The truth about Ivanka's relationship with her father

Donald Trump may have five children — Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, and Barron Trump — but there's only one he calls "Daddy's little girl." The president's bond with his oldest daughter, Ivanka, whom he welcomed with first wife Ivana Trump on Oct. 30, 1981, has only strengthened as she's grown older. According to CBS News' "crash course" on this first daughter, Ivanka graduated from Donald's alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, with an economics degree. Throughout her professional life, she's appeared front and center in all of her father's real estate, showbiz, and political endeavors ... but more on all of that below. 

Among the Trump children, Donald and Ivanka have a singular relationship, with POTUS making plenty of comments over the years (some that are borderline-creepy) to convey their closeness to the public. Per a source cited by People, Ivanka's the "most like him" out of her siblings, who all love their famous father "fiercely" and "are desperate for approval." But even The Donald's kids publicly admitted to Barbara Walters on 20/20 that Ivanka is his "favorite child." And as Vanity Fair's special correspondent, Sarah Ellison, once told Express, "People who are close to Donald Trump say there's only one person in that White House who's not expendable and it's Ivanka Trump."

Let's dig into more details about Donald and Ivanka Trump's most revealing father-daughter moments. 

As a child, Ivanka Trump attended brutal boxing matches with her father

As Ivanka Trump described in her 2010 memoir, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, her favorite part of hanging out in Atlantic City as a child with her father, Donald Trump, and mother, Ivana Trump, were the nights when her parents took her to boxing matches. Not the most conventional father-daughter activity, sure, but Ivanka nevertheless treasured the family outings, writing, "My brothers and I were usually the only kids in the arena — another one of the perks of having your name on the marquee out front — and we'd get flecked by blood and sweat when one of the fighters took a hard hit to the jaw."

Ivanka specifically recalled one fight she attended at just seven years old, when she saw her famous father jump in a chaotic boxing ring to calm the crowd when Mike Tyson knocked out his opponent in just 91 seconds. Her takeaway? Not that the sport was too violent, but rather that her dad was an admirable figure for "trying to make things right." Ivanka wrote, "I was awestruck. I imagine it was a scary scene, but it never occurred to me to feel afraid because my father was there, taking charge and doing his best to give the audience what they wanted."

Donald Trump would praise his young daughter in front of powerful colleagues

A young Ivanka Trump could always count on her father to answer her phone calls, no matter who he was meeting with in his office at the time. During a 2016 interview with CNN, Ivanka recalled phoning Donald Trump up at 10 years old by "[calling] collect to the Trump Organization" from the janitor's closet at New York City's Chapin School, and hearing him put her on speakerphone in front of his peers. 

"It was colleagues, it was titans of industry, it was heads of countries," Ivanka explained. "He'd always tell everyone in the room how great a daughter I was and say cute things and ask me about a test I took." Discussing Donald's parenting style in the early years of growing his business, she added, "He always made us his top priority ... He wasn't always physically present but he was always available."

Ivanka previously told a similar story to Harper's Bazaar, recalling how she'd call Donald from boarding school and listen to her father describe her as "the smartest [and] most beautiful" to his important guests. "There's no doubting my father values beauty," Ivanka said, "but in my formative years, I never thought he valued it to the point that it should make me uncomfortable."

Ivanka Trump allegedly sat on her father's lap as a teen

The controversial 2020 book from Donald Trump's niece, Mary Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, alleged that Ivanka Trump had a uniquely close relationship with her father as a young woman, remembering a scene where they shared an affectionate father-daughter moment together. 

"Donald went to sit on the chair by the TV, and Ivanka climbed on his lap," Mary Trump wrote, describing a scene at Donald's family home in Queens, N.Y. "The boys started wrestling. Donald watched the action from his chair, kissing Ivanka or pinching her cheek. Every once in a while, he'd stick his foot out and kick whichever boy was being pinned to the floor."

While photos have periodically circulated on social media, showing proof of Ivanka sitting on Donald's lap, Reuters examined several snapshots of Donald appearing to inappropriately embrace or touch Ivanka, concluding that many prominent examples had been photoshopped and were not authentic. However, Snopes similarly fact-checked a 1996 picture of Ivanka, then 15, sitting on Donald's knee at the family's Mar-a-Lago estate. Ruling that the photo was not photoshopped or altered, but that the viral claims that Ivanka was allegedly giving Donald a "lap dance" were false, the site deduced that this example was from an innocent family outing. 

Donald Trump has joked about 'dating' daughter Ivanka

As Ivanka Trump grew older and became a public figure associated with her father's empire, Donald Trump took more liberties in how he referred to his daughter in public, often joking about her beauty and physique. 

In 2016, CNN unearthed several examples of Donald making eyebrow-raising comments about Ivanka's appearance on Howard Stern's syndicated radio show, beginning in 2004. "By the way, your daughter ... Can I say this? A piece of ass," Stern said, to which Donald responded, "Yeah." In a subsequent 2006 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, the titular host said of Ivanka, "Did your daughter get breast implants? ... She looks more voluptuous than ever." In response, Donald said, "No, she didn't get them ... She's actually always been very voluptuous, she's tall, she's almost six feet tall and ... she's an amazing beauty."

Donald kept the praise coming in a joint appearance with Ivanka on The View that same year. Commenting on the possibility of Ivanka posing nude for Playboy, he told the hosts, "I don't think Ivanka would do that inside the magazine, although she does have a very nice figure. I've said that if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her." Donald echoed these claims nearly a decade later in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview, saying of Ivanka, "Yeah, she's really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren't happily married and, ya know, her father..." Yikes.

Ivanka Trump worked alongside her father at the Trump Organization

Donald Trump welcomed his daughter, Ivanka Trump, into his business fold as a protegee of sorts, where she worked for a decade at his side at the Trump Organization. Ivanka, who had pursued a modeling career before attending business school, joined the Organization in 2005, joking to Harper's Bazaar two years later that she and her father had been spending "way too much time together." 

Working as a vice president of real estate development and acquisitions alongside her dad and brothers, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, Ivanka also joined Donald on The Apprentice, the reality competition show that her father famously hosted, in 2006. As she told GQ in 2007, she had "no interest in being a television star," but rather agreed to appear on the show to "advance [her] ultimate goal of becoming a great developer."

"I'm not a clone, and I'm not a minion," Ivanka added. "But I really believe I have this incredible opportunity to take a brand that's so strong — and it's so strong because of [my father] — and take it to the next level. That's why I did The Apprentice." Ivanka remembered how Donald would test her to make sure she actually wanted to follow in his footsteps, telling Harper's Bazaar, "Even though he knew I always wanted to go into real estate, when I got an offer to work at an incredible fashion magazine, he would be like, 'Oh, that's so cool. Are you sure you don't want to go and do that?' For a while, I was getting a little discouraged!"

Donald Trump planned a reality show around Ivanka that never aired

Beyond Ivanka Trump's featured role on The Apprentice, Donald Trump had plans to turn his daughter into a bona fide TV star. In 2016, Jezebel uncovered details of a reality show titled Trump Tower Girls, which was greenlit in 2013 by E! and developed by Trump Productions. The show would feature real estate brokers of Trump International Realty alongside beauty queens who competed in Trump International's beauty pageants, with Ivanka at the show's center. 

The series' aim was allegedly to give Ivanka her own reality TV vehicle, like Donald had with The Apprentice. With the prize being a job at Trump International, promo materials reportedly claimed the women would do "whatever it takes to win the week's payday" — meaning "anything from a chartered plane to Monaco to a seven figure commission."

The Ivanka-centered series never aired after the Trump family withdrew their involvement with the project, with a source alleging to Jezebel, "They felt like their team was too small and they didn't have enough characters who were interesting enough to follow."

Ivanka Trump played a key role in her father's presidential campaign

When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, Ivanka Trump emerged as an important asset to her father's campaign, with the reality star-turned-politician going on to win the race. 

When Donald met cries of sexism on the campaign trail, Ivanka publicly touted her father as a feminist to The Sunday Times (via the Independent), claiming, "People talk about gender equality ... He has lived it, he has employed women at the highest levels of the Trump Organization for decades, so I think it's a great testament to how capable he thinks women are and has shown that his whole life." 

She also appeared in television ads selling her father to voting moms, telling the camera, "The most important job any woman can have is being a mother, and it shouldn't mean taking a pay cut ... Donald Trump understands the needs of a modern workforce." Ivanka would go on to enthusiastically stump for her father at the Republican National Convention, targeting female voters in her speech. "As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce," she told the crowd. "And he will focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessible for all."

As an adult, Ivanka Trump still calls Donald 'daddy'

When Donald Trump assumed the presidency, Ivanka Trump joined her father's administration as an advisor. Despite their status as one of the most powerful father-daughter duos in the world, they still used pet names to refer to each other. On the 2016 campaign trail, Donald told attendees at an Iowa rally about a child care plan Ivanka had been pushing. "She is the one has been pushing for it so hard," he said (via CNN), going on to quote his daughter: "'Daddy, daddy we have to do this.' And it's true, she's very smart and she's right."

Footage later circulated of the president speaking in North Dakota in 2017, where he again cited his adult daughter's "daddy" nickname. Shouting out Ivanka's presence at the event, Donald claimed, "She wanted to make the trip ... She actually said, 'Daddy, can I go with you?' I liked that." Joking about the speech afterwards on The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert cracked about that Donald's comments, "Not weird at all. All of Trump's advisors call him 'daddy.'" 

A 2019 profile of Ivanka in The Atlantic further shed light on the affectionate terms Donald and his daughter shared, noting that the president sometimes calls Ivanka "baby" in meetings they attend together. 

Ivanka Trump's close relationship with her father put her at odds with Melania Trump

Ivanka Trump's mother was Donald Trump's first wife, Ivana Trump. After their divorce in the early '90s, Donald went on to marry (and later divorce) Marla Maples, before making Melania Trump his third wife in 2005. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ivanka's relationship with her stepmother allegedly isn't perfect — and Mary Jordan's unauthorized biography, The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, detailed their sometimes-tense dealings in 2020. 

According to Jordan's biography (via The New York Times), Ivanka has allegedly referred to Melania as "The Portrait" (a reported reference to how she rarely spoke), while Melania supposedly shot back by calling Ivanka "The Princess." Furthermore, when Melania initially stayed behind in New York City following Donald's election win and move to Washington (per The Washington Post), Ivanka allegedly used the official First Lady's Office — attempting to rename it the "First Family Office" — before her stepmother arrived at the White House and took control. "Some said she treated the private residence as if it were her own home," Jordan wrote. "Melania did not like it. When she and Barron finally moved in, she put an end to the 'revolving door' by enforcing firm boundaries." 

Another book about the first lady, Kate Bennett's Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography, contained the claims (via Business Insider) that Melania thought Ivanka was "invading her turf." Remember Melania's infamously controversial "I don't care, do u?" jacket? That was reportedly a subliminal message directed at Ivanka.

Donald Trump positioned his daughter as a world leader ... to mixed results

While serving as a valuable advisor and representative of President Donald Trump's administration, Ivanka Trump has publicly advocated for his policies, while occasionally standing up for him in interviews. 

However, Donald's efforts to elevate his daughter into a world leader was met with derision in 2017, when Ivanka sat in for him in a meeting at the G20 summit. Among the critical voices was Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who slammed the administration's decision to send Ivanka as a replacement, telling MSNBC (via The Guardian), "Here you have the president of the United States at the G20 summit of international leaders, representing us as the leader of the free world, and so he's going to play politics and give his daughter a chance to have a place in the sun and to be seen at a very important meeting that she knows nothing about." Following the incident, Donald defended his daughter on Twitter: "When I left Conference Room for short meetings ... I asked Ivanka to hold seat. Very standard." Is it though?

Ivanka later experienced another icy welcome at the 2019 G20 summit, when video emerged of the first daughter inserting herself into a circle of world leaders, including French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and IMF head Christine Lagarde. At the time, Ivanka's counterparts appeared to look uncomfortable with her presence.

Ivanka Trump occasionally disagrees with her father's decisions as president

Ivanka Trump is rarely a voice of public dissent within her father's presidential administration, but that doesn't mean she always agrees with Donald Trump's policies. In 2017, for example, she rebuked his controversial endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who had been accused of sexually assaulting minors, telling the Associated Press of Moore, "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children." 

Ivanka later told Axios that, amidst her father's repeated attacks on America's free press, she did not view the media as the "enemy of the people." Later, Donald responded to Ivanka's statements on Twitter, writing in part, "She correctly said no. It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!" In another Axios interview, Ivanka was asked about the administration's controversial policy of separating migrant families at the U.S./Mexico border, calling it a "low point" in her White House tenure. "I feel very strongly about that," she said. "And I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children."

Amid criticism that she was complicit in her father's controversial policies, Ivanka told CBS News' Gayle King (via Time), "I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence. I think there are multiple ways to have your voice heard. So where I disagree with my father, he knows it, and I express myself with total candor."

Body language experts say Donald Trump sees Ivanka as his 'heir'

President Donald Trump is undoubtedly close with his oldest daughter, with experts breaking down the many ways that Donald and Ivanka Trump appear to communicate their trust and affection in public. 

Speaking to Refinery29 in 2018, body language expert Patti Wood observed that the first daughter frequently signals that she wants approval from her father, claiming, "We see her desire to connect with him in many of the photos of them." While Donald sometimes reportedly "[asserts] power over her," Wood claimed that Ivanka has often responded in ways that "[indicate] she believes she has a certain power in the relationship."

According to body language expert Judi James (via Express), Ivanka and Donald also appear to mimic each other's actions, saying, "It's a dynastic look, with some frequent mirroring between them to suggest like-minded thinking in professional scenarios and the respect looks as mutual as the affection." Noting that "there seems to be an emphatic sense of 'public' posing between Trump and Ivanka, defining them as something of a 'power duo' and reflecting the important role Ivanka holds in the president's White House team," James added that this "seems to signal this idea of him displaying a direct heir that he trusts, promotes and endorses."