The Stunning Transformation Of Melania Trump

Melania Trump is the statuesque, bronzed, and stunning "better half" to the 45th president of the United States. Unapologetically coiffed to the nines, and often underestimated as shy and unassuming, she is a steady powerhouse: mother, executive, philanthropist, and unwavering partner-in-chief. All the world's eyes upon her, she has been thrust into the political spotlight. Forced to answer for her husband, and herself, while proving to an entire country of vastly differing views that she is worthy of our admiration and capable of forging an aspirational path for women that allows for both traditional values, as well as illuminated progress. No small task for any woman. Even for one who seems to have it all.

An easy target, the media has devoured her personal history, like wolves to prey. But even though her frame may be lean, she has proven unshakeable. She is a willing participant, ready to face the challenges ahead, while maintaining a fierce confidence in herself. She is strong. She is graceful. And with a beauty that originates in her heart, she is a force to be reckoned with. And on Friday, January 20, 2017, she stepped her Louboutin-clad foot into the White House as first lady of the United States of America.

Melania Trump was born a Knauss in Yugoslavia

Melania Trump was born Melania Knauss, on April 26, 1970 in the industrial town of Novo Mesto, in the former Yugoslavia. Light years away from the opulent NYC penthouse and the White House she eventually called home, she spent her earliest years kicking around in a stark, Communist-era apartment block, looking out onto factory chimney stacks. 

The New York Times reported her father, Viktor, worked as a salesman, and her mother, Amalija, was a children's clothing designer. "I think I can say [Novo Mesto] was too small for her," childhood friend Mirjana Jelancic shared, via People Magazine. "Even as a child, she dreamed of moving," even saying that her favorite subject in school was geography. Jelancic, principal at the elementary school where they both formerly attended, further described Melania, "She was a very good student. She was an angel," per ABC News.

Melania Trump developed a passion for fashion at a young age

Melania Trump contented herself with what would emerge as lifelong passions, even as a young child. In an interview with Parenting Magazine magazine, she recounted her earliest inspiration: "I always liked beauty and fashion. My mom was in the fashion business. I was 5 years old when I did my first catwalk," she recalled. "My mom loved fashion, we loved to travel and go to Italy and Paris. I was always very tall and skinny. Sometimes I was teased, but I was never embarrassed. I always liked myself. I knew what I wanted to do. I found my passion at such an early age. It helped with my confidence." 

The budding supermodel was afforded a fortunate upbringing compared to many of her peers — thanks to her hardworking parents — participating in after-school gymnastics, and traveling to Italy and Austria to ski during the winter. She also cultivated a sure hand as an artist, perhaps learned from her mother, according to GQ. "Melania never wore anything from the store," a friend told the magazine. She sketched out original ideas, and the sewing would be tasked to her mother and sister.

Melania Trump was discovered at 16 years old

In a modeling fairytale as old as time, Melania Trump emerged from humble beginnings, only to be discovered by photographer Stane Jerko at the age of 16 in 1987. Trump was attending the Secondary School of Design and Photography in Ljubljana, the now-Slovenian capital, and was living in an apartment purchased by her father. And while Jerko spotted her waiting for a friend after a fashion show, the aspiring model was no easy sell. "School was the most important thing to her," he told GQ. 

But, true to her passion, she soon had a change of heart. According to GQ, Jerko taught Trump how to pose, and photographed her just a few weeks after their first encounter. Without shoes. "I didn't have shoes for her because she had very big feet. The other models had smaller feet," Jerko remembered, in the GQ interview. But, he assured, "When you live on big feet, you live big."

Newly signed to a modeling agency in Milan, the 18-year old Trump's career forced her to drop out of architecture school. Also featured in the same article, a famed second place finish in Jana Magazine's Slovenian Face of the Year contest in 1992. She would find success in Paris and Milan, but the arresting beauty had her steely eyes, and her dreams, fixed on the rock-n-roll sister of all fashion meccas, New York City.

Melania Trump made it to NYC, but things weren't what she expected

It was in 1996 that Melania Trump would finally arrive in The Big Apple, thanks to her agent Paolo Zampolli, but the then-26-year-old model's big plans were fading — almost as quickly as her American modeling contract — and with it, her visa. "[It's] a frustrating age for models, the late 20s. It's not a friendly industry," Trump's former roommate Matthew Atanian mentioned, per GQ. 

"She wasn't working every day, she was going to castings every day and not succeeding ... She said things were very different in Europe, that she had been more successful." He continued, explaining: "She aired frustration over the work issue."

Melania Trump did what she had to do to land modeling gigs

But the resourceful Melania Trump didn't throw in the towel. Per GQ, "She went on casting calls for alcohol and tobacco ads, which her under-age competitors couldn't be hired for. Once, she landed a Camel ad, a billboard in Times Square." A self-described homebody, she preferred to stay home, and maintained her physique by walking with ankle weights and eating seven pieces of fruit a day — but Trump's former roommate Matthew Atanian told the magazine that she may have resorted to additional means. "She went away for a two-week vacation, then came back, and was more... buxom," he said. "She admitted it to me. She just said it needed to be done to get more lingerie jobs."

Of particular note is her now infamous British GQ spread, in the nude, in 2000. In a 2015 interview with Barbara Walters via Refinery29, Melania gracefully acknowledged her former career, "I think people will always judge. That's part of the job that I was doing; I was [a] very successful model. Nothing more than you see every year in Sports Illustrated."

Melania Trump refused to give Donald Trump her number when they first met

"I was not star-struck," per GQ about the first time she met her future husband. She recalled in the magazine that she had been invited to a NYC party at the Kit Kat Club by Zampolli. It was NY Fashion Week in 1998, and 28-year-old model was about to meet another Zampolli invitee, Donald Trump.

But it wasn't love at first sight. "I didn't know much about [him]," she told GQ. And she wasn't about to give her number to a 52-year-old billionaire who, though already separated from his second wife actress Marla Maples, had arrived with a date. Instead, she snagged his digits. She told GQ, "If I give him my number, I'm just one of the women he calls. I wanted to see what his intention [was]. It tells you a lot from the man what kind of number he gives you. He gave me all of his numbers."

Her friend Atanian revealed to GQ, "She had some trust issues with him at the beginning. She kept her apartment to have her own space because of this." But peace would be made, as the two struck up a romance again shortly after. A hometown friend speculated in the same article, "It's about all that power and protection. I think she needed a strong man, a father figure."

Guess how much Donald Trump spent on Melania Trump's engagement ring and their wedding reception?

A sucker for a good deal, Mr. Trump purchased his wife's 12-carat, emerald-cut Laurence Graff diamond ring at a $1.5 million — 50% off. He would later replace her puny pebble, with a 25-carat on their 10th anniversary.

The wedding gown's train at 13 feet, and the veil at 16 feet, saying the bride "could barely walk" in the nearly 300 feet of ruched satin — it was so spectacular, it landed the cover of Vogue. The same article reported that her sister Ines stood by her side as maid of honor in Vera Wang. New York event designer Preston Bailey told The Hollywood Reporter that he created the bride's "very classic, very creamy and white color palette" event, recalling, "She said, 'I want something that is very elegant but not over-the-top'." And afterward, the newlyweds had a reception tipping the scales at $35 million. No small number for the woman who grew up wearing handmade clothes.

Melania Trump's never hired a nanny for her son, Barron

Melania Trump became mother to son Barron in March of 2006, at the age of 35 — the same year she became a U.S. citizen. While she does have a chef and an assistant, she assumed a traditional mothering role to her son without the help of nannies, telling Parenting Magazine, "We know our roles. I didn't want [Donald] to change the diapers or put Barron to bed."

Trump maintains motherhood as her priority. She told Parenting Magazine, "It is so important to have good listening skills ... I don't push my thoughts or likes or dislikes. I want him to grow to be his own person. I think [it's] important to give a child room to make mistakes in order to learn."

Since the start of her husband's often-volatile presidential campaign, Trump has remained a comforting buffer for her son. "We're dealing with [hateful comments], and I'm teaching [Barron] the right way and giving him morals ... and teaching him values at home," she told Us Weekly. She continued, "Of course, we both miss [Donald] because he is on the road a lot, but [Barron] understands and he's doing great."

This is Melania Trump's philosophy on staying happy in her marriage

Melania Trump confidently stated to Parenting Magazine, "My life is very normal­­ — for me. Maybe for some people they would not think that. But for me it is. I know my husband. We have a great relationship. We are both very independent. We know what our roles are and we are happy with them." 

She continued, "I don't think you need to be with your husband every minute of every day. Both people should do what their passion is and then get together in the mornings and evenings and share and experience life and have a great time. You know that saying, 'Work hard and play harder?' That's what we do." 

Before stepping into the role of first lady, Trump always had things going on that were just for herself. She kept active in creating a skin-care line, jewelry collections, and a few appearances as guest host on "The View."

Melania Trump choose privacy and parenthood over politics

Melania Trump, the eventual first lady, kept a low profile during her husband's presidential campaign, only sometimes appearing on social media and giving carefully composed interviews in her penthouse. In one such interview with 20/20 in 2015, Trump justified her absence on the campaign trail, saying, "It's my choice not to be there. I support my husband 100 percent, but we have a 9-year-old son together, Barron, and I'm raising him, and this is the age he needs a parent at home."

Even after 45 was elected, Melania Trump continued to lie low. In order to reportedly keep Barron enrolled in his school for the rest of the 2017 school year, the first lady and her son waited to move into the White House until June 2017. And, even in 2019, she has continued to shield Barron — as well as herself — from the spotlight.

"Typically, the president and the first lady are the family superstars," Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University who studies first ladies, told the Associated Press. However, Melania Trump is, as the expert noted, one of the most reclusive first ladies in United States history.

Melania Trump admits that she doesn't always see eye-to-eye with her husband

Melania Trump stands faithfully by her husband's side, even if not literally. When asked in the same interview with Walters whether she thought of her marriage as one of equals, she replied, "I would say yes." It was Mr. Trump who disagreed, saying, "I would say no. I think she's far greater than the 50 percent." 

Melania further explained to Harper's Bazaar that her absence from the public eye was strategic. "I'm choosing not to go political in public because that is my husband's job. I'm very political in private life, and between me and my husband I know everything that is going on. But I chose not to be on the campaign. I have my own mind. I am my own person, and I think my husband likes that about me."

And do they always agree? "I give him my opinions, and sometimes he takes them in, and sometimes he does not. Do I agree with him all the time? No." During the campaign, she had been taken to task for her husband's off-the-cuff insults toward women. In a statement with Fortune Magazine, she rallied, "The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know ... I hope people will accept his apology, as I have."

Melania Trump is America's second-ever foreign-born first lady

Melania Trump took on the role of first lady of the United States in January 2017 at age 46. She is America's second foreign-born first lady (the first, being John Quincy Adams' London-born wife Louisa). And she's had a big job ever since the start of her husband's campaign: responding to critics.

She has unsurprisingly taken heat on her husband's immigration platform — since she is, after all, an immigrant. While under fire for allegedly working in the U.S. illegally on a visitor's visa, according to the Los Angeles Times, she made short work of defending herself in an interview with Harper's Bazaar, where she claimed, "I followed the rules." 

While she may prefer that her husband do the heavy lifting in regards to politics, critics and advocates remain equally curious about what real value America's next first lady will bring to the White House. She may be fluent in several languages, and already involved in "many different charities involving children, involving many different diseases," per GQ, but she has her work cut out for her, in order to be a true ambassador for causes such as these.

Is Melania Trump the next Jackie O?

We can't help but obsess over the wardrobe of first ladies, past and present. And no one dresses quite like Melania Trump. Prior to her husband's election, Trump was already subject to scrutiny regarding her wardrobe. "[Trump] wore a streamlined sleeveless black sheath dress, a matching coat and Christian Louboutin heels," wrote The New York Times after Trump met with first lady Michelle Obama in November 2016. The paper added, "I'd say she looked polished and professional, and as if she wasn't trying to call attention to herself, though that is kind of unavoidable." You could say her early look gave off a Jackie O vibe.

Trump herself admitted to having an admiration of former first lady Jackie Kennedy in an interview with Harper's Bazaar. "She had a very beautiful, elegant, simple but feminine style," Trump stated. Katherine Jellison, history professor at Ohio University, made the connection between the two first ladies when speaking to NPR in 2016. "She might be sort of a Jackie Kennedy type," she mused, "a well-dressed woman who will be seen as popular in the women's magazines but largely stays quiet and on the sidelines in terms of her public image."

Melania Trump made a literal fashion statement

Although Melania Trump's early wardrobe choices may have been reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy's, that quickly changed. In 2018, when Trump boarded a plane bound for the United States/Mexico border, she was photographed wearing a green Zara jacket with the question "I really don't care, do u?" emblazoned across the back. As CBS News reported, many people thought this was, at best, an ill-timed outfit. After all, Trump was about to meet with migrant children who'd been separated from their parents.

In a statement to CBS News, Trump's spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said it was nothing more than "a jacket." She added, "There was no hidden message." However, the president took to Twitter and contradicted Grisham's statement, claiming the words on his wife's jacket referred to "the Fake News Media." He continued, writing, "Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!"

Months later, the first lady spoke out about the jacket in an interview with ABC News. "It was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me," she said, "and I want to show them that I don't care."

Melania Trump's committed to building a better world

In May 2019, the first lady celebrated the one-year anniversary of her "Be Best" initiative. The mission of the program, according to, is to "focus on some of the major issues facing children today, with the goal of encouraging children to be best in their individual paths, while also teaching them the importance of social, emotional, and physical health." Since its inception, the program has concentrated mostly on "well-being, online safety, and opioid abuse."

In 2018, Melania Trump embarked on her first solo trip to promote her initiative. As part of her trip, she met with children and their families in Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt. Trump has also worked to raise awareness about the opioids epidemic and has also visited children's hospitals as well as the Microsoft headquarters in an effort to learn about online safety for children.

Of course, Trump's Be Best campaign was — and is — not immune to criticism. Trump spoke out about such criticism at a conference in Washington, D.C., via Newsweek in November 2018, saying, "I remain committed to tackling this topic because it will provide a better world for our children." 

What Melania Trump's handwriting says about her personality

Forget palm readings. According to Emma Bache, the United Kingdom's leading graphologist — aka a handwriting expert — you can tell a lot about a person by something as simple as their signature. After reviewing a handwritten note from the Trumps, Bache revealed to Express that the president's lettering shows that he is a master strategist. She continued, saying, "He [analyzes] and manipulates and keeps his emotions private." But that's not all. "His signature is all angles — he wants others to be in no doubt that he is in charge — the Alpha Male," she claimed. "He is narcissistic but not physically vain. Stubborn not impetuous." 

Bache also noted that the first lady has even starting adopting some of her husband's same signature moves: "She too is no push over." Like her husband's, Melania Trump's handwriting also suggests that she is "stubborn and single minded." Lastly, Bache revealed, "Her married name shows a lot of tension and closely packed angles."

Melania Trump has a love for high heels

Since becoming the 45th first lady, Melania Trump may have politicized her wardrobe and become a bit more outspoken, but one thing has never changed: her shoes. From her meeting with former first lady Michelle Obama in 2016 to departing the White House to visit families affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and beyond, Trump has been spotted sporting high heels. In fact, former Vogue editor and longtime friend of Mrs. Trump, Andre Leon Talley, said in 2017 that the first lady had never — with the exception of the White House Easter egg hunt — been photographed without wearing either Christian Louboutin or Manolo Blahnik heels.

In 2018, Melania Trump famously wore high heels to a tree planting ceremony at the White House. That's right, she gardens in Louboutins. Trump even uses her heels to make symbolic statements. In June 2019, Trump appeared to subtly pay homage to France by changing up her shoes for the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Normandy American Cemetery in the Western European country. Instead of rocking her classic Manolo Blahniks or Louboutins, she opted for heels by the French brand Roger Vivier.

Is Melania Trump channeling her inner Michelle Obama?

Melania Trump has received a lot of criticism about her attire, but, by June 2019, she was also starting to receive some praise. During her and her husband's visit across the pond, Trump wore outfits that paid not-so-subtle nods to famous royals like Princess Diana and the Duchess of Sussex. This sartorial approach to diplomacy was key, according to Kate Betts, the author of "Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style." "The best choice of outfit, in terms of diplomacy, would be to wear the work of an English designer or a young American designer," the expert further told CNN. "The first family should represent our country with dignity and pride, but it would also be a gracious gesture if they acknowledged the British fashion industry in some way." And, for the most part, that's what Trump did. 

InStyle noted that Trump also took "more of a Michelle Obama approach" to fashion during this trip abroad. 

Melania left her mark on the White House

Melania Trump, like many first ladies before her, left her personal touch throughout the White House. While her projects were much less publicized than some of those that came before her, she still made plenty of improvements.

"Melania Trump primarily focused on historic preservation and caring for the beauty and historical elements of the spaces," White House Historical Association's president, Stewart McLaurin, told The Washington Post. "One thing that struck me early on, she always wanted to know what others had done before her, what was customary and traditional. Then she added her own flair or personal input to it," he added.

Some of Trump's changes raised some eyebrows and a few people's blood pressure, however. When she made changes to the iconic Rose Garden, many were upset that she removed the old crab apple trees that were reminiscent of the garden's original design, which occurred during John F. Kennedy's time in office and was designed by his wife's close friend Rachel "Bunny" Mellon in 1962. The Washington Post, however, noted that it was a change that's been "long overdue." Trump, like her husband, didn't appear to mind stepping on some toes to bring her vision to life.

Aside from renovating the Rose Garden, Trump also made some changes to the White House's interior — she fixed up some old furniture and made the Red Room shine scarlet again, giving it a new coat of paint and refurbishing its furniture.

Melania publicly supported Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign

Melania Trump doesn't appear to enjoy the spotlight, but she did make some appearances during Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign. Some media outlets argued that Mrs. Trump managed to save face for her husband during a time when he dismissed the impact of COVID-19 . In a speech the then-first lady delivered at the Republican Convention, she expressed solidarity with those impacted by the pandemic, telling people that they are "not alone." The fact that she even addressed the pandemic was seen as a bold move by Sky News, with the outlet claiming that "she grasped the nettle in a way no one else has." To top it off, it was also revealed that no one reviewed Trump's speech before the convention; it was all her own, and she pretty much nailed it.

Trump made another solo appearance during Donald Trump's reelection campaign later that year in Pennsylvania shortly after recovering from the coronavirus. She addressed the impact of the pandemic once again and praised the hardworking medical professionals on the front lines. She also told those gathered to comply with the CDC guidelines to stop the spread, which is something else her husband had publicly disregarded on various occasions. Still, it was clear she supported him fully when she warned about the destruction the Biden Administration could wreak on the country. Despite her unwavering support, it was clear that she wasn't afraid to speak her mind about what she deemed right.

Melania tried to convince Donald Trump to concede to Joe Biden

The 2020 presidential election is one that will go down in history. Donald Trump refused to concede to Joe Biden, telling all who would listen that the election had been stolen from him and that he was the true president. This caused widespread division and unrest, which eventually led to the January 6 insurrection.

A few days after the election, CNN reported that Trump was getting advice from all sides, and not everyone close to him agreed that he should continue to fight a losing battle. Among those who tried to convince the former president to concede was Melania Trump. A source told CNN that the former first lady told her husband that he had to accept the outcome of the election and cut his losses. On the other end of the spectrum, Trump's adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., were urging him to continue fighting the results. In the end, it appeared that Mrs. Trump's advice fell on deaf ears, and the discord continued to escalate until it reached a tipping point on January 6 the following year.

Melania appeared to enjoy getting back to normal life after the White House

While Melania Trump previously told supporters that it was "the greatest honor and privilege to serve as first lady of this amazing country," she didn't appear to be nearly as attached to the White House as Donald Trump. In fact, reports claimed that the former first lady was adjusting to her post-White House life just fine, even though the same could not necessarily be said for her husband, Donald Trump.

Sources told CNN that Mrs. Trump wasn't planning on doing any of the traditional things people usually expect from former first ladies. She didn't start working on a memoir nor did she make any public appearances or speeches after she left Washington. "She's not a presence at Mar-a-Lago at all. She's not mingling with people and rarely interacts with her husband's staff," a source told the outlet. It appeared Trump enjoyed getting back to business as usual, with sources saying that, when she did make an appearance, she looked "happy and relaxed."

The former first lady reportedly also treated herself to plenty of spa outings, and her afternoons were reserved to spend some quality time with her son, Barron Trump. She did establish her own office during this time, but sources said she appeared to be in no hurry to move any mountains and was simply enjoying being back home.

Melania is ready to serve as first lady again in 2024

Back in 2021, sources told CNN that Melania Trump has no desire to return to the White House nor does she intend to support Donald Trump's future political endeavors. "Being first lady again is not what she wants," one source divulged, adding, "For her, it was a chapter — and it's over, and that's that." Another tipster revealed that Mrs. Trump also won't be out and about campaigning like she did on a few occasions in 2020 should her husband make another bid for the White House. "You're not going to see her at rallies or campaign events, even if he 'officially' says he's running again," the source claimed.

Fast forward to 2023, and Melania Trump granted Fox News an exclusive interview (which, in itself, is rare), revealing that she is excited about her husband's reelection bid. She revealed her plans to expand her "Be Best" initiative should she have the opportunity to call the White House home for another term. She also expressed her full support for her husband. "My husband achieved tremendous success in his first administration, and he can lead us toward greatness and prosperity once again," she told Fox News. "He has my support, and we look forward to restoring hope for the future and leading America with love and strength," she added.

It appears a brief reprieve from the White House was just what the former first lady needed to muster some renewed enthusiasm.

Melania has had to navigate various indictments brought against her husband

One has to give it to Melania Trump — she has nerves of steel. In 2023 alone, Donald Trump has been indicted four times (as of this writing), and Mrs. Trump has not only managed to mostly stay out of the public eye but she's also publicly supported her husband's 2024 presidential bid despite all his legal woes. But all is not what it seems if some sources are to be believed.

Sources told People Magazine that the Stormy Daniels scandal was by no means easy for Mrs. Trump to bear, and now it's come to light that she's not involving herself in her husband's legal troubles anymore. "Melania publicly supports her husband but privately prefers a life with 100 percent privacy and no press scrutiny," one source told People Magazine, adding, "She hates all of the legal problems and says very little about them anytime anywhere. She leads her own life."

Trump wasn't by her husband's side when the fourth indictment was brought against him. Instead, she was spending time in Manhattan, while her husband did what he always does when things get a little horrid and indulged in various games of golf while he spent time in New Jersey. According to inside sources, no one should be surprised that Trump is no longer sticking by her husband's side to wait for another indictment. "[T]his fourth indictment is another problem for her husband. Not for her," one tipster said.

Melania is trying to protect her son from all the criticism surrounding the Trump family

While Donald Trump's legal woes no doubt take their toll on Melania Trump, the person she's most concerned about is her son, Barron Trump, and how the whole mess might affect him. Sources close to the former first lady told People Magazine that Trump is a great mother who puts her son's needs first. Instead of spending time with friends or making new ones, she's been focused on being there for her son whenever he needs her. Most of all, she's trying to ensure that she shields Barron from the public scrutiny his father is receiving as much as possible. "She has always put him first. She is a good mother," a source told People.

Another source who resides in Palm Beach divulged that Trump's family is rallying around her during this turbulent time and that they are her closest friends as well. In fact, Trump's parents live at Mar-a-Lago, which means they are around to support her and Barron. "She has always surrounded herself with family. She is a doting mother to Barron and very protective of him. This is nothing new," the tipster said. Apparently, Trump is trying her best to keep her and her son's everyday life as close to normal as possible, and a social source in the know told People that she's still pretty happy living at Mar-a-Lago with her son — Donald Trump's legal woes be damned.