Melania Trump expected to play low-key role as US first lady

Melania Trump expected to play low-key role as US first lady

Slovenian-born former model likely to focus more on her husbands domestic wellbeing than on policy initiatives

She is not the first foreign-born first lady: that was Louisa Adams, the British wife of the sixth US president, John Quincy (1825-29). Nor is she the first to have worked as a model: both Betty Ford and Pat Nixon did that.

But Melania Trump, 46, is the first third wife of a president to move into the White House, the first Flotus not to speak English as her native language and the first to have mastered five languages (Slovenian, German, French, Serbian and English).

She is also the first to have grown up in a high-rise block in a country under communist rule, and certainly the first to have posed for nude photoshoots (in 1995, for Max magazine, a now-defunct French publication, and again for GQ in 2000).

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She was born Melania Knavs in Sevnica, not far from the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. Her parents were Amalija, a pattern designer at a childrens clothing factory, and Viktor, a chauffeur. Melania grew up in Tito-era former Yugoslavia and moved to New York in 1996 to become a model.

A man carrying a US flag outside Melania Trumps parents house in Sevnica, Slovenia. Photograph: Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters

She met Trump at a party at the Kit Kat Club in New York in 1998 when she was 28 and he was 52, became a permanent US resident in 2001, and a citizen in 2006, after marrying the billionaire property developer in 2005.

Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the 350 guests at the wedding at Trumps Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. According to reports, Melania wore a $100,000 (80,000) Dior dress featuring 1,500 crystals, and guests were treated to a seven-tier Grand Marnier wedding cake weighing 90kg (200lbs). The couples son, Barron, was born in March 2006.

As first lady, Melania is widely expected to be discreet, focusing more on her husbands domestic wellbeing than on policy initiatives. Asked in 1999 by the New York Times what her role would be if her then boyfriend became president, she said she would be very traditional, like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy.

The furore over her Republican party convention speech, which bore striking similarities to a speech by Michelle Obama, may tempt her to stay behind the scenes. She would, though, like to work to help reduce bullying on social media, she said in a rare public outing a few days before Tuesdays election.

Donald and Melania Trump during the election campaign. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It is never OK when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied or attacked, she said. It is terrible when it happens on the playground, and it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet.

We must find better ways to honour and support the basic goodness of our children, especially in social media. It will be one of the main focuses of my work, if I am privileged enough to become your first lady.

The irony of her stance, given her husbands often aggressive and bullying behaviour on social media, was not lost on many commentators, including Lady Gaga, who accused Melania of pure hypocrisy.

While standing up for her husband when he was accused of predatory sexual behaviour, Melania also warned Trump by his own admission to act more presidential. Last month she told CNNs Anderson Cooper that she was not shy in giving him further advice, such as to give up the tweeting.

I give him my opinions many, many times, she said. I dont agree with everything that he says but, you know, that is normal. Im my own person, I tell him what I think. Im standing very strong on the ground on my two feet and Im my own person. And I think thats very important in the relationship.

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