From a small-town girl in Slovenia to being the wife of the 45th president of the United States, it shows how Melania Trump has gone a very long way in life. Before becoming the First Lady, was she really a model?
Melanija Knavs is a Slovene-American former model, who started her career by joining the other children of factory workers where her mother worked and modeled the garments they manufactured. This could have sparked little Melanjia’s interest because, at 16, she started modeling with Slovenian fashion photographer, Stane Jerko.
It was told that Melanija was discovered by Jerko as she sat on a fence while waiting for her friend who was at that time, walking in a fashion show.
Since then, Melania started doing commercial work. This was also when she adopted the German version of her surname Knavs to Knauss.
Modeling came knocking hard on Melania’s door. After enrolling herself at the University of Ljubljana where she would be studying design and architecture, she dropped out after one year to pursue a career in fashion modeling.
Off to Milan she went and signed a modeling contract. However, her big break came four years later when she joined a “Look Of The Year” contest by Jana magazine. Though she only got second place, it exposed her to a lot of photographers who wanted her to model for them.
The ‘90s saw the rise of the supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, and Naomi Campbell. Melania surely had an illustrious career in fashion posing for well-known photographers like Patrick Demarchelier and Helmut Newton. She appeared on runways in both Milan and Paris, while also landing on the covers of Harper’s Bazaar in Bulgaria and Italy’s Vanity Fair.
Europe was not enough for this future First Lady. She once again traveled across the Atlantic to pursue the American Dream. Landing in New York, Melania’s former agent Paolo Zampolli says in his 2005 interview with New York Post, “This is a woman who modeled for Camel cigarettes on a huge billboard in Times Square but stayed home all the time.” Zampolli added that Melania was not a party girl.
Before marrying into the Trump empire, Melania was a real homebody. She rarely went out to bars to date, but would rather go to the gym or movies by herself. Zampolli also reveals Melania’s status when she arrived in the U.S.
Foreign models would normally come to America with a Tourist Visa and meet the potential modeling agency. During their stay, models meet the clients, then have their photos taken to build a portfolio to attract bigger-name modeling contracts.
At that time, Zampolli was a partner at the Metropolitan Models Group so he obtained a work visa for then Melania Knauss before doing professional work in the US. Her H-1B visa application was based on previous modeling work in Paris and Milan.
Fate and Destiny
Two years later, in 1998, she met Donald Trump at the Kit Kat Club while out with her model friends. Trump, who was still married then, was completely awe-struck by this 5-foot-11 beauty, asking for her number. She refused, playing a bit coy, and asked for Trump’s number instead. He gave not just his business number, he gave four, the office, Mar-a Lago and his home’s number in New York.
Melania finally called Trump after a few days. The two went out for dinner and headed to a major celebrity hotspot, Moomba. The two hit it off right away. There was great chemistry. Melania could’ve hoped for a fairytale romance, but what she got was quite far from it.
According to the book, All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, former US president Trump was juggling relationships with at least two other models at that time he got together with Melania. Melania knew about Trump’s womanizing. She broke up with him when she found model Kara Young coming out of the Trump Tower one morning. Another report says, she found make-up, not hers, on a towel in the bathroom and she flipped!
They separated but Trump wooed her back. And after five years of being together, Trump proposed marriage with a 10-carat diamond ring set in platinum made by the famed jeweler Graff . The ring reportedly is valued at $2 million.
The twosome finally got married on Jan. 22, 2002 at the The Mar-a-Lago Estate with a star-studded guest list. And in 2006, they welcomed their son, Barron Trump, who began to show a lot of his father’s personality as he was growing up.
Melania’s transatlantic voyage continues to show us that dreams do come true. Hey, from a virtually unknown town in Slovenia to Manhattan’s glitziest address to the highest seat of power in the United States, Melania has definitely come a long way!