How Much Was Melania Worth Before She Married Donald Trump?

Many people like to speculate about the marriage of Donald and Melania Trump. Was this a true meeting of the minds that brought some soulmates together? Or was Melania after Donald Trump because of his wealth?

Answering that question involves asking an even harder one: just how much was Melania worth before she married Donald Trump? Understanding the answer involves exploring many secrets about her life and her wealth.

Humble Beginnings

It’s worth stating up front that Melania has always been a go-getter driven to success and wealth. That’s not a bad thing, especially given her very specific upbringing.

If you didn’t already know, Melania was born and raised in Sevnica, Slovenia (the former Yugoslavia) and dealt with life under Communism. Like Melania herself would later do, her parents rose up from nothing. Her father Viktor Knavs was a chauffeur and a traveling car salesman. Her mother Amalija worked in a textile factory. The family, including Melania’s older sister Ines, lived in government-owned housing.

Moving On Up

The Daily Mail reports “a document from the Slovenian State Archives shows, her father Viktor Knavs was a listed member of the League of Communists.” And some claim this helped her parents find opportunities for work.

Eventually, Melania’s father was able to open his own shop selling bicycles and car parts. And the family was able to buy an apartment in the capital city of Ljubljana and own a Mercedes at a time when few could afford a car.

Even Donald Trump would later describe his father-in-law as a successful man. “It’s a different kind of success than you have here. But he was successful,” Trump said in a 2016 interview.

Melania’s parents taught her to both work hard and develop a taste for nice things. And she would master both of these things in the coming years!


Although she began her modeling career at age 16, getting an education was important to her. Specifically, she wanted to study architecture at Ljubljana University. 

Eventually, though, the career-minded side of Melania won out. She ended up leaving college for a simple reason: she could begin making good money right then and there instead of spending the better part of a decade in school first.

“I traveled around the world and had the great modeling career,” she told People Magazine in 2015.

Eventually, an Italian businessman by the name of Paolo Zampolli helped her travel to America with a modeling contract and a work visa in 1996. It was there that the next chapter of her life.

A New Life In America

Melania took her move to America and her job as a model very seriously. She practiced the kind of health and skin regimen that has kept her a fitness and beauty inspiration to this day.

Her former roommate, New York photographer Matthew Atanian, told GQ, “[She walked] with ankle weights, [ate] seven pieces of fruit every day, diligently moisturizing her skin. She rarely partied, never brought anyone back to the apartment, and was always home early.”

Melania saw America as a place where freedom and opportunity were in abundance and where she could follow her dreams. And while she had some early success, her American career did have some unique roadblocks.

Adapt and Overcome

Melania was only 26 when she came to America. While that is a relatively young age, she quickly discovered a brutal truth: her competition was much younger. And despite her beauty, any model her age was going to struggle in the industry.

Instead of getting discouraged, Melania got really creative. If her main competition was a bunch of 18-year-olds, then she would start auditioning for the kinds of gigs they couldn’t get. She ended up taking alcohol and tobacco campaigns, including Camel cigarette ads.

While this helped her continue to find work, this was about the point that she decided to branch out in terms of both socializing with the elite and diversifying her career.

Meeting ‘The Donald’

Melania actually met Donald Trump in 1998 at a party thrown by Paolo Zampolli (the same businessman who helped bring her to America). When Trump asked for her number, she did the unthinkable: she refused!

As GQ reports, this was a deliberate move on her part. “If I give him my number, I’m just one of the women he calls,” Melania said. This gamble certainly worked out. “It tells you a lot from the man what kind of number he gives you. He gave me all of his numbers.”

A relationship with Donald Trump opened some interesting doors for Melania, including a surprising cameo in the film Zoolander. But when Hollywood stardom didn’t exactly pan out, Donald helped her find a new kind of career. 

Donald Makes Connections

Before becoming president, Donald Trump was best known for his hit TV show The Apprentice. Once things were serious with Melania (they got engaged in 2004), Trump actually gave her a cameo on his show.

Appearing on The Apprentice, Melania made a serious impression on a room full of Levi’s Jeans executives who were on the show. Adweek reported that she showed up “wearing a pair of the classic jeans, all the while leaving a gaggle of sweaty-palmed Apprentice-wannabes in her wake.”

She got an endorsement deal from Levi’s right away, which signaled to the world that she wanted to be more than just Donald Trump’s wife.

Melania’s Net Worth

Melania was certainly successful before she met Donald Trump. But knowing Trump opened up opportunities such as appearances on The Apprentice and endorsement deals, which have added to her wealth.

People like to tag Melania as “opportunistic” but she did sign a pre-nup before she married Donald Trump. And Trump’s former wife Marla Maples received only $1 million from her own pre-nuptial agreement with Trump.

So, how much is Melania worth without Donald? According to, she has a net worth of $50 million. Where did all that cash come from? A combination of modeling gigs, commercial appearances, endorsement deals, and even her own line of jewelry via QVC.