Elegant with a dazzling smile, the 46-year-old native Slovenian was at her husband’s side in New York early Wednesday when he declared victory—a discreet source of support, out of the camera frame.
She has maintained that same low-key presence throughout the long and gruelling campaign, during which she tried to humanize her husband, 24 years her elder.
“He will make a fantastic president," she said less than a week ago in Pennsylvania at her only solo campaign appearance, playing up the property mogul’s softer side.
Melania also tried to take the rough edges off her husband and showed stage presence in a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention back in July, captivating a hall of cheering delegates.
“He’s tough when he has to be, but he’s also kind and fair and caring," she said, describing her husband as “intensely loyal" to family, friends, employees and the country.
“If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he’s the guy."
But the golden opportunity to tell America her story went horribly awry: US media noticed striking similarities with a speech current first lady Michelle Obama delivered to the Democratic convention in 2008.
Her husband swiftly came to her defence, without acknowledging any plagiarism. “It was truly an honour to introduce my wife, Melania. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud!" the billionaire tweeted.
More recently, Mrs. Trump faced the embarrassment of a howling uproar after the release of an audio from 2005 in which her husband bragged about groping women’s genitals and getting away with it because he is famous. Nearly a dozen women later came forward to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct or outright assault.
Melania called her husband’s comments on the tape “not acceptable." But she said he had been egged on by a TV host who was with him on a bus on which he made the hot mic comments.
“I don’t know that person that would talk that way and that he would say that kind of stuff," she said, before writing if off as “boy talk."
At a humor-filled charity dinner after the last of the three presidential debates, Trump himself cracked a joke at her expense about her convention speech. He said: “Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. It’s fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great. My wife Melania gives the exact same speech and people get on her case. And I don’t get it."
Born Melanija Knavs in Slovenia—then part of Yugoslavia—to a fashion-industry mother and a car-salesman father, she studied design and architecture before leaving for Milan and Paris to launch her modelling career.
That brought her to the United States in 1996, where two years later she met Trump. She later became his third wife.
At the convention, she said becoming a US citizen, in 2006, was “the greatest privilege on planet earth." Her American experience has certainly been far removed from that of the average immigrant.
Her Twitter account—inactive since Trump declared his candidacy—reflects the privileged lifestyle of a jet-setter travelling between a lavish New York apartment and residences in Florida.
She has tweeted photographs from high-society gatherings and major sporting events, as well as recollections of her red-carpet saunters and charity functions. In each image, Melania appears impeccably dressed.
When Donald and Melania married in January 2005 in Florida, the cost of her Dior dress was estimated at $200,000. Among the invited celebrities was Hillary Clinton, the defeated Democratic presidential candidate.
Initially, Melania did not seem to be entirely on board with the idea of her husband running for president.
Trump once said Melania would have been content as the wife of a billionaire businessman and reality TV star. “She said, ‘We have such a great life. Why do you want to do this?’" Trump told The Washington Post.
Melania will be America’s first foreign-born first lady since Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, who was president from 1825-1829. Adams was born in England.