Questions have emerged about Melania’s path to citizenship – and 14 other things your might not know
She could be the next first lady and yet little is known about Melania Trump. The 46-year-old wife of billionaire businessman Donald has kept a low profile throughout his presidential campaign but hit the headlines last month when she was accused of plagiarising her speech at the Republican National Convention.
She could be the next Jackie Kennedy: Insiders warn the Slovenian ex-model should not be underestimated. Jackie Kennedy biographer Pamela Keogh told the Daily Mail that, just like JFK’s iconic wife, Trump is “beautiful, smart and keeps her own counsel”, with a chic fashion sense. As far back as 2000, Trump told the New York Times that if she were ever first lady, she would be “very traditional – like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy”.
She would be the only first lady to have posed nude: Three years before she met her husband, Trump posed nude alongside another female model for a French men’s monthly magazine. In the “bombshell” photo set obtained by the New York Post, she is seen with Scandinavian model Emma Eriksson.
In one image, Trump lies naked in a bed alongside Emma Eriksson, who, also naked, embraces her from behind, just below her fully exposed breasts. In another of the snaps, Eriksson, dressed in a low-cut bustier, brandishes a whip alongside a recoiling Trump, who is dressed in a skin-tight gown and high heels.
Jarl Ale de Basseville, the French fashion photographer who snapped the pictures, said the photos are “beauty and not porn”. He said: “I always loved women together because I have been with a lot of women who desired the menage a trois.”
An unnamed insider said Trump behaved “like a true professional” during the shoot and was “charming throughout”. Asked about the photos, her husband said: “In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common.”
That is not the only time she’s bared all: In 2000, Trump was photographed in the buff for a GQ photoshoot – one memorable image had her handcuffed to a briefcase on board a private jet belonging to her then boyfriend.
“We pushed the envelope a little,” editor Dylan Jones says. “[It’s] not exactly the kind of thing we could have asked anyone else to do – and we were surprised she said yes.”
As for what kind of first lady Trump would make, he predicted: “Probably a very good one. It’s her husband I’m worried about.”
The US has never before seen so much of a potential first lady, although Pat Nixon and Betty Ford both had (clothed) modelling careers.
She had a creepy phone conversation with Howard Stern: In 1999, when her husband was running for president of the Reform party, Melania Trump had a “creepy”, sexually charged conversation live on air with shock jock Howard Stern, who, speaking to the businessman, referred to her as “that broad in your bed”.
Trump, “apparently scantily clad and conveniently sitting nearby”, was summoned to the phone, Mother Jones reports. “With Stern oozing his creepiest charm, things rapidly got weird.”
Stern insisted the former model should “put on your hottest outfit” for a night out with him and Donald Trump. He then asked her what she was wearing. “Uh, not much,” she replied.
“Are you naked? Are you nude?” Stern said.
“Almost,” Trump said.
“Ahhh, I’ve got my pants off already,” Stern said.
The “sex- and harassment-filled radio appearance didn’t exactly strike [Donald] Trump as a bad move,” Mother Jones says. In fact, later in the interview, the billionaire businessman told the DJ he often “mentally” felt Melania up in public, the New York Post says.
She and Donald still enjoy date nights: Witnesses were “gobsmacked” to see a “relaxed” Melania and her husband on a date night at Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar this week, according to the New York Post.
Their posh meal came during a difficult week for the White House candidate. Reports have emerged of deep division within the Republican campaign after Trump repeatedly attacked the parents of a fallen US soldier. Staffers even told CNN they “feel like they are wasting their time”.
A raft of prominent Republicans, including congressman Richard Hanna, who called Trump “a national embarrassment”, have said they will not vote for their party’s nominee, arguing he is unfit to serve as president.
Trump has also been hit by claims that he asked a foreign policy expert three times why the US couldn’t use nuclear weapons. “If we have nuclear weapons why can’t we use them?” he allegedly asked during an hour-long briefing on foreign affairs. Trump’s spokeswoman said there was “no truth” to the claim.
She is the least popular presidential candidate spouse since Hillary: According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, Melania Trump is the least popular presidential candidate spouse since Hillary Clinton.
The survey asked opinions on the spouses and running mates of both presidential candidates – Trump’s husband, Donald, and his Democratic rival, Clinton.
Clinton’s husband, former president Bill, came out as the most popular of the four, with more than half of respondents having a positive opinion of him. Clinton’s prospective vice president, Tim Kaine, was next with a net favourability rating – those viewing him positively minus those viewing him negatively – of plus-19. Republican Mike Pence came in third, with plus-17, and Trump languished in last place, with the former model getting a net favourability rating of just plus-one.
“Melania Trump’s popularity is lower than nearly any other recent candidate’s spouse during an election year,” the National Post says. “The most popular spouse was Barbara Bush, George H W Bush’s wife. Michelle Obama was also viewed fairly positively at about this stage of 2012, though a little worse four years earlier, when she wasn’t as well known.
“To find a spouse less positively viewed than Melania, you’d have to go back to January 1996 – and a presidential spouse named Hillary Clinton.”
She speaks five languages: Slovenian, 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 appearances alongside her immigrant-bashing husband.
She grew up in communist Yugoslavia: Far away from the glamour of New York high society, Trump was raised in a concrete tower block in then Yugoslavia during the rule of Tito. If her husband becomes president, Trump would be 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.
She is raising her son as a “mini-Donald”: Barron, the couple’s nine-year-old son, apparently loves wearing a suit and tie and playing golf with his dad. He is also said to share his father’s love of bossing people around. “I call him mini-Donald. He fired nannies, fired housekeepers,” Trump said in a 2011 interview, adding that he quickly hired them back.
She has a secret half-brother: While preparing a profile of the potential first lady for GQ, reporter Julia Ioffe made a startling discovery – Trump’s father, Victor Knavs, a car dealership manager whom she has described as traditional and hardworking, fathered a secret son before marrying the model’s mother.
Knavs agreed to pay child support after a court battle in which his claim that he was not Denis Cigelnjak’s father was disproven by a paternity test, but he has never contacted his son nor acknowledged his existence. Now aged 50, Cigelnjak still lives in the family’s native Slovenia.
Trump 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”.
When the article appeared in GQ, Ioffe was bombarded with hateful tweets, including anti-Semitic abuse, from supporters of the family. “I don’t agree with what they’re doing,” Trump told DuJour. “But there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.”
She supports her husband’s hardline stance on immigration: Although it’s not surprising for a candidate’s wife to back her husband’s policies, some were taken aback by Trump’s enthusiasm for the Republican’s tough rhetoric on migrants, having immigrated to the US herself.
“I follow the law,” she told an MSNBC interviewer. “I never thought to stay here without papers.”
When pressed about her husband’s questionable comments on “criminals” crossing the border into the US, Trump was equally unfazed. “I don’t feel he insulted the Mexicans,” she said. “He said ‘illegal immigrants’.”
But questions are being asked about her own path to citizenship: Questions about Melania’s immigration status arose shortly after the New York Post published nude photos from the beginning of her career in 1996. Doubts arose about when and how the Slovenian ex-model had acquired her US citizenship after the pictures appeared to suggest that she had begun working in the US earlier than was previously known.
News website Univision later published the “sensational” claim that an immigration attorney who worked for the Trump organisation said that Melania gained her green card “based on marriage” four years prior to meeting Donald Trump.
Melania had previously claimed in an interview with talk show host Larry King that she had never been married prior to her union with Trump.
Michael Wildes, who handled legal work to obtain visas and green cards for Miss Universe when Trump owned the pageant, told Univision that he was authorised by the Trump Organisation “to speak on the matters concerning Melania”. But, in an interview with the group’s investigative unit, said he could not comment on how Melania became a US permanent resident.
“Ms Trump received citizenship in 2006 and prior to that she had a green card based on marriage,” he said in a recorded interview by phone. “Before that, she had a work visa and was in full compliance on her visas and never disrespected any of them. That has been made clear to me.”
Melania’s journey to becoming a US citizen has become a matter of media interest following her husband’s campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigrants.
And she does wish Donald would “act more presidential”: During a rally in Arizona, her husband told the crowd that both his wife and his eldest daughter, Ivanka, don’t entirely approve of his behaviour.
“My wife and my daughter said to me, ‘Act presidential! Act presidential!'” he said.
Trump insists she isn’t shy when it comes to giving her husband political advice. “I give him my opinions, many, many times,” she told CNN. “I don’t agree with everything that he says but, you know, that is normal,” she added.
“I’m my own person, I tell him what I think. I’m standing very strong on the ground on my two feet and I’m my own person. And I think that’s very important in the relationship.”
And to stop tweeting…: Trump’s husband has never been content to confine his gaffes to the real world. Throughout his presidential campaign, he has become embroiled in rows over his tweets on one occasion describing Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington “unattractive inside and outside”, adding that he understood why “her husband left for a man”.
A less pugnacious but nonetheless bizarre post mused that singer Katy Perry “must have been drunk” to marry Russell Brand.
The would-be president has also been notably careless with whom he exchanges tweets and has twice cited an account going by the name @WhiteGenocideTM.
It’s all become a bit much for his wife. Asked by NBC’s Today show what habit she would like to see her husband give up, Trump didn’t have to ponder her answer for long. “Let’s see,” she said. “The tweeting.”
On her own account, Trump mostly sticks to the blandest of updates – the New York skyline features heavily, as do photos of food and fashion, alongside a few innocuous snaps from the campaign trail.
But ultimately, she could prove to be his secret weapon: “Dismiss her at your peril,” insiders told the Telegraph. “She’s beautiful, sassy and smart.”
While it may have become a cliche in US politics, Trump could be just what her husband’s campaign needs – especially if he ends up going head-to-head with Hillary Clinton. “In his wife, [Donald] Trump may have the secret weapon he needs to help keep that Trump surge going strong,” says CNN.
White is her new black: Several commentators have noted that the potential next inhabitant of the White House has a wardrobe to match, appearing in the colour in many public appearances.
Most recently, she dazzled delegates in Cleveland with a close-fitting white number by Serbian-born designer Roksanda Ilincic, a favourite of fellow political spouses Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron. So why does Trump dress in white so often?
Part of the reason is practical, Vogue Australia editor Edwina McCann told News.com.au: “White is good under harsh lighting and down lighting. It also says ‘control’ or ‘I don’t spill anything’.”
However, there’s a subtle message there, too: “It also says a bottomless dry-cleaning budget.”
Some commentators noted an unintentional link between Trump’s wardrobe and her husband’s xenophobic policies.
“Whether she intended it or not, her all-white ensemble displayed the kind of foreignness that is accepted by her husband’s faction of the political party,” says Philly.com‘s Elizabeth Wellington. “To many, that outfit could be another reminder that in the GOP, white is always right.”