Melania Trump is a bit of a paradox when it comes to fame. On one hand, she’s one of the most famous people in the world. On the other hand, that fame is largely a reflection of her billionaire husband President Donald Trump.
As a consequence of that, many people don’t know who the “real” Melania really is. We only see her as wife or as first lady, but who was she before all of that?
As it turns out, Melania led a fascinating life before her fame and fortune. And she ended up transforming her life into something her family could never dream of. Here is what Melania’s life was like before the fame.
A Good Upbringing
Melania was raised in Communist Yugoslavia in the 1970s. While that could be a little oppressive at times, her family made sure to instill her with very positive values.
Some of those values include what you’d expect, including the value of ambition and hard work. However, she was also raised with a love for the finer things. Her mother Amalija Ulčnik, a clothing factory worker, constantly made custom clothing so Melania didn’t wear anything from the store.
Meanwhile, her father Viktor Knavs was a car salesman who knew how to grind for what he got. He kept them living comfortably and showcased the value of good business decisions. When Melania started making big moves in her own career later in life, it is clear she paid attention to the business lessons of her father.
Before marriage to Trump, Melania was mostly famous as a model. However, modeling wasn’t her original plan. Instead, she was studying to be an architect!
She was a student at the University of Ljubljana. It wasn’t easy to get in. According to one of her professors, Blaz Vogelnik, getting into her program was “as hard as at the medical university,” he told the Daily Beast. However, by passing complex exams in statics and engineering, she secured her place.
Melania eventually ditched college to pursue modeling. It was a practical decision that eventually led to wealth and fame. Nonetheless, her former professor still sings her praises, telling the world she was “very intelligent student with a high IQ.”
Seriously Young Model
Who inspired Melania to become a model? It depends on who you ask. It was a career that offered more money and in less time than being an architect, so this may be an echo of her father’s keen business sense.
At the same time, her mother inspired her love of fashion. While mom couldn’t make her custom frocks forever, she did start bringing home magazines of Western fashion. Melania had a mania for these clothes and started dressing in the fanciest and most stylish clothes she could get her hands on.
Between her business sense and her fashion sense, a modeling career may have been inevitable. But it happened sooner than you might think. When a 16-year-old Melania caught photographer Stane Jerko’s eye, he asked to shoot her photos. She impressed him during the shoot, and they soon scheduled another.
Shortly thereafter, the young fashionista was now a model for a textile company. This kicked off what would soon become her full-time career.
Modeling Full Time
It would have been possible for Melania to model part-time while attending to her college studies. However, she soon realized that she could be making professional money right away instead of gambling that her architecture degree would pay off (something that might not happen for the better part of a decade).
So, one year into her university studies, she dropped out to pursue modeling full-time. She signed with an Italian agency. Before too long, she was a world traveler doing shoots in exotic locations such as Milan and Paris.
Melania Trump’s command of language is a subject of some debate. On one hand, cruel critics and comedians have made fun of her accent and mocked how well she speaks English. On the other hand, outlets like CBS News claim she is fully fluent in a variety of languages, including English, French, German, and Serbian.
However, some allege she seems to barely speak beyond the most basic things in some of these “fluent” languages. And she’s had to rely on translators when she hears people speak in one of the languages she has allegedly mastered. Because of that, the exact talents of her linguistics remain seriously up for debate.
Secret Family Member
You might expect Donald Trump to have a few skeletons in his closet. However, the world was shocked a few years ago to discover that Melania Trump has a secret half-brother.
This brother, Denis, was a child that father Viktor Knavs never wanted. He demanded the mother (Marija Cigelnjak) get an abortion, but she refused. He ended up paying child support but otherwise never acknowledging the child.
What is even weirder is that Melania seemingly tried to cover this up. When a GQ reporter asked about Denis, she denied his existence. Later, she claimed she misunderstood the question. Taking a page out of Donald’s book, she ended up blaming the media for her mistake.
Unashamed of Nude Photos
In the leadup to the 2016 election, the New York Post ran a story about a nude photoshoot from Melania’s past. The photos had gone unnoticed over the years, and the story was an attempt to shame Melania over her scandalous past.
This ended up backfiring in a spectacular way. Melania was unashamed of those photos, and she told this to the world in an interview with Anderson Cooper. She said, “”I’m very proud I did those pictures. I’m not ashamed of my body, I feel very comfortable with myself and with my body… in Europe, we are proud of our bodies, no matter what size you are. And, it was done as an art, as a celebration of the female body.”
Considering how hard she has worked to stay fit and youthful over the years, it’s understandable that Melania has no shame about these photos.
Waning Career, Waxing Romance
While Melania started modeling when she was 16, it wasn’t a career she could hold onto forever. Although she cleverly prolonged that career by pivoting to alcohol and tobacco ads that her underage modeling competition couldn’t be part of.
Eventually, she decided to focus on romance. When she met Donald Trump at a party, she refused to give him her phone number. She reasoned that if she did so, “I’m just one of the women he calls.” Instead, Trump gave her “all of his numbers.”
She then pulled a power move and waited a whole week to call the Donald. All of this worked to help win him over, and the coupled ended up getting married seven years later. She now spends her time carrying out her duties as first lady and raising their son Barron Trump.