of Nato with other world leaders.

The trip comes as CNN reporter Kate Bennett has published Free, Melania, an unofficial and unauthorised book about the first lady.

Here are 12 things you might not know about Melania.

She is the second foreign-born first lady

Melania is the first first lady to be born in a communist country and just the second to hail from overseas. She was born in what was Yugoslavia, in an area that is now part of Slovenia.

The first foreign-born first lady was Louisa Adams. The wife of John Quincy Adams, who served as the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829, was born in London.

She has a secret half-brother

According to GQ, Melania’s father, Viktor Knavs, had a son before marrying Melania’s mother.

Knavs denied he was the father of the boy and has never contacted his son nor acknowledged his existence. Melania initially said the reports about her half-brother were false but later claimed she had misunderstood the question and had known about him “for years”.

Hillary Clinton went to her wedding

Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the 350 guests when Melania and Donald tied the knot in Palm Beach, Florida, in 2005. According to GQ, Melania wore a $100,000 Dior dress, adorned with 1,500 crystals, which took 550 hours to make.

She stands above past first ladies - literally

At 5ft 11in (1.80m), former model Melania towers above the average woman – and most of her predecessors in the White House. Only Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt can match her height, making the three women tied for the title of tallest first lady.

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She (allegedly) didn’t want Trump to become president

One of the most explosive revelations in Michael Wolff’s tell-all book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was that neither Donald nor his wife wanted him to become president.

Wolff writes: “Shortly after 8pm on Election Night, when the unexpected trend – Trump might actually win – seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father… looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears – and not of joy.”

In response to the claims, the first lady’s spokeswoman said: “Mrs Trump supported her husband’s decision to run for president and, in fact, encouraged him to do so.”

She and Donald ‘sleep on separate floors’

According to Bennett’s book Free, Melania, the president and his wife not only sleep in different rooms, they sleep on different floors of the White House.

FLOTUS apparently has a bedroom on the third floor of the executive residence, once occupied by Michelle Obama’s mother, while Donald is in the master bedroom on the first floor looking out over the Rose Garden and the Oval Office.

She is the only first lady to have posed nude

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

The photographer, Jarl Ale de Basseville, described the images as “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.”

She sued the Daily Mail for reporting on escort allegations

In 2017, the Daily Mail paid an undisclosed sum to Melania after it falsely reported that she had worked as an escort.

After the newspaper published a story headlined “Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife’s past that could derail Trump”, Melania filed a libel claim reportedly seeking damages of $150m (£120m).

A statement read out at the Royal Courts of Justice said the article was “false and defamatory”, adding: “The allegations strike at the heart of the claimant’s personal integrity and dignity.”

She was once ‘sworn in as US president’

Melania once appeared in a low-budget 1993 Slovenian fashion advert in which she was “sworn in” as president of the United States.

The model was seen leaving a plane, going through an inauguration ceremony and, in “another bizarre moment of foreshadowing”, signing a document on immigration, the Daily Star says.

She has twice been accused of plagiarism

Melania was accused of plagiarism after reporters noticed a similarity between her “Be Best” initiative launched in 2018 and an Obama-era document.

Melania launched the campaign to “encourage adults to help teach children to be good citizens”, ABC News says. But several news reports noted that the accompanying booklet “bore a striking resemblance” to information handed out during the Obama administration, the BBC says.

In 2016, a large part of a speech she delivered appeared to be lifted directly from a 2008 speech made by Michelle Obama, her predecessor, according to USA Today.

She ‘would likely fail’ her husband’s proposed immigration screening test

It has been suggested that had her husband’s proposed immigration screening existed, she would most likely not have been allowed to stay in the US when she arrived as she does not have a college degree.

CNN has pointed out that the first lady entered the US on a H-1B visa – one that Trump’s administration is denying at a “dizzying rate”, according to Mother Jones.

She misses her life before the drama of the White House

A source close to Melania told People Magazine that the first lady’s life has become a “24/7 tornado” since her husband was inaugurated.

A second source confirmed that Melania misses her pre-White House lifestyle: “They are as a couple exactly how you think they would be: complete opposites. So this lifestyle doesn’t work for her.”

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