The partner of the US president has historically taken on a strong advocacy role and promoted positive social initiatives throughout her stay in the White House.
But the enigmatic nature of Melania Trump has meant her public-facing presence has been almost non-existent compared to her spotlight-loving husband, with Ivanka Trump often filling the void.
There remains a certain level of mysteriousness about the background of the former lingerie model cum First Lady – an intrigue which has existed throughout the 15-year marriage of Melania and Donald Trump.
Given their seemingly unusual marital arrangement, many observers have seized on a steady stream of viral videos in which the mask momentarily drops and she betrays scorn towards her husband, or bats away his attempts to hold her hand for the cameras.
In the lead up to the 2020 US election, those close to the First Lady have sought to cash in on the public’s interest by revealing their privileged glimpse into the most powerful couple in the world.
Housekeepers spill on ‘strange’ Trump marriage
Earlier this year, two former housekeepers who worked for Ms Trump and the US president at his New Jersey golf course spoke to Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Mary Jordan for a recently released biography called The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump.
“It’s a strange marriage,” said former housekeeper Victorina Morales of the Trumps’ relationship, an undocumented worker from Guatemala.
“I never saw them like a normal family, sitting together at a table, eating together, talking. Never, never, never. They spend time in the same place but they don’t interact.”
In the book, former housekeepers said Mrs Trump issued strict demands but treated them courteously and with respect.
The biography reported the couple maintained separate bedrooms while visiting the golf club and Melania’s suite included a room where she could enjoy regular massages.
Another former housekeeper, Sandra Diaz, said Mrs Trump sometimes seemed “sad” or “burdened.”
Melania’s parents, who had immigrated from the family’s native Slovenia, usually accompanied her and son Barron on these trips, but otherwise Ms Diaz thought the First Lady led an “insulated” life while at the golf club mansion, saying she rarely had friends visit and spent her days inside on her computer.
An excerpt from the book published in The Washington Post revealed the First Lady is not afraid to throw her weight around in the Trump administration, and the president holds her opinion in high regard when it comes to certain matters.
“She picks her spots when she wants to speak assertively, but when she does, the president listens. He absolutely consults her on personnel matters,” said former New Jersey governor and Trump ally, Chris Christie.
Meanwhile, one anonymous White House official said: “People cross Melania at their own risk — and that risk is: ‘off with your head’. I’m not kidding ... You are gone if she doesn’t like you.”
Melania’s ex-best friend drops ‘revenge’ book
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff met Melania Trump in 2003 while working at Vogue magazine and grew to be close friends with the now First Lady, and formerly worked as her advisor before she was very publicly fired after the 2016 inauguration.
This month she became the latest to try and pull back the curtain on the president and his wife with the publication of her book; Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady.
“Melania to everyone else is an enigma,” she told the BBC in a recent TV interview. “She has this wall around her, it’s impenetrable, it’s steel, it’s kept her mysterious to the world.”
For the Trumps “perception is everything”, Ms Winston Wolkoff says, and both have used their relationship to further their public image and career.
“I do believe it is a transactional marriage,” she wrote in the book.
“She was a young model, she was striving, she didn’t have the success yet. She met Donald, she married, she had a son, she became an American citizen and 10 years after that, she is the first lady of the United States.”
In return, according to Ms Winston Wolkoff, Mr Trump gets some loyal eye-candy and a wife willing to play the necessary role for the public.
In response to the book, Ms Trump’s chief of staff and spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said the book is, “not only wildly self-aggrandising, it’s just not truthful.”
In her speech at the Republican National Convention last month, Melania Trump called for racial unity as riots and social unrest have followed instances of police brutality against black Americans.
“I have reflected on the racial unrest in our country,” she said.
“It is a harsh reality that we are not proud of parts of our history. I encourage you to focus on the future while still learning from the past.”
With just over a month to go until the November 3 election, there’s nothing to suggest the First Lady will emerge from her backseat role in the final stretch of the campaign trail. But despite her intentional aloofness, her position alone ensures she will go down in the annals of US history.
In fact, a life-size rough bronze sculpture of her was unveiled near her hometown of Sevnica in southeastern Slovenia earlier this month. It replaced a wooden figure which was set on fire in July.
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