Things you didn't know about Donald Trump's wife

Melania Trump (née Knauss) is a notably illusive first lady — and she's 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 a "private person" long before her slow — and possibly reluctant — move to Washington.

Today, Melania is the first 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 according to Insider, 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 38, 36, and 26 years old, respectively. That's not a terribly huge leap from their stepmom, who just entered her 50s.

Melania Trump was shockingly candid about her sex life with husband Don

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 first lady, who's notoriously tight-lipped about her private life, has been wildly candid about her intimate relations with the billionaire.

According 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 Melania looked in a "very small thong." A year later, the public got a glimpse in the model's steamy 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 don't share a bed in the White House. Melania allegedly has a room on an entirely separate floor.

Melania Trump 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, then first moved to the United States in 1996, according to 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 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 US?

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, according to 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.

Melania Trump 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.

According to CNN, Donald Trump has long sought to end the category of visa that allowed Melania's parents to become citizens. He's often referred to this process as "chain migration." Per The New York Times, 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. According to The New York Times, 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, 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.

CNN reports that Melania moved into the White House in June 2017.

Melania Trump draws 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 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 that Melania is "much more like" her husband "than it appears." This goes for their support of the very same, fringe conspiracy theories. Throughout Barack Obama's presidency, Donald Trump touted the racist "birther" theory that claimed the president was not born in the United States even though he had released his long-form birth certificate in April 2011. According to ABC News, Don only relented in 2016, but not before wrongly accusing Hillary Clinton of starting the entire movement. ABC 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." 

According to HuffPost, 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), that she would "never forgive" the Trumps.

Melania Trump 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 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. According to 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 Trump

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 step-daughter "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." Don'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. 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."

Melania Trump is the most popular member of her family

Melania Trump really is "being best." The former model is actually the most popular member of her family that's working at the White House. According to Vanity Fair, she's adored by the permanent White House staff, but that opinion is also largely shared by the public. YouGov's 2019 findings show that 51 percent of Americans view the first lady favorably. This may seem paltry considering the alternative is that nearly half of all citizens don't like her, but it's actually a way better approval rating than her husband. Only 44 percent of Americans viewed Donald favorably at the time, with 42 percent of Americans viewing him "very unfavorably." In comparison, only 19 percent of Americans have those strong negative feelings about the FLOTUS.

Melania also fares better than her stepkids. Ivanka Trump is the most-liked of Trump's eldest children with a 44 percent positive rating (though, that's to be seen after the infamous Goya beans incident). Donald Trump Jr. only has a 36 percent positive rating, and Eric Trump only has a 32 percent positive approval rating, though it should be noted that 24 percent of Americans polled that they don't know what to think about Eric anyway. Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner — who calls model Karlie Kloss his sister-in-law and thus has just two degrees of separation from Taylor Swift — has the lowest approval rating at just 27 percent.