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Melania Trump: 20 things you might not know about the First Lady

Jun 15, 2017

From nude photoshoots to surprising linguistic prowess and a secret half-brother back home in Slovenia

Melania Trump: 20 things you might not know about the First Lady
Melania Trump: 20 things you might not know about the First Lady
Melania Trump: 20 things you might not know about the First Lady
Despite more than a year of heavy scrutiny for Donald Trump, we still know surprisingly little about his wife, First Lady Melania Trump.Aside from a disastrous speech at the Republican National Convention in July, which was found to be partially plagiarised from First Lady Michelle Obama, the former model kept a fairly low profile during the election campaign.Commentators speculated as to why Melania could not be seen stumping for her husband across the country, as past wives have done.Perhaps the campaign feared her status as a foreigner – complete with heavy accent – would undermine Trump's appeal to anti-immigrant voters. If so, they were probably wrong, says Vox, whose polling of US voters found "European immigrants are perceived very differently from Latin American or Middle Eastern immigrants".Trump's chequered marital history could also be to blame. Melania is "the first third wife to take up residence in the White House", says i24 News, and giving her a high-profile position in the campaign would risk increased media focus on the businessman's two previous marriages and multiple infidelities.Or was she simply not interested in the spotlight?
The world will probably find out much more about Melania Trump over the next four years. But, for now, here are some of the things you might not know about the new first lady.
Melania is Donald's third wife
The former Melania Knauss started dating Donald Trump in 1998, married him in 2005 and gave birth to their son, Barron, the following year. Before Melania, Donald was married for a few years in the 1990s to Marla Maples, a television personality, former beauty queen and mother to their daughter Tiffany Trump. The couple met while the businessman was still with his first wife, Czechoslovakian Ivana Zelnickova, who he had married in 1977. They have three children – Ivanka, Eric and eldest child Donald Trump Jr, who, at 38, is eight years younger than his stepmother Melania.Ivana and Donald were leading socialites in New York during the 1980s, but their marriage ended with a very public divorce in 1992. Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders says some of the inspiration for the show's fashionista Patsy Stone, played by Joanna Lumley, came from Ivana, who often sports a high blonde beehive. 
She refused to give Trump her number 
The billionaire asked Melania for her number at a party in New York in 1998 – and she said no. Melania, then 28, was there at the invitation of Paolo Zampolli, the Italian businessman who set her up as a model in the US. The property tycoon – future husband Donald, then a notorious playboy - had arrived with another woman, but he sent her to the bathroom so he could chat up the model.However, Melania knew his reputation so when he asked for her number she refused and instead asked him for his details. She told GQ magazine: "If I give him my number, I'm just one of the women he calls." She waited to see if he would give her a personal or a business number, to assess what his intentions might be. "It tells you a lot from the man what kind of number he gives you," she said.Trump, it seems, was serious, giving her "all of his numbers", she revealed. 
Hillary Clinton went to her wedding
Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the 350 guests when Melania and Donald tied the knot at the groom's landmark Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. According to GQ, the bride wore a $100,000 Dior dress with 1,500 crystals, which took a "legendary" 550 hours to make. It had a 13ft train and the bride wore a 16ft veil. However, the gown was so difficult to walk in that Melania changed into a Vera Wang hand-ruched silk tulle Grecian dress for the poolside after-party. Her 12-carat, emerald-cut Graff wedding ring is said to be worth £1.5m.Melania's sister, Ines, was the maid of honour and Donald's two sons, Donald Jr and Eric, served as best men. Guests including Heidi Klum, Barbara Walters and Simon Cowell "slurped caviar and Cristal in the shadow of a five-foot-tall Grand Marnier wedding cake", says GQ, while the Hollywood Reporter says the seven-tier "chef-d'oeuvre" weighed more than 200lbs.
She grew up in communist Yugoslavia and speaks five languages
Slovene, English, French, Serbian and German, if you want to know. That linguistic prowess could come in handy at White House functions, but it has been suggested her thick accent is the reason she makes few public speeches alongside her immigrant-bashing husband.Melania was raised away from the glamour of New York high society in a concrete tower block in then Yugoslavia during the rule of Marshal Josip Tito. Now that her husband has become president, Melania is the first first lady to be born in a communist nation and only the second to be born abroad, after Louisa Adams, the English wife of sixth president John Quincy, who served from 1825 to 1829.
She has a secret half-brother
While preparing a profile of the first lady for GQ, reporter Julia Ioffe made a startling discovery – Melania's father, Victor Knavs, who the former model describes as traditional and hardworking, fathered a secret son before marrying Melania's mother.Knavs agreed to pay child support after a court battle proved he was Denis Cigelnjak's father, a claim he initially contested. However, he has never contacted his son nor acknowledged his existence. Now aged 50, Cigelnjak still lives in the family's native Slovenia.Melania initially said the reports were false but later, confronted with court documents, claimed she had misunderstood the question and had known about her half-brother "for years".
She is the only first lady to have posed nude
Three years before she met Donald, Melania posed nude for a French men's monthly magazine. The "bombshell" photo set, obtained by the New York Post, shows her lying naked in a bed alongside Scandinavian model Emma Eriksson.Photographer Jarl Ale de Basseville, who took the pictures, says the images are "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."An unnamed insider said Melania behaved "like a true professional" during the shoot and was "charming throughout". Donald, meanwhile, said: "In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common."
Her official portrait has caused a stir
Melania's first official portrait, taken by Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux, was taken from "around 7,000 photos" shot over a three-day stint with the Trump family in January, the photographer's brother Benoit, who also worked on the shoot, said, Time reports.The photo, taken in a second floor residential area of the White House, shows the First Lady in a jet black jacket, looking directly at the camera with her arms folded and lips parted in a slight smile.Its accompanying statement reads: "I am honoured to serve in the role of First Lady and look forward to working on behalf of the American people over the coming years."The pose is in stark contrast to that of her predecessor Michelle Obama, who was pictured smiling with open arms. Instead, Vogue observes, Melania's stance and backdrop seem to echo that chosen by Nancy Reagan for her first lady portrait.However, the First Lady's seemingly guarded pose has attracted some backlash, with the Boston Globe asking: "What's with the crossed arms?"The White House released an official portrait of Melania Trump. So what%u2019s with the crossed arms?— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) April 4, 2017 Melania's "cool, distant gaze" seems more in keeping with her "runway-model past" than her current role, adds the newspaper.However, that backlash has been met with its own backlash, as other publications claimed the over-analysis of Melania's appearance and posture was unfair and sexist.The Globe's article "would have been slammed as a sexist atrocity had it been about any other woman", said the National Review.Meanwhile, Vanity Fair says Melania's choice of a tuxedo jacket by Italian luxury house Dolce & Cabana was "particularly curious, given her husband's constant promises to revive American industry".While Melania has occasionally worn US designers, continues the magazine, she more often opts for European labels, creating a "stark dissonance" with her husband's "inflammatory rhetoric on global trade and emphasis on American manufacturing".
She doesn't always want to hold hands
In a flick of the wrist seen around the world, Melania appeared to rebuff her husband's offer of his hand on the couple's first visit to Israel together.The couple were greeted at the foot of the stairs of Air Force One by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, then escorted along the red carpet to a podium for a formal welcome ceremony.Video footage shows the US President reach for his wife's hand - but "the First Lady appears to swat her husband's hand away with a visible flick of her wrist", CNN says."Well this is embarrassing," Israeli publication Haaretz wrote on Twitter, posting a slow motion video of the incident. The footage has been retweeted more than 43,000 times as of writing. Well this is embarassing— (@haaretzcom) May 22, 2017 According to CNN, it is unclear what led to the hand swat: "Perhaps the first lady, who studied extensively ahead of the trip, did not want to buck protocol, since their Israeli counterparts did not appear to be holding hands at that particular moment. "Or maybe there was a bug," the site adds.
She can't distinguish between pizza and potica
In one of the more awkward moments of her first official trip abroad as First Lady, Melania appeared to misunderstand one of the Pope's jokes.
Accompanying the US President on his visit to the Vatican, she was asked by the Pontiff: "What are you feeding him - potica?"
Melania appeared to reply uncertainly: "Pizza?", before smiling and answering: "Yes."
Grinning, the Pope then turned to Donald Trump. "The commander in chief also laughed," the New York Post says, "but it wasn't clear if he got the joke."
Pope Francis had prepared his specifically for the First Lady. Potica – pronounced "po-teet-sah" – is a Slovenian dessert, which the Pontiff reportedly loves. However, some journalists and onlookers thought he had been making a rude comment about the President's waistline.
The misunderstanding was swiftly dubbed #pizzagate, The Guardian says."Melania Trump's mistake is perhaps understandable given her husband's well-known love of fast food," the paper adds. Not to mention this commercial the President once starred in, which seems to hint at all kinds of unsavoury behaviour.
She sued the Daily Mail for reporting on escort allegations
The Daily Mail has paid an undisclosed sum to Melania after it reported on false allegations that she once worked as an escort.Its double-page spread, published last August, during the US election campaign, was titled: "Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump". It was later taken down from the website.Melania filed a libel claim in February reportedly seeking damages of $150m (£120m).A statement read out at the Royal Courts of Justice in April said the article included "false and defamatory claims… which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling".It continued: "The allegations strike at the heart of the claimant's personal integrity and dignity."The Daily Mail published a retraction and an apology in both the newspaper and on its website, saying: "We accept that these allegations about Mrs Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologise to Mrs Trump for any distress that our publication caused her. To settle Mrs Trump's two lawsuits against us, we have agreed to pay her damages and costs."The amount paid was not disclosed, but it is understood to be around $3m (£2.4m) which would cover her legal actions the Daily Mail in the UK and the US.
Melania Trump: 20 things you might not know about the First Lady
Melania Trump: 20 things you might not know about the First Lady
Melania Trump: 20 things you might not know about the First Lady
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