On Jan. 20, America acquired a glamorous new first lady in Melania Trump when her husband, Donald J. Trump, became the 45th president of the United States. She won’t be moving into the White House anytime soon.
Melania and their son, Barron, were there in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration. She prefers to stay in New York so Barron can finish the school year. They will join the president at the White House in June.
Lauren A. Wright, author of “On Behalf of the President” and a board member of the White House Transition Project, describes Melania as an “unconventional first lady.”
“Melania Trump will be the first lady in more than 200 years to not move into the White House on Inauguration Day,” Wright said, adding that she doesn’t seem to care. “And that is actually a step forward for presidential wives,” Wright added.
Melania was born April 26, 1970, in Sevnica, Slovenia as Melanija Knavs. She was an actress and model, posing for GQ, Vogue, Vanity Fair and other magazines.
She lived in Paris while working as a model and obtained her U.S. citizenship in 2006. She changed her surname to Knauss before marrying Trump on Jan. 22, 2005. Barron was born about a year later, on March 20, 2006.
Melania is the second first lady born outside of the United States. Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. president, was the first.
The role of first lady was not acknowledged by the Founding Fathers. The Constitution doesn’t address any duties or powers to her role in the White House. The position is only acknowledged through marriage, and first ladies are free to interpret their role as they see fit. The wives of presidents do not earn a salary or have to take a stand for or against anyone or anything. There is no legal requirement that they live in the White House.
At this point, Melania is somewhat of a mystery. We don’t know if she will take up an issue or what she will focus on once she moves into the White House.
There’s one thing for certain, though, she will always look stunning and be compared to Jackie Kennedy in the world of glamour.
At the inauguration ball, Melania glowed in a strapless, white Hervé Pierre column dress with a white ruffle cascading down the front. Although she said little throughout the festivities, we know she speaks five languages: English, French, German, Italian and Slovene.
“First ladies have always been the glue that holds the White House together,” said historian Robert Watson of Lynn University in “A Report to the First Lady.” His book combines White House history along with biographies of the first ladies and advice from former occupants to inform the new first lady about her role.
“Traditionally, first ladies’ duties have included planning state dinners, visiting with dignitaries and trying to maintain the dignity of the White House,” Watson said.
Jean Wahl Harris, who studies the role of first ladies at the University of Scranton, said in the Nov. 10 issue of USA Today that, “A very traditional social hostess is something I think she [Melania] will be comfortable with.”
“Starting with Kennedy, the expectations have ratcheted up, it’s not just about being a good wife and mother,” Harris said. “Americans expect (the first lady) to be a celebrity, to be seen, to support your husband, to have a project that’s good for the nation. And we expect to see you.”