Born April 26, 1970, in Novo Mesto, Slovenia (then Yugoslavia), at the height of the Cold War, Melania Trump grew up under the shadow of communism. Her father Viktor Knavs juggled everything from chauffeuring assignments to owning his own auto parts business. Her mother Amalija started as a pattern maker in a factory that designed children’s clothes. They earned a good living to take Melania and her sister on summer vacations to Paris, Milan, and Rome, where Melania glimpsed the possibility of a new life.
In 1986, just after turning 16, Melania began to model fashion. Two years later she enrolled in the University of Ljubljana. Within a year, she had so many modeling requests that she left the university to focus on her career and ultimately came to New York in 1996. “I loved my work,” she recalled, “and as a young entrepreneur I wanted to follow my dreams to a place where freedom and opportunity were in abundance.” Melania remained in New York, participating in and supporting humanitarian causes as well as the arts.
In 1998, Melania met Donald Trump at a party and they dated as her career soared. In 2005, 450 guests gathered at the Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, to celebrate their wedding. A year later, Mrs. Trump gave birth to their son Barron William Trump.
During the course of her career, Melania Trump has appeared in high profile advertising campaigns and television commercials; she was featured on the covers of many magazines including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar; and co-hosted such shows as The View with Barbara Walters. Mrs. Trump is also an accomplished entrepreneur with her own jewelry collection and skin care line.
Mrs. Trump’s philanthropic pursuits have involved serving as an honorary chair for the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Boy’s Club of New York, and the American Heart Association. She is an active member of the Police Athletic League, which named her one of its Women of the Year in 2006. In April of 2008, she participated in the Fifth Annual National Love Our Children Day, marking the beginning of National Child Abuse Prevention month by ringing the NASDAQ closing bell.
The dream of becoming an American citizen, in the country she loved so much, was very important to Melania. “On July 28th, 2006, I was very proud to become a citizen of the United States—the greatest privilege on planet Earth,” Melania recalled as she addressed the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2016, adding: “I cannot, or will not, take the freedoms this country offers for granted.”
At the Republican National Convention, Melania addressed the nation, urging voters to stand with her husband. “Donald is, and always has been, an amazing leader. Now he will go to work for you.”
In her new role, Mrs. Trump will continue to be an advocate for children, especially on issues of health and wellness.
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