Sixteen years ago, when Donald Trump was considering a run for president, The New York Times asked his then-girlfriend what kind of first lady she would be.
“I would be very traditional,” said Melania. “Like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy.”
That day is at hand.
Donald Trump was elected president last week. His wife was largely unseen during the campaign, feeding perhaps unfair speculation that his more high-profile daughter, Ivanka, will serve as the nation’s “real” first lady.
That remains to be seen. But in the meantime, Trump’s acquaintances expect her to fill the role with aplomb and grace.
“She’d be great at picking out the china patterns; she’d be a classic first lady,” fashion stylist Phillip Bloch told Julia Ioffe for an extensive profile of Trump published by GQ in April.
Here’s a quick Melania Trump dossier.
She is 46 - 24 years her husband’s junior. They met at a party during New York Fashion Week in the fall of 1998 while he was estranged from his second wife, Marla Maples. He was 52; she was 28. Trump is the only first lady who is the third wife of a president — Nancy Reagan was Ronald Reagan’s second wife — and the first to grow up in a communist country, according to Carl Anthony, historian at the National First Ladies’ Library.
She is the second foreign-born first lady of the United States. She was born Melanija Knavs in Sevnica, Slovenia, when it was part of communist Yugoslavia. She became an American citizen in 2006.
Her hometown is elated for her, and some of the 5,000 residents are stunned that she is moving into the White House, they told NBC News.
In her honor, a local a coffee shop now serves a “Melanija cake” — white, like the color she wore on Election Night, and topped with gold-leaf chocolate.
“Maybe that one of us is so successful ... will help the nation, all people in our country,” local cafe owner Nusha Vidmar told NBC.
“We’re a very small country, and we’re an even smaller town in a small country. In America, do you know where Slovenia is? Now you maybe will find it on a map!”
She is multilingual. In addition to her native Slovenian, Trump is said to also speak French, Serbian, German and, of course, English. Her and Donald’s 10-year-old son, Barron, is said to speak fluent Slovenian with his grandparents.
Her college resume came under scrutiny when her professional website and the 2016 RNC program said she had a degree in architecture and design from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. CBS reported in July that she did not graduate with a degree.
Those languages could expand her role as first lady. Historians and experts on first ladies suggest that Trump would be smart to build on what she knows when she becomes first lady.
Her studies of design and architecture, for instance, could be used to advocate for historical preservation. Her ability to speak multiple languages could come in handy during state dinners and other White House social events.
“It’s best when they draw from their experience, and marry that up with the overall focus of their husbands’ administration,” Anita McBride, chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush, told The Associated Press.
Her parents live close to her: Trump’s father, Viktor Knavs — friends call him “Viki” — was a member of the League of Communists before the breakup of socialist Yugoslavia in the 1990s, according to London’s Daily Mail.
Her father did not advertise that he was a communist, but it helped her parents keep jobs at the state-owned children’s clothing factory and generally made their lives easier, the Mail reports.
Her mother, Amalija, was a pattern-maker at the factory and had a reputation as a well-dressed, fashionable woman. Her father was a driver for one of the directors and later became a salesman at a state-owned car company. The Knavs lived well considering the lean times under communist rule. Both of her parents reportedly live in Trump Tower close to their daughter.
She married a man like dear ol’ dad: Julia Ioffe, who profiled Trump for GQ in April, described several similarities between Trump’s father and her husband. Donald Trump is just five years younger than his father-in-law.
Both are tall, portly men with blond hair and sharp suits, brash men who enjoy the finer things in life, Ioffe wrote. For instance Trump’s father, described by those who know him as boisterous and strong-willed, owns an extensive collection of Mercedes vehicles.
“Jokes come naturally to him,” Ana Jelančič, a neighbor and friend of the Knavses, told Ioffe. “If he goes into a bar, people pay attention,” she said.
She has an older sister and a half-brother: Ioffe reported that before he met Trump’s mother, Viktor Knavs got another woman pregnant. That son, Denis Cigelnjak, is 50 and lives in Hrastnik, Slovenia, Ioffe wrote. Nasty court battles over child support ensued.
Trump denied her stepbrother’s existence to Ioffe until the reporter sent her court documents, after which the future first lady said: “I’ve known about this for years. My father is a private individual. Please respect his privacy.”
She’s been in TV commercials. Of course she’s been on her husband’s show, “The Apprentice.” But 11 years ago Trump also appeared in a 30-second commercial for the insurance company Aflac, where she co-starred along the company’s duck mascot.
“He’s a real pro,” Trump told The Associated Press about the Aflac duck. “He made me feel very comfortable.”
In the commercial, a mad scientist swaps Trump’s voice with the spokesduck, voiced by Gilbert Gottfried.
“I love the Aflac commercials,” she said. “They’re really funny. I thought what better way to do my first big commercial than with one of America’s top icons, the Aflac duck.”
She modeled her way out of Slovenia: Trump, who used to flip through Western fashion magazines and make her own jewelry as a little girl, began modeling when she was 5. As a young girl she modeled in fashion shows sponsored by the clothing company her mother worked for. Early in her modeling career she worked in Paris and Milan before moving to New York. While modeling in Italy she changed her maiden name from Knavs to Knauss.
While she didn’t reach supermodel status, she appeared on the covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and appeared in several magazines, including Allure, Self, Vanity Fair and Elle. She appeared in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue and in 2006 was photographed in a golden bikini and stilettos while seven months pregnant.
She has a line of jewelry, and skin care. Trump launched a jewelry collection on QVC in 2010; her husband was her first caller. The jewelry sold out in 45 minutes.
Forbes reports that line isn’t doing exceptionally well but is still making money, despite QVC telling Forbes it “does not have an active relationship with the brand” anymore.
She also launched a line of skin care made with French sturgeon eggs, called Melania Marks Skincare, in 2013. In 2014, the line made between $100,000-$1,000,000, according to Forbes. In 2015, revenue had nosedived. Her representative declined to comment to Forbes about her business ventures.
She has upped her fashion game. American Vogue magazine just featured Michelle Obama on its cover for the third time.
British Vogue writes that Trump has “a nigh on impossible sartorial act to follow as FLOTUS, where Michelle Obama’s stunning smart-casual style reigned supreme.”
It notes that “Melania Trump ... has been undergoing a subtle transformation, sartorially-speaking, for several months.
“Melania has sought, over the course of the campaign, to elevate her style. The thigh-split dresses have been replaced by more demure shift dresses from Michael Kors. Low-cut necklines have been superseded by high-necked jumpsuits.”
The fashion bible advises that Trump “would be wise to favor predominantly American designers, and to respect the sartorial codes set out by the Duchess of Cambridge and Obama, who both are careful to convey deference with their clothes, wearing Italian designers when visiting Italy, for instance.”
She changed the diapers: “We know our roles,” Melania once told Parenting.com about how she and her husband parent their son. “I didn’t want him to change the diapers or put Barron to bed.” The son she calls “little Donald” wants to be a “businessman and golfer” and, as she told the publication, almost always wears suits. “He’s not a sweatpants child,” she’s said.
Barron has his own space — an entire floor with his own living room and playroom — she said.
She is the only first lady to have posed nude: Two years before she met Donald Trump she did a naked photo shoot. The photos were obtained by the New York Post during the campaign, and the tabloid published some of them on its cover over the summer.
Fifteen years ago GQ profiled Trump when she was dating her future husband and also photographed her nude for the story. The photos, taken on the president-elect’s customized Boeing 727 outfitted with 18-karat-gold seat belts, were circulated during the campaign.
A reluctant first lady? Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana, encouraged him to run for office when they were married. “But then ... there was the divorce, there was the scandal, and American women loved me and hated him,” Ivana told the New York Post. “But he was always tooling around with the idea.”
Melania Trump, on the other hand, has rarely indicated that this was something she wanted her husband to do. “When we discussed about it, I said he really needs to make sure he knows he really wants to do it, because life changes,” she told GQ.
In just a taste of what’s about to come her way, a fake news site over the weekend started the rumor that Trump had filed for divorce from the president-elect.
She knows her place. And it’s not as a piece of arm candy. “I have my own mind,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “I am my own person, and I think my husband likes that about me.”
The magazine related a story that a contestant on “The Apprentice,” during a visit to the glittery Trump Tower, remarked to her: “You’re very, very lucky.”
Holding a glass of champagne, the future first lady said: “Thank you. And he’s not lucky?