Soft-spoken and private, Melania Trump did not seem to relish her position as First Lady after her husband became president. She delayed moving into the White House until six months after the inauguration so that her son could finish his school year in New York City, and she was slow to staff the Office of the First Lady in the White House East Wing. She initially kept a low profile but began to appear in public more frequently as her husband’s term progressed.
Like her husband, who came to the presidency with an unusual resume and was the first president with neither military nor governmental experience, Melania was not a typical First Lady. She was only the second who was not born in the United States, and the first since 1825, when Louisa Adams, who was born in London, became First Lady with the inauguration of her husband, John Quincy Adams, the sixth president. Melania was the first to be a naturalized citizen, and the first for whom English was not her first language; she speaks several languages including Slovenian, Italian, German, French, and English.
Melanija Knavs was born in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, when it was part of Yugoslavia, on April 26, 1970. She was raised in Sevnica, Slovenia, where she lived with her parents and sister. She began fashion modeling at age 16. She attended college in design and architecture at the University of Ljubljana but left after a year to purse modeling in western Europe.
Melania Knauss, as she was known when she went Milan and Paris to model, moved to New York City in 1996 to continue her career. At a party in the city in 1998, Melania met Donald Trump, a businessman and entertainer who was divorced from his second wife. The couple soon began dating and became engaged in 2004. They were married in January 2005 in a lavish affair at Trump’s estate Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Their son, Barron William Trump, was born the next year; he was Donald Trump’s fifth child and Melania’s first. The same year, Melania became an American citizen.
As Mrs. Donald Trump, Melania lived in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City. She created a business, launching her own line of skin care products and jewelry. When her husband decided to run for president, Melania was with him when he made the announcement at Trump Tower in June 2015. During the campaign, however, she rarely accompanied him on campaign stops or spoke at rallies, saying that she chose to stay at home to keep life as normal as possible for their son. At the Republican National Convention in July 2016, Melania gave a speech but was soon criticized when it was revealed that parts of the speech were plagiarized from one by former First Lady Michelle Obama.
After Donald Trump took office, Melania worked to maintain her privacy, and she did not move to the White House until June 2017. As First Lady, she hosted state dinners, joined her husband on foreign trips, and accompanied the president as he toured areas devastated by natural disasters. While Donald Trump opposed much of his predecessor Barack Obama’s legacy, Melania Trump maintained a signature contribution of her predecessor—the White House garden—and harvested vegetables with children invited to the South Lawn. She spoke out against cyberbullying and opioid addition as issues on which she would focus as First Lady.