From Model to First Lady: An Inside Look at Melania Trump

Melania Trump | Photo Credit Q Political

Officially in the White House less than a year, Melania Trump is already loved and admired around the world. However, despite her popularity, she remains somewhat mysterious. So, we thought we’d give you an inside look at her life leading up to her role as America’s First Lady.

The Early Years

Melania Knavs,1971 | Photo credit Facebook

Melania Knavs (later Germanized to Knauss) was born April 26, 1970, in Novo Mesto Slovenia, a part of communist Yugoslavia at the time. While she may considered a big city girl now, it wasn’t always that way.

Her hometown of Sevnica, an hour’s drive from the capital of Ljubljana, had only 5,000 residents. Melania and her family lived in Communist-style apartment housing for several years when she as young.

Melania Trump, second from right, poses with her friends during a birthday celebration in Sevnica, Slovenia. | Photo credit Daily Mail

According to childhood friend, Mirjana Jelancic, Melania was always kind and loved school “We would never hear her swear of say anything bad to anyone,” Jelancic told the Associated Press. “An excellent student, very organized, disciplined, with very decent manners.”

Fortunately, Melania had good role models.

Her Parents

Amalija and Viktor Knavs in 1967 | Photo credit Town and Country

Viktor Knavs met Melania’s mother, Amalija, in Sevnica in1966. At the time, he was working as a chauffeur for a local mayor. She, worked as a pattern-maker for a children’s clothing factory. While struggling in the early years under communism, they worked hard to build a better life.

After his chauffeur job, Viktor took a job as a car salesman for a state-owned dealership. A larger than life personality, reminiscent of Donald Trump, he took pride in his work and instilled a strong work ethic in his children.

President Trump complimented his father-in-law back in June saying he was “pretty successful over there. “It’s a different kind of success than you have here. But he was successful,” he added. After selling cars, Viktor opened his own a bicycle and car parts shop in Ljubljana.

Friends and neighbors, remember Melania’s father as easily noticeable. “He always wore a tie, smart clothes and carried a briefcase,” said Joze Vuk, a building superintendent at their apartment complex. “You could not avoid noticing him.”

Although, her mom was also hard to miss.

Melania Viktor Amalija
Viktor and Amalija Knavs in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 2011. | Photo credit New York Times

Nicknamed “Malci,” Melania’s mother has a striking presence. With her husband on the road as a traveling salesman, Amalija was the primary caretaker for their two daughters. She is also a fashion icon.

Malci wore heels to walk to her factory job designing children’s clothing. According to interviews, she was always impeccably dressed and perfectly coiffed.” Her taste in clothing and shoes, inspired Melania to pursue a career in the fashion industry.

The first lady maintains a close relationship with her parents. Viktor and Amalija first visited America in 2004. They spent time in both New York, where they now have an apartment in Trump Tower, and at Mar-A-Lago.

During that visit, Trump reportedly asked for the couple’s blessing to marry their daughter. He proposed at the Costume Institute Gala at the Met, in April that same year. Melania is also close with her older sister, Ines.

Ines Knauss

Melania Ines
Ines Knauss with her younger sister Melania Trump at a charity luncheon in 2005. | Photo credit StyleCaster

Born in 1969, Ines is Melania’s big sister. She lives in a Trump-owned apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Private like Melania, Ines often stays out of the spotlight. Nevertheless, Melania considers her sister as a friend and confidante.

And their resemblance to each other is, well, unmistakable. Ines’s Facebook account, is flooded with pictures showcasing their close relationship. The two women headed for Paris together in the early 90s. Melania to pursue modeling, and Ines, for a career as a fashion designer.

It seems everyone in the Knavs family knew, Melania was meant for big things.

Modeling Career

Melania on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar | Photo credit:

While attending high school in Ljubljana, Mrs. Trump and her sister stood out. Their looks, wardrobe, and makeup were the envy of their classmates. At the age of 16, Melania officially began living her dream of being a model.

Her statuesque build, graceful style, and beautiful smile, would take her around the world.

 In January of 1987, at the age of 17, Melania caught the attention of photographer, Stan Jerko. Seeing a mix of raw talent and inexperience in his photos of her, he sent them to a Slovenian cultural center. They admitted her into a fashion model course in the fall.

Once attending college to study architecture, Melania knew that fashion was her first love. In 1992, she dazzled the audience on the catwalk at the Grand Hotel Toplice. She also earned second-place in Jana magazine’s Face of the Year, which solidified her ambitions.

Melania worked as a model in Paris and Milan, before moving to New York in 1996. There, she landed covers in popular fashion magazines like Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. In 2000, the future Mrs. Trump posed nude for GQ.

Unfortunately, that decision would come back to haunt her.

In 1998, during Fashion Week, Melania attended an event at the Times Square Kit Kat Club. Her agent, Paolo Zampolli, also invited a friend to the nightclub. A wealthy New York businessman named, Donald Trump. He asked Melania for her number but instead, she took his.

The Fairy Tale

Donald Trump and Melania Knauss tie the knot on January 22, 2005 | Photo credit People

After two failed marriages, one to Ivana Zelnícková and the other to Marla Maples, Trump once again found himself smitten. For the business mogul and future president, Melania was a welcome change. Her independence, a far cry from that of his demanding and clingy ex-wives.

The pair dated for seven years, before Donald popped the question. Their posh 2005 reception at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, was a star-studded event. One of the attendees, a friend at the time, would later become one of Melania’s biggest critics.

Melania with Barron in 2006. | Photo credit People

A year after their lavish wedding, Donald and Melania welcomed a son and she became an American citizen. Barron Trump, now 11, is Melania’s first and only child, and her husband’s fifth. Barron is very close to Melania’s parents, who dote on him every chance they get.

Eleven years after his birth, mom and son would come to be known as the “First Family.”

Campaign Trail

Melania Trump at the Republican National Convention | Photo credit: New York Magazine

When her husband announced his plan to run for president in 2016, Melania was thrust into the national spotlight. Her new role as the next potential first lady, brought attention back to her modeling days and the nude photos from British GQ.

The photos began circulating online, in an effort to attack Melania and candidate-Trump’s credibility. In July of 2016, things got worse. The New York Post released several racy, never- before-seen photos from a shoot she did for the now defunct French magazine, Max.

Thankfully, Melania overcame the challenges and her path to the White House continued.

Lady and the White House

Official portrait of First Lady, Melania Trump | Photo credit

Melania moved to the White House with Barron in the summer of 2017, after he finished the school year in New York. Since assuming the role of first lady, she has created initiatives addressing illiteracy and childhood bullying.

In just 11 months, Mrs. Trump has already become one of the most beloved first ladies in history. Her beauty, poise and sophistication, have endeared her to people from all over the world. Including in East Asia, where she recently visited with President Trump. 

One of her most inspiring role models, to whom she is often compared, is Jackie Kennedy. If you would like to learn more about FLOTUS or her current projects, you can visit her official website or follow her on Facebook.