There are no major bombshells in Mary Jordan’s new biography of Melania Trump, “The Art of Her Deal.” Jordan merely reaffirms what we’ve always known about the First Lady—she’s a cool head in an unsteady world, and the ultimate poster girl for soft power.
The worst thing one of Jordan’s 100 sources had to say about Trump is that she’s “stubborn.” No arguments there. Like an alabaster Greek statue, Melania stays strong and unflappably elegant as her remarkably improbable life unfolds.
Jordan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with The Washington Post who has told interviewers that Melania is the most enigmatic personality she’s ever tried to crack. Since the book’s release on Monday, the media has been gunning for a portrait of a marriage in turmoil, but Jordan admits that “there’s a real connection there. When Trump finishes a rally or major event, his first call is to Melania.”
The First Lady’s office did not reply to Jordan’s requests for interviews or fact checks, and has derided the book as “fiction.” But don’t expect that to slow sales. Melania-watching and code-cracking has a cult following.
President Trump’s re-election aides would do well to learn from Mrs. Trump’s life and use her on the campaign trail. Hers is the most American of American dreams, although Melania became an American citizen through legal means in 2006. (Jordan reveals, however, that the president’s wife has also maintained her Slovenian citizenship, and obtained a dual passport for her son.) No one can speak to the evils of socialism—and the virtues of capitalism—quite like she can.
Born in socialist Yugoslavia in 1970, Melania’s childhood was defined by a country that “valued conformity and sameness,” much like the radical Twitter mobs of today. “The government promoted equality, families of the same size lived in apartments of the same size. Every building seemed to be painted the color of a storm cloud. Workers went to the same factories, shopped in the same stores,” Jordan writes. And everybody worshipped the same dictator, Comrade Josip Broz Tito.
As a child, wearing an identical uniform as her classmates, Melania was forced to pledge allegiance to Tito, reciting, “…with Tito we go forward, that I shall love my country, self-managing socialist Yugoslavia…” Shortly after Tito’s death, Ronald Reagan swept into the White House, leaving a lasting impression on the young girl.
“It began to feel like morning around the world, even in my small country,” she recalled in 2016. As the Cold War collapsed, Melania was awakening to a new political reality, and her peers were seeing a beauty in the making. By the time she reached her teens, she was five-foot-nine-and-a-half inches tall, and a willowy 121 pounds, according to Jordan’s records.
A modeling career was beckoning. “She had the eyes of a tigress,” one editor said. Jordan charts Melania’s journey through Milan, Paris, and New York City in the fashion world. Melania, however, emerges as a clean-living homebody.
Unlike her model colleagues, she avoided drinking, drugging, and rock stars, although Jordan does discuss a steamy photo shoot in which our first lady posed in the buff. (Come on, admit it. If you had a body like that, you’d show it off too.) When Melania met Trump in the late ’90s, she was fully formed as the confident woman we know today. So confident, it turns out, that she rebuffed Trump’s initial overtures.
As a wife, Jordan writes, Trump has come to find Melania’s judgment and calm valuable. As a presidential spouse, she’s as shrewd as Lady Macbeth—minus the histrionics. Melania is not one to “yell or throw lamps,” Jordan writes, even when her husband or West Wing staffers deserve her wrath. Kellyanne Conway, by the way, is on her good list. Reince Priebus and Ivanka Trump, according to Jordan, not so much.
“You are gone if Melania doesn’t like you,” she writes. “One of the most lethal places to find oneself is in Melania’s crosshairs.”
It was Melania’s positive reaction to Mike Pence that sealed his fate as Trump’s vice presidential pick—a choice that has been one of the president’s best decisions. Chris Christie, one of the men who joined Pence on the VP short list, still speaks highly of her. Their relationship dates back to when she was Trump’s girlfriend.
“She’s no wallflower,” Christie told Jordan. “The idea that she is not a big influence in the administration is just dead wrong.” And Melania could be the key to pushing him over the finish line in November.