Ivanka Trump's Life Growing Up In The Spotlight

Ivanka Trump has gladly admitted that, as the eldest daughter of Donald Trump and an heir to his literal and proverbial fortunes, she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. "I consider the position I'm in to be a great responsibility and one I intend to use wisely," she wrote in her 2017 memoir, "Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success." More than perhaps any of the reality TV star-turned-POTUS' other children, Ivanka has followed in his footsteps: positioning herself throughout her adult life as a savvy real estate exec, an entrepreneur, and a tasteful celebrity, she stepped up when The Donald ran for president and joined him in his political ambitions. 

Whether her future holds another stint in the White House or a return to the world of business, this first daughter has spent her entire life in the public eye, and she's unlikely to stop any time soon. Let's take a look at the evolution of Ivanka Trump into one of America's most powerful personalities.

She grew up loving and admiring her mom, Ivana

Ivanka Trump, seen here at 6 years old in 1987 with opera legend Plácido Domingo, mother Ivana Trump, and younger brother Eric Trump, undeniably lived a privileged life as a child. Named after her mom, who happened to be Donald Trump's first of three wives, Ivanka explained in a 2010 tweet, "My actual name is Ivana. In Czech, Ivanka is the baby name for Ivana, like Bobby is to Robert." 

In her "Women Who Workmemoir, Ivanka described the close bond she's always shared with her mother, who influenced her young daughter while managing real estate deals for the Trump Organization alongside Donald. Writing about accompanying her mom on construction site visits to see progress on New York's Plaza Hotel, Ivanka wrote, "She would meticulously inspect each inch of the prior day's work — impeccably dressed, in full makeup and four-inch high heels." 

She found herself deeply inspired by how her mom balanced her power as a mom, a business tycoon, and a glamorous woman — without flinching. "It was my mother, unapologetically feminine in a male industry, who first embodied and defined for me what it meant to be a multidimensional woman — a woman who works at all aspects of her life," she wrote. 

Ivanka Trump was the apple of her father's eye

Seen here with Donald Trump in the early '90s, Ivanka Trump had plenty of attention lavished on her by her dad while growing up. As a 10-year-old, she would place collect calls to Donald's office at the Trump Organization and would hear her father put her on speakerphone for his guests to observe. "It was colleagues, it was titans of industry, it was heads of countries," Ivanka told CNN in 2016. "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." 

Looking back on her childhood, she observed that her father wasn't around much. "He always made us his top priority," he said. "It doesn't mean he was home every night for dinner – he wasn't." Regardless, Ivanka insisted that she and her siblings never lacked love or attention from him. "He had big ambitions for himself. So, you know, he wasn't always physically present," she added. "But he was always available."

She weathered her parents' divorce

Ivanka Trump, seen here with her mother Ivana Trump, was only 9 years old when her parents announced their divorce. Worse still, their separation revolved around a public scandal when Donald Trump was accused of having cheated on Ivana with his soon-to-be second wife, Marla Maples. Speaking to People in 2016, Ivanka praised her parents for having sheltered her and her siblings from the heightened media attention. "They did a remarkable job protecting us from something largely outside of their control," she said. "We didn't have newspapers in the house for a significant period of time and the TV wasn't on when they weren't there. So they tried to mitigate the attention that that moment received." 

Rather than make her feel distant from her parents, Ivanka suggested that the challenges faced within the family actually helped her to grow closer to her parents. While there may have been heartbreak at home, there was no shortage of love — and both Ivana and Donald made that clear to their children. "They helped us ... by being supportive with one another, not disparaging the other in front of us," she added. "There was still tremendous affection between them and ... there would always be great love for us."

Ivanka didn't love her boarding school years

Ivanka Trump's teenage years were interrupted when she transferred from the all-girl Chapin School in New York City to the famously well-heeled Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school in Connecticut at the age of 15. According to writer Vicky Ward's 2019 book, "Kushner Inc." (via Express), the teen rebel had made the switch between schools after Chapin asked her to leave due to an abysmal attendance record. Rather than turning up to classes, Ivanka was said to have spent a great deal of time at her dad's Mar-a-Lago home working on her modeling career. Ward also claimed that she rarely received any punishment for her misbehavior — including an incident in she was allegedly caught partying at a teacher's house — thanks to Donald Trump's power and influence.

Given the freedom she'd enjoyed in New York, it's no surprise she hated her new restrictive life at Choate Rosemary Hall. In 2007, she told Marie Claire, "I was all of a sudden in the prison of boarding-school life, and all my friends in New York were having fun." Speaking to Spin in 1998, the then-teenage heiress also hinted at having a complicated on-campus reputation, saying, "There's a deli near campus where I go sometimes and one day, the owner says to me, 'Ivanka, can I ask you something? People in town are saying that you have a limo waiting for you at all times to pick you up and drive you to your classes. Is that true?'"

Modeling didn't stick for Ivanka Trump

All that alleged time off school building her modeling portfolio at least somewhat paid off. Not unlike her stepmother, Melania Trump (pictured, left), Ivanka Trump also entertained a brief modeling career during her late teens. Signing with the Elite Modeling Agency, she landed a cover shoot for Seventeen in 1997 and walked the Paris runway for Thierry Mugler the following year. However, speaking with Marie Claire in 2007, Ivanka dismissed the experience as being a superficial folly that ultimately just gave her a chance to see the world. Apparently, she had more serious ambitions — and they didn't involve the same challenges of modeling. She elaborated, "I didn't particularly enjoy the act of it. It's as ruthless an industry as real estate — the people you meet in that business are just as fricking tough." 

That same year, Ivanka echoed these sentiments by discussing the mean-girl mentality of the modeling world during a Harper's Bazaar interview. Comparing her life at the Trump Organization with her time as a model, she mused, "[Realators] have nothing on a group of catty 16-year-old female models without parental supervision. That is a mean, tough, aggressive business, and it taught me to build a callus to the projections of others."

Ivanka Trump followed her father to Penn

Ivanka Trump attended the same college as her father, Donald Trump, and brother, Donald Trump Jr. In 2004, Ivanka graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School of Business after transferring from Georgetown University before her junior year. Praising her educational experience in a 2009 Philadelphia magazine interview, Ivanka said, "Wharton helped me to quickly ease into the world I'm in ... It really just teaches you how to analyze and dissect problems." She also confessed to putting her real estate connections to use while in school, claiming with a laugh, "I did sell a few condos while I was at Wharton. To classmates who were looking, or their parents. Not in exchange for test scores. For checks."

In 2017, several of Ivanka's former classmates responded to a callout from The Daily Pennsylvanian in describing the former model they knew at Wharton. Identifying her as ambitious, private, professional, and driven, one former student claimed, "The first time I saw her, she came into class late. She walked very confidently ... there was an air of, 'I am someone.'" She graduated from the prestigious school with a BS in economics — and cum laude, no less — in 2004.

She was her dad's 'Apprentice'

Ivanka Trump was eager to hit the ground running following her graduation from Wharton. "By spring of my senior year, I had accepted [a] position at Forest City Ratner," she wrote in her 2017 memoir, "Women Who Work," about the Brooklyn-based firm where she would get her start in the real estate business. Ivanka even turned down a position at Vogue to take the job, describing how Anna Wintour called the college grad and attempted to woo her with a job offer — which Ivanka respectfully declined, explaining, "I just wasn't willing to delay my dream of becoming a builder."

Just one year in, a 24-year-old Ivanka decided to leave Forest City Ratner and join the Trump Organization in 2005 to work alongside her father and older brother, Donald Trump Jr. A year later, she aligned herself even closer with her dad by signing on to appear on "The Apprentice" in 2006. The reality competition show, which featured Donald Trump booting contestants with his famous catchphrase, "You're fired," was a platform for Ivanka to champion the Trump Organization's goals.

"I've been asked to do all sorts of other shows — you know, stupid stuff — but ultimately they do nothing for the brand," Ivanka explained to GQ in 2007. "They do nothing to advance my ultimate goal of becoming a great developer." While Ivanka told the magazine that she wasn't interested in building a television career, Ivanka would periodically appear on "The Apprentice" and its "Celebrity Apprentice" spin-off over the next decade. 

Ivanka Trump's love story

Ivanka Trump's life changed in 2007 when the mid-20s real estate exec met future husband Jared Kushner, the son of a New Jersey real estate family who had recently purchased The New York Observer. While speaking to Vogue in 2015, Ivanka described how the two were introduced during a business lunch, set up by friends who thought they could simply do business together. "They very innocently set us up thinking that our only interest in one another would be transactional," Ivanka explained. "Whenever we see them we're like, 'The best deal we ever made!'" 

Sparks clearly flew and Ivanka and Jared, seen above on their wedding day, married two years later at a ceremony at her family's Trump National Golf Club in the Garden State. Speaking to Vogue, Jared praised his wife by gushing, "Ivanka is definitely the CEO of our household." Meanwhile, Ivanka wrote in her "Women Who Work" memoir, "Jared is a tremendous source of inspiration and support."

She fashioned herself as a work-wear mogul

With a job at Trump Organization and an on-air role on "The Apprentice," Ivanka Trump's career was already buzzing when she decided to branch out into the fashion world. In 2007, Ivanka launched her jewelry collection, writing in her "Women Who Work" memoir, "Women were interested in buying jewelry for themselves — and were no longer waiting for a man to do it for them." 

While the items themselves seemed to represent material independence for women looking to invest in their own luxurious decadence, the business also represented somewhat of a professional statement of independent success for Ivanka too. "It's exciting for me, particularly because it would be the first thing I've done under my own name," she told Marie Claire that same year. "... I know I have to prove myself within the company, to my father, and [to] everyone we work with.

In 2011, she went on to launch her eponymous line of clothing and shoes (which she eventually folded in 2018). Like her jewelry collection, Ivanka's mission for the business went well beyond setting goals for profits. "I was really proud of the fact that my collections captured a femininity and a sense of fashion that working women hadn't been able to express even just a decade before," she wrote in her memoir.

Ivanka Trump modeled herself as a working mom

Before Donald Trump's presidential role reframed Ivanka Trump as the nation's daughter-in-chief, Ivanka spent the early 2010s continuing to work at the Trump Organization and expanding her fashion empire, while also growing her family with husband Jared Kushner. The couple welcomed daughter Arabella in 2011 and son Joseph in 2013, with their third child, Theodore, arriving in 2016. 

Ivanka's status as a working mom drew praise at the time from Meghan Markle, who interviewed her in 2014 for her since-archived lifestyle website, The Tig. Introducing the piece, the former "Suits" star marveled at the former model's ability to transcend beyond her beauty in becoming a sharp businesswoman — one who had built her own empire beyond that of her father. "It's so easy to knock the girls who come from privilege – to assume they rested on their laurels and garnered accolades simply by being fancy from the womb. But I always remember Ivanka being different," the future duchess wrote. ..."This much I know — when we have drinks, I will make sure I order whatever she does — because this woman seems to have the formula for success (and happiness) down pat."

Ivanka Trump hit the presidential trail

When Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in June 2015, Ivanka Trump notably took the stage to introduce him to the crowd. She would stay by her father's side until his eventual victory in 2016, frequently hitting the campaign trail, with Michael D'Antonio praising her loyalty in a piece for Politico, writing, "Ivanka Trump is her father's ... most powerful surrogate." She also appeared in television ads aimed at mothers to pitch Donald's alleged support for working women.

Similarly, Ivanka served as a powerful voice, defending her father against his widely-criticized verbal attacks on women, including his war of words with Megyn Kelly in 2015. "Look, my father is very blunt, he's very direct, he is not gender specific in his criticism of people," Ivanka claimed to CNN at the time of her dad's rhetoric surrounding Kelly. "So I don't think that he's gender-targeted at all."

In 2016, Ivanka also stepped up to defend her father after The New York Times published a controversial report concerning Donald's allegedly inappropriate behavior towards women spanning several decades. "He's not a groper. It's not who he is," she told "CBS This Morning." "He has total respect for women."

Her blockbuster convention speech turned heads

Wearing a pink sheath from — where else? — her own fashion line, Ivanka Trump stumped for her father at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, with her appearance garnering rave reviews from Donald Trump's supporters and the press alike. Outlets like CNN praised the entrepreneur for helping to showcase a softer, more vulnerable side to her father — something that was lacking from the presentations and speeches of other convention speakers. 

However, there were some critics who questioned whether Ivanka actually even shared some of the same values as her father. As Philip Bump mused in a piece for The Washington Post, Ivanka's rhetoric about pay equality and affordable childcare was impressive, but her proposed policies were more similar to Hillary Clinton's platform than that of Donald. "In my father's company, there are more female than male executives," Ivanka told the RNC audience, per Vox. "Women are paid equally for the work that we do, and when a woman becomes a mother she is supported, not shut out."

Ivanka impressed with her inauguration look

When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election in an upset over Hillary Clinton, Ivanka Trump was ready and willing to step into a national role, with all the sartorial power that position entailed. For her father's inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20, 2017, she drew praise for her winter-white ensemble during his outdoor swearing-in, wearing a white jacket and trousers by Oscar de la Renta, accessorized with an American flag pin. 

Ivanka's choice of a white ensemble may have been a reference to the suffragette movement, with the first daughter's look tying in with her passionate stance in the push for more equal rights between men and women. However, some critics also couldn't help but note that her style choice pushed her back in league with — or potentially, against — Hilary Clinton whose signature white pantsuits had paid tribute to the many women who had paved the way for her to even attempt a presidential run. For Ivanka to wear white — alongside her half-sister, Tiffany Trump, who also rocked the same color scheme — could be seen as an overt visual statement. Not just in tribute to her own values, but also as a way to reclaim Clinton's bid for power and keep it for herself, in light of her father's presidential victory. 

Ivanka Trump's sartorial influence

Ivanka Trump further flexed her fashion influence at her father's inaugural ball on Jan. 20, 2017, wearing a shimmering gown by Carolina Herrera. While some designers spoke out against dressing Melania Trump in opposition to Donald Trump's political views, Herrera told AP News that it was an honor to dress the two first ladies of the country. 

During the next several years in the White House, Ivanka alternately drew cheers and jeers for her sartorial choices, with much of the press coverage devoted to the expensive items she regularly wears. An even more serious fashion faux pas? Prior to shutting down her fashion line in 2018, Ivanka was criticized over her team allegedly sending out press releases identifying a $10,800 bracelet she wore from her own collection, which prompted claims that she was using her political platform for financial gain. In a statement published by CBS News, a representative from Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry suggested the company was still transitioning to a new code of conduct post-election and that an employee had made an honest mistake with the email. 

Later that year, GQ reported that the company had been accused of fraud and money laundering, with filings made at the U.S. district court alleging that the defunct-jewelry line had been used in a scheme to hide $100 million from the Commercial Bank of Dubai. Per Politico, Ivanka wasn't named in the lawsuit nor was she accused of any wrongdoing, but rather her former business partner Moshe Lax was, as well as his sister, and their late father. 

Ivanka Trump's White House trials and tribulations

As a senior advisor to her father's administration, Ivanka Trump enjoyed the perks of her new life as a public official. To comply with ethics laws, she stepped down from her position with the Trump Organization in order to assume a role in the White House, with her husband Jared Kushner leaving his roles with Kushner Companies and The New York Observer in order to also accept an advisory role with the president. However, their business decisions didn't leave them financially struggling as the couple reportedly earned around $36 million in outside income in 2019.

Ivanka reportedly played a key role in various Trump administration efforts during her time working alongside her father in the White House. Ivanka's work included her involvement in an initiative supporting women's development and education around the world, as well as increasing funding of STEM and computer science education in U.S. schools. 

However, her efforts within her father's administration weren't always received warmly on the global stage. This very much includes her famously-panned appearance at the 2019 G20 summit, where she was mocked over videos showing her appearing to awkwardly interact with world leaders. Ivanka was also criticized when Donald Trump floated her name as a potential United Nations ambassador, with her father addressing the matter on Twitter, claiming, "So nice, everyone wants Ivanka Trump to be the new United Nations Ambassador. She would be incredible, but I can already hear the chants of Nepotism! We have great people that want the job."

She reportedly began to step back from her dad

Years into her White House tenure, Ivanka Trump maintained a powerful role while allegedly beginning to isolate herself. White House insiders cited by The Atlantic claimed that Ivanka entered a "bunker period" around the fall of 2017, participating less frequently in meetings and only involving herself in issues central to her passions for women and education. Of former chief of staff John Kelly's reaction to Ivanka, a source alleged, "He kind of walked in and looked at Ivanka like, 'What the f*** is Barbie doing in the West Wing?'" 

Meanwhile, Ivanka's own brother, Donald Trump Jr., told the outlet that Ivanka's role in the administration had affected her reputation among her wealthy friends. "She was loved by all the people in the world she wanted to be loved by," he said of Ivanka's rosy past. "I can't say she's not disappointed by them turning on her ... I just think I figured it out a little bit earlier than she did that people were going to see us differently after my father won."

Her controversies continued into 2020

Despite Ivanka Trump's seemingly less-visible White House role, she still bore the brunt of criticism in 2020 for several appearances that were widely seen as missteps. In a July 2020 ad campaign, Donald Trump's oldest daughter told Americans to "Find Something New," and urged those unemployed amid the pandemic to pursue new careers. The campaign, of course, was lambasted by critics on social media for its lack of sensitivity toward out-of-work Americans, with Ivanka responding to one negative tweet by claiming, "This initiative is about challenging the idea the traditional two and four [year] college is the only option to acquire the skills needed to secure a job. This work has never been more urgent." 

Ivanka was also lampooned for posting a photo of herself posing with a can of Goya black beans, part of the Trump administration's mutual support of the Goya brand, which prompted Democratic senators to accuse Ivanka of violating ethics laws, per Politico. Ivanka's tweet containing a Bible verse, which she shared in the midst of America's widespread Black Lives Matter protests, also didn't go over any better with her critics.

Ivanka focused on herself after Donald's 2020 loss

Following his loss in the 2020 presidential election, Ivanka Trump's relationship with her father took a different turn. In June 2021, CNN released a report claiming that Ivanka was maintaining her distance from Donald Trump amid his complaints about the election. "They weren't around for the usual spring and summer events at Mar-a-Lago," an insider said of Ivanka and her family, with another noting that Kushner was also staying away from his father-in-law. "He was kind of like a parent who sticks around less and less each morning while they're transitioning their kid to daycare," the source explained. 

By 2022, it had become apparent that Ivanka was indeed taking a step back from her father's political affairs. Following Donald's announcement to join the 2024 presidential race, his daughter revealed she would not be a part of his campaign. "I love my father very much. This time around, I am choosing to prioritize my young children and the private life we are creating as a family," she said in a statement to CNN. "I do not plan to be involved in politics. While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena."

Three years earlier, Ivanka had reasoned to Face the Nation that her children's well-being would always be the biggest priority in determining whether she would work with her father again in a political context. However, she'd also suggested they had some unfinished business, saying, "We've done so much, but it's not enough yet."

Ivanka is no longer afraid to go against her father

She might be daddy's little girl but Ivanka Trump is not one to be pushed around. And when necessary, she is certainly not afraid to take a stand — even if it is against her father. Back in 2017, Ivanka faced backlash for her lingering silence about Donald Trump's policies and some controversial decisions made during his administration. But while silence more often than not means agreement, this wasn't the case with Ivanka. "I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence," she said during an appearance on CBS This Morning. "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."

Of course, we saw this play out after the January 6 insurrection carried out by Donald's supporters at the U.S. Capitol. To examine the events leading up to the attacks, an investigation panel was set up to look into Donald's role in the insurrection. Ivanka would later give her testimony to the panel. But rather than support her father's claims of electoral malpractice, Ivanka gave her unbiased opinion. Discussing her father's election loss in 2020 and the former attorney general's attempt to convince Donald that he had truly lost the election, she told congressional investigators at the hearing, "I respect Attorney General Barr. So I accepted what he was saying," per The Guardian.

She remains a supportive daughter behind closed doors

Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump might not always see eye to eye but one thing the former president can always count on is his daughter's support. Following Donald's indictment over his Stormy Daniels hush money scandal, the former president held a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago residence where he acknowledged his family's support amid his legal woes. "I have a great family and they've done a fantastic job and we appreciate it very much," he said per New York Post. "They've gone through a lot. I have a son here [Don Jr.] who has done a great job, another son here [Eric] who has done a great job, and Ivanka." 

Although his daughter was visibly absent at the event, she did not hold back on sharing her thoughts on the indictment. "I love my father, and I love my country. Today, I am pained for both," she wrote in an Instagram Stories post. "I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern." However, her support wasn't only virtual as sources close to the Trumps later disclosed that Ivanka visited Donald at his Mar-a-Lago residence days before his arraignment in New York.