Melania Trump (1970- ), the wife of Donald Trump, the 45th U.S. president, was the second-ever first lady born outside of America. A native of Slovenia, she was the first presidential spouse for whom English is not a first language. Before marrying Trump in 2005, Melania worked as a fashion model in Europe and the U.S. The couple have a son, Barron, who was born in 2006.
Melanija Knavs was born on April 26, 1970, in Novo Mesto, Slovenia. At the time, the small Central European nation was part of communist-ruled Yugoslavia; it gained its independence in 1991. Melanija was raised in Sevnica, Slovenia, where her father, Viktor, was a car salesman and her mother, Amalija, was a pattern maker at a factory that produced children’s clothing. Melanija, who as a young woman changed the spelling of her name to Melania Knauss after she started her modeling career, has an older sister and older half-brother.
In 1985, she left home to attend the Secondary School of Design and Photography in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. After graduation, she attended the University of Ljubljana but dropped out to become a professional model. She worked in Milan and Paris before moving to New York City in 1996 to continue her career.
Marriage and Family
In 1998, Melania met Donald Trump (1946- ) at a party in a Manhattan nightclub and soon began dating the twice-married businessman and father of four. The pair wed in January 2005 in Palm Beach, Florida, and their lavish reception was held at Trump’s estate, Mar-a-lago. The next month, the new Mrs. Trump was featured on the cover of Vogue magazine wearing her couture wedding gown, which was worth an estimated $100,000. In 2006, Melania gave birth to a son, Barron. In the ensuing years she focused on motherhood and also launched her own jewelry and skincare lines.
2016 Presidential Election
In June 2015, Melania was in attendance when her husband announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in front of a crowd of supporters at Trump Tower in New York. A homebody with a glamorous but reserved persona, she went on to make only a small number of appearances on the campaign trail, saying her son Barron was her main priority. Far more visible during the race were Trump’s children from his first marriage—Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric—who acted as key surrogates for their father. Trump’s daughter Tiffany, from his second marriage, also helped with the campaign.
At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016, at which the billionaire real estate developer and reality TV star became the party’s official presidential nominee, Melania gave a nationally televised speech on her husband’s behalf. However, she quickly came under fire when it was discovered that parts of her address had been lifted from a speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. A speech writer for the Trump campaign took responsibility for the plagiarism.
On November 8, 2016, Trump, who ran an unconventional, controversial campaign was elected president in an upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential candidate from a major political party. Melania Trump became the first foreign-born first lady since Louisa Adams, the wife of the sixth U.S. president, John Quincy Adams. Louisa, who served as first lady from 1825 to 1829, was a native of England.
Tenure as First Lady
As first lady, Melania kept a largely low profile. In the first months of Trump's presidency, she remained at the couple's home in New York City so Barron could complete his schooling there. In 2018, she launched her "Be Best" campaign, meant to raise awareness of cyberbullying and drug use. That same year, Melania caused a scandal when she visited a children's shelter in McAllen, Texas wearing a jacket with the words "I really don’t care. Do U?” written on the back.
After Trump's defeat in the 2020 election, Melania relocated with him to Florida. Like her husband, she bucked tradition by declining to attend the inauguration of President Biden.