In September 1998, as part of New York City’s Fashion Week festivities, 28-year-old model Melania Knauss attended a party at the Kit Kat Club in Times Square. There she caught the eye of 52-year-old Donald Trump, the brash real-estate mogul and tabloid fixture who was in the midst of divorcing his second wife, Marla Maples.
Trump had arrived with cosmetics heiress Celina Midelfart, but it didn’t matter; when his date went to the bathroom, he quickly cozied up to the tall Slovenian beauty. Melania was charmed but hardly star struck. When he asked for her number, she requested his, and Trump happily supplied every conceivable number:
“The office, Mar-a-Lago, home in New York, everything,” she recalled. Melania finally called after keeping the Donald waiting for a week, and with a first date at the Greenwich Village nightclub Moomba, the flame was lit. Melania broke up with Donald several times.
As the romance blossomed, Melania developed an understanding of what it meant to be dating a public figure with a seemingly insatiable craving for the spotlight. Once he called shock-jock DJ Howard Stern while she was allegedly in bed next to him.
Another time, while participating in a panel discussion at the University of Pennsylvania. These experiences may have given the normally retiring Melania cold feet; they broke up multiple times within the first year-plus of meeting one another, and when Trump first flirted with the idea of running for president,
as a Reform Party candidate in 2000, he did so without Melania by his side. But the lovebirds patched things up soon enough, and in 2001, their future together looking rosy, Melania obtained her Green Card and moved into her boyfriend’s penthouse in Trump Tower. The pair married after five years together.
In April 2004, two weeks after the finale of Season 1 of his hit show The Apprentice, Donald proposed to Melania with expensive a $1.5 million diamond ring. He praised her willingness to sign a prenup and acknowledged her personal support amid his successful revival as a TV personality.
Their January 22, 2005, wedding in Palm Beach featured the bride in a $100,000 Christian Dior dress affixed with some 1,500 crystals. The party then adjourned to the nearby Trump vacation home of Mar-a-Lago, where Billy Joel serenaded a famous guest list that included Barbara Walters, Regis Philbin, Matt Lauer and future Trump nemeses Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Trump has five children from three marriages: Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump with Ivana Trump; Tiffany Trump with Marla Maples; and Barron Trump with First Lady Melania Trump. In 2006, Melania became an American citizen and a mother with the birth of their son, Barron.
With the new addition, Trump, now pushing 60, didn’t seem to alter his lifestyle of pursuing deals, starring on TV and calling his radio show buddies – on at least one occasion he gloated to an audience that he never had to change diapers.
The arrangement worked out just fine for Melania, who viewed herself as a traditional caregiver and doted on her boy. She reportedly also fit in just fine with the other, grown Trump children,
though she was only about eight years older than Donald Jr. and 11 1/2 years older than Ivanka. “I don’t see myself as their mother,” she later told Harper’s Bazaar. “I am their friend, and I’m here when they need me.”