Melania Trump: 21 Facts Beyond The Headlines

Melania Trump (née Knauss) is a notably illusive former first lady — and she is nothing like her predecessors. The former model, who was born in a small town in Slovenia when it was part of Yugoslavia, is the only first lady who was raised in a Communist country. After permanently moving stateside, she managed to cultivate a slice of the American dream. Her career took her from high-profile ad campaigns and magazine spreads to the arms of real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star (and later, 45th president of the United States) Donald Trump.

Melania and Donald, whose own fame already landed him a cameo in "Home Alone 2," wed in 2005. Even then, Vanity Fair claims she never specifically sought a notorious public life beyond her career as a model. She wasn't much-buzzed about in New York Social circles (despite her occasional name splashing across the pages of the New York Post). Her friends described her as someone who enjoys privacy long before her slow — and possibly reluctant — move to Washington.

Melania was the only first lady to be a third wife. She's a woman largely defined by her husband's success, but occasionally carves out her own form of rebellion. We saw this with her ongoing "Be Best" anti-bullying campaign, an initiative that seemingly contested Donald's penchant for Twitter name-calling. But who really is the tight-lipped, stoic beauty who shuns her husband's PDA and would almost never be caught in fast fashion unless it made a statement?

Melania Trump is barely older than her stepkids

Third time's a charm? When Melania Trump tied the knot with Donald Trump, the billionaire had already been married twice before. According to Vanity Fair, his first wife, Ivana Trump, had the same penchant for publicity. The businesswoman reportedly doled out a "press kit of flattering clips" to interviewers during talk of her husband's earlier potential presidential run (yes, he was kicking the idea around for a while).

According to the Independent, the former pair were a seemingly unified front when it came to cultivating increasingly more dramatic Page Six headlines, but split in the early '90s amidst The Donald's scandalous affair with model Marla Maples. The affair garnered the infamous headline in the New York Post: "The Best Sex I've Ever Had." Donald married Maples in 1993, but they finalized their divorce in 1999, the year after Donald met Melania at a party through mutual friends.

When Melania married Donald in 2005, she became a stepmother to four children, who were barely younger than she was. Melania is just seven years older than Don's eldest son, Donald Jr. At the time of this writing, Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany (Don's oft-overlooked daughter from his marriage to Maples) are 41, 39, and 29 years old, respectively. That's not a terribly huge leap from their stepmom, who is in her early 50s.

Melania Trump was shockingly candid about her sex life with Donald

It's not terribly surprising that candid — and even lecherous — sexual language is part of Donald Trump's vocabulary. We saw as much with the leaked "Access Hollywood" tapes, born in the same year he married Melania Trump. What's most peculiar is that the former first lady, who's notoriously tight-lipped about her private life, has been wildly candid about her intimate relations with the billionaire.

According to a photographer who spoke to the New York Post, "Melania was a very quiet, thin girl," before she decided to sign to a modeling agency at the age of 18. Nonetheless, in a joint 1999 interview with Howard Stern, she was anything but quiet. "We have incredible sex at least once a day. Sometimes even more," Melania admitted (via the New York Post). In turn, Donald gloated about how good his third wife looked in a "very small thong." A year later, the public got a glimpse in the model's steamy British GQ cover story.

Today, the tables appear to have turned. According to CNN correspondent Kate Bennett's book, "Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography" (via Business Insider), the couple didn't share a bed in the White House. Melania allegedly had a room on an entirely separate floor.

She's is the first foreign-born first lady in almost 200 years

Melania Trump is not like most first ladies, if only because of her nationality. According to the New York Post, the model was born in Slovenia in 1970 to an Austrian father, who owned a car and motorcycle dealership, and a Slovenian mother, who either worked in a garment factory or was a fashion designer. It's not quite clear. Either way, the star was discovered by an famous photographer at a modeling contest when she was 17 years old. At 18, she signed to an agency in Milan and then moved to the United States in 1996, per BBC News.

This makes Melania one of two foreign-born first ladies, second only to John Quincy Adams' wife, who took office in 1825. According to USA Today, Louisa Adams was born in England in 1775, which we'd imagine was common, considering the United States was still one of England's colonies at the time. In any event, there hadn't been another foreign-born first lady in nearly 200 years.

As a result of Melania's upbringing, the first lady speaks Slovenian, which she taught to her son, Barron Trump. She's also reportedly a polyglot. According to CNN, Melania can speak French, Serbian, German, and Italian, along with English and her native tongue.

Melania Trump is the only first lady to pose nude

Melania Trump is undoubtedly shy about PDA. The former model has been caught swatting her husband's hand away during a trip to Israel, only to reluctantly hold it while posing next to French President Emmanuel Macron. She even notoriously greeted Donald Trump with a handshake. Though the former first lady's affection clearly isn't for public consumption, her body is — at least in the name of art.

In 2000, the year the world didn't end because of Y2K, Melania threw caution to the wind and posed nude for a steamy January spread in British GQ. "Given that she was obviously so keen to be featured in GQ, we came up with a rather kitsch and camp story for her to feature in," longtime GQ editor Dylan Jones revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. The kitsch factor was, indeed, real. In the cover shot, the future first lady lied nude on a fur rug, dripping in diamonds, and handcuffed to a briefcase in a private jet. At the time, it epitomized the kind of luxury the star grew accustomed to in her gilded Trump Tower penthouse. 

According to the Miami Herald, Melania is the only first lady to pose nude.

Did Melania Trump work illegally in the U.S.?

In September 2016, Donald Trump announced his hallmark immigration plan in a speech that detailed his intentions to build a wall across the United States-Mexican border and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, as reported by The New York Times. This was nearly derailed mere weeks later when the Associated Press uncovered information about his wife's immigrant status. Mainly, it looked like Melania Trump started her American dream illegally.

According to BBC News, Melania first entered the U.S. in August 1996 with a visitor visa. During this time, the Associated Press alleges that Melania made $20,056 from 10 modeling jobs without legal permission to work. This work allegedly occurred in the five weeks before her H-1B work visa was approved that October.

In 2001, Melania eventually graduated to a EB-1 visa, commonly known as the Einstein Visa, which is theoretically reserved for highly acclaimed leaders in their respective fields. For example, this visa is common among Pulitzer and Oscar winners or notable academic researchers and executives. How did she make the cut? She's a celeb with a ton of press, and applicants must meet three of 10 noteworthy criteria, which includes coverage in major publications (think: everything littered all over Page Six) and significant contributions in your chosen field (in modeling, a Sports Illustrated swimsuit spread definitely counts). Per the BBC, Melania became a U.S. citizen in 2006.

She sponsored her parents' green cards

Once Melania Trump secured her citizenship in 2006, she was able to sponsor green cards for her Slovakian parents, Amalija and Viktor Knavs. This put Barron Trump's grandparents on a path to become U.S. citizens. According to The New York Times, the pair obtained their citizenship in 2018. The irony, here, is that this very process has been lambasted by Melania's husband.

CNN, reports that Donald Trump had long sought to end the category of visa that allowed Melania's parents to become citizens, often referring to this process as "chain migration." Melania's husband even went as far as denouncing the process as his in-laws were going through it. Some months before the Knavses had their naturalization ceremony, he tweeted, "CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!"

There's still a lot of speculation surrounding the Knavses' green cards. A person typically has to be a permanent resident for five years before they can apply for citizenship, but some reports claim that the couple only obtained their green cards a few months prior. When asked if the Knavses used chain migration to become Americans, their immigration lawyer, Michael J. Wildes, told the outlet, "I suppose."

The reason Melania Trump delayed her move to the White House

In an unprecedented move that cost taxpayers millions of dollars, Melania Trump famously delayed her move to the White House. Instead, she stayed in her gold-coated, $100 million penthouse, resting in the quiet, quaint neighborhood of midtown Manhattan. According to The Washington Post, her initial reasoning was the fact that she didn't want her then 10-year-old son to have to start at a new school in the middle of the year — but could she have had an ulterior motive?

In her book, "The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump," Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mary Jordan alleges that the former model stayed behind to renegotiate her prenup. In truth, the highly private model didn't exactly sign up to be a first lady, and her existing prenup had allegedly "not been incredibly generous." She did, however, renegotiate it to her liking. This reportedly included more protections for Barron Trump, as Melania reportedly wanted to make sure her son would have the same financial opportunity — like a role in the family business and a sizable inheritance — as Donald Trump's three eldest children.

Melania moved into the White House in June 2017.

Melania Trump drew inspiration from the Obama administration

In 2016, Melania Trump was slammed in the press after delivering a speech at the Republican National Convention that bore striking similarities to a speech given by Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention eight years prior. Although multiple lines from Melania's speech appeared to match Michelle's — in some cases word for word — the Trump campaign denied it had been plagiarized. "In writing her beautiful speech, Melania's team of writers took notes on her life's inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking. Melania's immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success," the campaign claimed in a statement released to CNN.

This wasn't just a one-off incident. The then-president's wife appears to habitually draw inspiration from the former first family, particularly with her "Be Best" anti-cyberbullying campaign. According to Business Insider, when the former model announced the initiative in 2018, she circulated an informational pamphlet titled "Talking with Kids About Being Online," which was nearly identical to the one published by the Obama administration in 2014.

The White House did eventually own up to recirculating the packet with certain minor updates, but not before calling news outlets reporting on the subject "opposition media." Per an official statement published by Business Insider, Melania reportedly agreed to rebrand the old pamphlet and "use her platform to amplify the positive message within."

Melania Trump promoted the birther conspiracy, too

In "The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump," The Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan writes of Donald and Melania Trump, "She is ... much more like him than it appears." This goes for their support of the very same, fringe conspiracy theories. Throughout Barack Obama's presidency, Donald touted the racist "birther" theory that claimed the former president was not born in the United States even though he had released his long-form birth certificate in April 2011. Don only relented in 2016, but not before wrongly accusing Hillary Clinton of starting the entire movementABC News was able to collect 67 tweets where the former reality TV host commented about birtherism, and though Melania wasn't quite as loud, she did back up her husband.

In a 2011 appearance on "The Joy Behar Show," Melania claimed that the live birth certificate released by Obama was "not a birth certificate." "In one way, it will be very easy if President Obama just show it ... because it's not only Donald who wants to see it. It's American people," she said. "... We feel it's different than birth certificate." 

This interview followed Melania for years, and she was lambasted for promoting the conspiracy theory in 2020 after she read a children's book to honor Juneteenth. Even today, Michelle Obama admitted in her memoir, "Becoming" (via The Washington Post), "Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family's safety at risk. And for this I'd never forgive him."

She won against actual fake news in an unprecedented lawsuit

You only have to go as far as Donald Trump's Twitter account to know his stance on the mainstream media. While the former president has taken to calling pretty much any left-leaning media outlet "fake news," Melania Trump actually had a major win against real fake news. In 2017, the star fought the notoriously harsh British tabloids and won.

According to USA Today, Melania first sued the companies that own the Daily Mail Online in 2016 after the publication claimed that the modeling agencies she worked for in Milan and New York also operated as escort agencies. She, of course, denied the allegations and ultimately won a retraction. This is not where it ended.

In 2017, Melania refiled her $150 million suit. Per USA Today, this was an unprecedented move. Though Donald had yet to be inaugurated when Melania first filed, he'd since taken office. A FLOTUS had never filed a libel lawsuit, which is notoriously difficult to win if you're a public figure. According to The Guardian, Melania ended up working out a settlement with the media company, though it was nowhere near her original ask. She received less than $3 million and a public apology – but it was still a win.

Melania Trump reportedly clashes with Ivanka

Rumor has it that Melania Trump doesn't exactly get along with Ivanka Trump. According to an excerpt of Mary Jordan's "The Art of Her Deal," which was published in The New York Times, the pair have allegedly developed some not-so-nice nicknames for each other. Melania reportedly dubbed her stepdaughter "the Princess," and Ivanka supposedly called her stepmother "the Portrait," because Melania rarely spoke.

This wasn't the only time the pair seemed to clash. According to Business Insider, Melania was not thrilled when Ivanka allegedly tried to rename the First Lady's Office, the "First Family Office." Donald Trump's daughter reportedly ruled the roost before Melania moved into the White House, and treated it as if it were her own home. To be fair, that's what daughters tend to do at their father's houses, especially if those houses happen to be mansions with private movie theaters. "Melania did not like it," Jordan wrote. "When she and Barron finally moved in, she put an end to the 'revolving door' by enforcing firm boundaries."

Melania even reportedly donned her infamous "I really don't care, do U?" jacket as a dig at her stepdaughter (though there are other interpretations, which we'll dive into below). This may have been the sole time the billionaire's wife wore fast fashion. In CNN correspondent Kate Bennett's book, "Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography" (via Business Insider), the pair's relationship was described as "cordial, but not close."

How Melania feels about Donald's alleged affair with Stormy Daniels

Among the many scandals to plague Donald Trump's presidential campaign was the allegation that he enlisted former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) in order to purchase her silence regarding an alleged tryst she had with Donald during a 2006 charity golf tournament, per BBC News. At the time of the alleged affair, Melania Trump had given birth to the couple's son, Barron, just a few months earlier. 

During an October 2018 interview with "Good Morning America," Melania was asked about how the allegations had impacted her marriage. "It is not [a] concern and focus of mine," she said. "I'm a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do. I know people like to speculate and media like to speculate about our marriage and circulate the gossip." Two years later, however, a recording emerged in which she appeared to share her true feelings when, not realizing she was being recorded, Melania reportedly referred to Clifford as "the porn hooker."

When her husband was indicted in April 2023 over his alleged role in the scheme, Melania was reportedly ticked off. "She remains angry and doesn't want to hear [the alleged hush money payment] mentioned," a source claimed to People. Melania's office later offered an oblique response via Twitter, warning readers to take reports citing unnamed sources with a grain of salt.

She refused to hire a nanny to care for Barron — or did she?

Melania Trump has continually insisted she's never used the services of a nanny to help look after son Barron. "I like to be hands-on. I think it's very important," she told People in 2015. In fact, she claimed to help Barron with homework each night, and personally took him to after-school sports activities. "He needs somebody as a parent there, so I am with him all the time," she added. 

Interviewed by Parenting (as reported by Insider), Melania insisted that raising Barron was her primary focus. "I am a full-time mom; that is my first job. The most important job ever," she declared, also pointing out that her husband was not nearly as engaged in parenting. "[Donald Trump] didn't change diapers and I am completely fine with that," she explained.

However, Melania's former friend and confidante Stephanie Winston Wolkoff disputed her no-nanny assertion, claiming that Melania utilized the help of both her mother and members of the household staff. "Melania has perpetuated a myth that she never hired a nanny when Barron was young and that she waited to start her businesses until he went to school," Wolkoff wrote in her 2020 tell-all "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady." Even Melania's husband contradicted her claim of being nanny-free. "Yes, there is a young woman, someone who works with Barron," Donald told Page Six in 2015.

Melania Trump was only the second Catholic first lady

When Donald Trump was inaugurated as America's 45th president, Melania Trump became only the second Catholic to become first lady. The first, of course, was Jacqueline Kennedy, more than a half-decade earlier. The fact that Melania is a practicing Catholic shouldn't be surprising given her ethnic heritage; Catholicism is the predominant religion in Slovenia, the country of her birth. While Melania hasn't typically discussed her faith, she publicly demonstrated it when she opened one of her husband's 2017 rallies by reciting the Lord's prayer.

Her Catholicism was also on display in 2017 when she and her husband met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. As BBC News reported, she wore black for the occasion, also donning a head covering, and for very good reason: there are strict rules in place for attire when meeting the Pontiff. While some of those rules have been relaxed over the years — women are no longer required to wear black and keep their heads covered — other first ladies and female luminaries have adhered to that tradition, including Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and even Queen Elizabeth II.

According to The Guardian, the Pope referenced his fondness for potica, a traditional Slovenian cake served at Christmas and Easter, when he asked Melania, "What are you feeding [Donald Trump], potica?" Melania was reportedly initially confused by the question, having mistakenly heard the word pizza. Seemingly catching the reference, however, she then responded in the affirmative with a smile.

She's had her own jewelry and skincare lines

Melania Trump has displayed her entrepreneurial bent by launching her own businesses. Among these was her own inexpensive line of jewelry and watches, launched in 2010 and sold on the QVC home-shopping channel. "They're the largest media, they're in millions and millions of homes around the world," she told The New York Times of why she chose QVC as the platform upon which to sell her wares.

From there, she branched out into skincare with her Melania Caviar Complexe C6 line of creams and lotions, which she plugged on Twitter and Facebook. The secret ingredient in her products, its website declared, was caviar from the South of France. "This synergistic formulation is a fusion of nutrients consisting of maximum levels of proteins, collagen builders, oxygen boosters and antioxidants that restore youth to the skin," the site noted. 

This venture, however, wound up becoming embroiled in legal complications when Merchant Capitol — the parent company of the firm she'd partnered with, New Sunshine — sued her company, Melania Marks Skincare, LLC. She countersued, claiming New Sunshine had botched the rollout, leaving potential customers unable to find her products. During the trial, Melania's anger was apparent. "I promoted all around the world," she complained. "The product was on the national TV all around the world, all the magazines and [the product] was nowhere to be found. ... The damage to the brand was done."

The former first lady got into NFTs, but it didn't go well

Melania Trump's attempts at entering the skincare game may have been unsuccessful — but those ventures were not nearly as disastrous as her entry into the NFT business. In December 2021, it was announced that she was launching her own collection of non fungible tokens, with the first NFT titled "Melania's Vision." As she explained in a Twitter statement, profits would go to support ongoing projects from the Be Best initiative she began while first lady.

In a subsequent announcement, Melania revealed that she was expanding her NFT collection, with a launch taking place on Presidents' Day. With this new batch of NFTs, however, buyers wouldn't know what they'd purchased until they'd bought it. "Collectors will enjoy an element of surprise, as the artwork of each NFT is revealed only after purchase," the announcement declared. "Of course, collectors can make multiple purchases to own the entire POTUS TRUMP collection."

Sales of her previous NFT collection, the "Head of State Collection," reportedly didn't go well. Some deep-dive reporting from Vice uncovered evidence in the blockchain that the winning bid of $170,000 was made by creator of the NFT. Perhaps understandably, reps from Melania's office neglected to respond to Vice's request for comment.

Melania Trump supposedly has more influence than people think

Throughout the course of her marriage to Donald Trump, Melania Trump has tended to stand back and let her husband do the talking. That, however, shouldn't be taken as an assumption that she demurely stands back and lets him call all the shots. In fact, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mary Jordan has contended that Melania holds far more influence over her husband than may be immediately apparent. Jordan summed up that opinion in her 2021 book about Melania, "The Art of Her Deal." 

Discussing the book with "CBS Sunday Morning," Jordan revealed that her research blew up a lot of public misconceptions. "She is smart, independent. She will decide what she wants to do and what she doesn't wanna do," Jordan said. Melania is particularly close to her parents and son Barron Trump, whom she's taught to speak Slovenian. This, Jordan explained, creates an interesting dynamic when that tightly knit foursome is together and they all speak to each other in Slovenian, a language in which neither the Secret Service agents assigned to their protection, nor her husband, is fluent. "And [Donald] has said it annoys him sometimes, 'cause he has no idea what they're saying," Jordan claimed. 

However, Jordan was also quick to point out that when Melania does have an opinion to offer, it's not taken for granted. "She's quite influential," Jordan said. "And I think people underestimated her, big time."

She's reportedly consumed with her own public image

During the four years that Melania Trump served as America's first lady, there was a common perception that she — unlike her seemingly thin-skinned husband — couldn't care less about public opinion and what others thought of her. 

That, however, was apparently light years away from what Stephanie Grisham saw while working as both Melania's chief of staff and communications director during her tenure as first lady. In her 2021 book "I'll Take Your Questions Now," Grisham contended that not only was Melania not unconcerned about her public image, but she was downright obsessed with it. "Like her husband and all of his kids, Mrs. Trump scrutinized her press clippings like an expert architect focusing on blueprints," wrote Grisham, per an excerpt published by CNN. "No detail was overlooked, nothing missed her eye. She had Google alerts set up for herself and saw everything."

Supposedly, that was particularly true of her appearance. According to Grisham, Melania would regularly assess every single photo taken by White House photographers, approving the ones she liked and quashing those she didn't. "So what she looked like was a real obsession to her, and I think that comes from her modeling career," Grisham claimed in an interview with People

There are conflicting stories about Melania's infamous jacket

Melania Trump made headlines — and not the good kind — during a 2018 excursion when she wore a jacket with graffiti-style words adorning the back, reading, "I really don't care do u?" At the time, this was taken to be her dismissal of complaints about migrant children being separated from their parents and imprisoned in prison-like camps. That, however, was a notion her then-communications director, Stephanie Grisham, shot down. "It's a jacket, there was no hidden message," Grisham said, as reported by The Guardian. "I hope the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe."

Melania herself addressed the furor during her "Good Morning America" interview, but contradicted Grisham by stating there was a message, aimed at "the left-wing media who are criticizing me."

Whether that was true was not apparent to Grisham. After her messy split from Melania, she wrote an entire chapter on the jacket in her book "I'll Take Your Questions Now," admitting she still wasn't sure why Melania had worn the jacket. Grisham did, however, confirm that Melania's husband was not thrilled about what had happened. "He looked at his wife and then at us with annoyance. The first words out of the president's mouth were 'What the hell were you thinking?'" Grisham claimed (via CNN). "To my surprise, Mrs. Trump sat down in the chair next to him on the right (still wearing that damn jacket, by the way) and smiled."

She kept her distance when her husband was indicted

Donald Trump made history on April 4, 2023, when he appeared in a Manhattan courtroom and became the first president in the history of America to be indicted and arrested on criminal charges, related to the previously mentioned hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels to cover up their alleged sexual encounter. He was accompanied by a cadre of lawyers — but not his wife.

"Melania Trump's absence says everything," tweeted Michael LaRosa, former spokesman for first lady Jill Biden, who said a major public-relations coup could have been achieved had Melania been there with him. "Prior to Trump appearing in the doorway, I held my breath, awaiting to see if the former first lady would be by his side, clasping his hand, and showing unconditional love and support," LaRosa wrote. "There would have been so much power in that picture."

According to Melania's friend-turned-nemesis, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania's silence on her husband's indictment, and her choice to not accompany him to court, apparently spoke volumes. "I never expected to see her there," Wolkoff told Page Six. "Her silence is deliberate, it is her weapon of choice and her protective armor."

Melania Trump has tried to stay away from politics

When Donald Trump entered the political arena, he went all-in. Becoming the wife of a future presidential candidate, and then first lady, pretty much forced Melania Trump to follow suit. Interestingly, though, while her husband has let his own political views be widely known, Melania's own political leanings are shrouded in secrecy, given that she's rarely spoken about the subject in public — both before becoming first lady, during her four years in the White House, and even since then.

In a 2016 interview with Harper's Bazaar, prior to the election, Melania explained why she'd decided to keep her political views to herself. "I'm choosing not to go political in public because that is my husband's job," she said. "I'm very political in private life, and between me and my husband I know everything that is going on. I follow from A to Z." 

In fact, Melania insisted she had formed her own views on various matters — views that didn't always line up with her husband's. "I give him my opinions, and sometimes he takes them in, and sometimes he does not," she said. "Do I agree with him all the time? No."