- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2017

Her life changed forever Friday, when she became first lady of the United States. Melania Trump is up for the challenge. She brings a unique, valuable skill set to the White House that includes poise, glamour and mettle honed during her years as a supermodel, wife, mother and businesswoman.

Mrs. Trump, who is at home on the global stage, is taking the future in stride, and on her own terms. From the earliest days of President Trump’s quest for office, she made it clear that a priority was her young son, Barron. She plans no immediate move to the nation’s capital until his school year is complete.

She also has held the press at bay. Mrs. Trump made minimal personal appearances on the raucous campaign trail and gave few interviews, though her rare encounters with journalists revealed thoughtful candor.

“I chose not to be on the campaign. I made that choice. I have my own mind. I am my own person, and I think my husband likes that about me,” Mrs. Trump told Harper’s Bazaar last year.

She is his No. 1 fan.

“He wants America to be great again, and he can do that. He is a great leader — the best leader, an amazing negotiator. America needs that. And he believes in America. He believes in its potential and what it can be,” she continued.

Mrs. Trump, who turns 47 in April, continues to boast the same charisma she had as a model. There is no disputing she is gorgeous and self-assured, mesmerizing the cranky press corps and simply waving off critical coverage or scandal-mongering. Following the inauguration, much of the press was appreciative of her reserve, appearance and demeanor

Melania Trump has the potential to be a popular first lady. The media hostility toward President Trump is unlikely to abate, so positive coverage of Melania Trump could be a way for the media to show some semblance of balance. She’s also attractive, fashionable and tends to avoid making controversial statements,” said presidential historian Tevi Troy, author of “Shall We Wake the President?: Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office” and a former White House aide.

“She’ll never get the kind of glowing coverage Michelle Obama received — and it’s unlikely that there will ever be a major Hollywood movie about Melania’s first date with Donald — but she’ll certainly get better coverage than her husband,” Mr. Troy said.

Mrs. Trump is used to scrutiny, however, and has won public praise for maintaining a certain calm demeanor.

Melanija Knavs was born in socialist Slovenia, daughter of a car dealer and a children’s wear designer. She won a modeling contract at 16, studied architecture at a local university and by 1996 immigrated to America. In her mid-20s the strikingly beautiful, determined young woman spoke five languages, and her resume included tenure at top fashion houses in Milan and Paris.

Two years passed. Her face and style now famous, 5-foot-11 Melania met a well-heeled older man named Donald Trump at a Manhattan party. She refused to give him her phone number. He persisted. A long courtship ensued, one without argument or contention, according to Mr. Trump himself.

They were married in 2005 in a glittering wedding where the guest list included A-list celebrities plus former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, the groom’s future campaign rival.

Barron William Trump was born a year later, just as his mother became a U.S. citizen. Mrs. Trump became a full-time mom and remains one; there are no nannies in the mix. She also took on the causes of numerous charities and founded her own jewelry and skin care lines once her son began school.

It’s been more than a decade since she became Mrs. Trump. And now she is first lady, poised to become a powerful symbol in her own right, taking on ending bullying — particularly online bullying — as her official cause in the White House. Mrs. Trump’s role portends to be complex and constantly analyzed by press and public worldwide.

“Some recent first ladies made the mistake of trying to emulate their predecessors. Rosalynn Carter tried to evoke Jackie Kennedy, and Barbara Bush wanted to emulate Nancy Reagan. Hillary Clinton tried to conjure up memories of Eleanor Roosevelt, even holding seances in the Clinton White House to try to channel her,” said presidential historian Craig Shirley, Reagan biographer and author of “Reagan Rising,” a forthcoming book.

Mrs. Trump should find an authentic calling. Something that has her own signature, that has her own imprimatur,” Mr. Shirley said. “My advice to Mrs. Trump is to be like Nancy Reagan — and just be yourself.”

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