Donald Trump has been leading the headlines since he decided to run to be the 45th President of the United States.
But his wife Melania is every bit as eye-catching as the billionaire’s surge to claim the Republican nomination.
The Yugoslav-born model would become the first First Lady to be born abroad if her husband wins the US election and follows Barack Obama into the White House.
But she appeared to follow current First Lady Michelle Obama a little too literally at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, when Melania was accused of plagiarising parts of Mrs Obama’s 2008 convention speech.
Born on April 26, 1970, Melania is 46 – meaning there is a 24 year age gap to her 70-year-old husband.
She was raised by her Communist party member father Viktor Knavs, who managed car dealerships for a state-owned vehicle manufacturer, and her mother Amalija Ulnik, a pattern maker at a textile factory.
Where is she from?
She was born in Sevnica, which is now in Slovenia but was then part of Yugoslavia. Her name was originally Melanija Knavs but she found fame as a model under the name Melania Knauss.
What did she do in her modelling career?
She began modelling at 16. Photographer Stane Jerko spotted her as a 17-year-old in Ljubljana as he left a fashion show, and invited her for a trial photoshoot.
Her shoot with acclaimed Jerko catapulted her into the spotlight, leading to a contract with Italian model agency ID in Milan aged 18, and went on to work in Paris too.
She graced the world’s catwalks and magazines, appeared naked on the front of British GQ magazine, in a shoot on Trump’s customised Boeing 727 featuring Melania wearing handcuffs, wielding diamonds, and holding a chrome pistol. She also appeared in the 2000 swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated.
She has said: “My mom was in the fashion business. I was five years old when I did my first catwalk and did commercials at 16. I went professional after my studies. My mum loved fashion. We loved to travel and go to Italy and Paris.”
Melania now runs a jewellery business, selling her products on shopping channel QVC. She has joked that after looking after her son and running her business, her husband is her third job.
And in April she said she would stick to a natural look and grow old gracefully.
She told GQ: “A lot of people say I am using all the procedures for my face. I didn’t do anything. I live a healthy life, I take care of my skin and my body. I’m against Botox, I’m against injections; I think it’s damaging your face, damaging your nerves. It’s all me. I will age gracefully, as my mom does.”
How did she end up in America?
She continued to educate herself as she worked across Europe, becoming fluent in English, French and Serbo-Croat. She then went to New York in 1996 when ID Models founder Paolo Zampolli got her a contract and a visa. She reportedly arrived in the US on an H-1B visa which, through a quirk in immigration law, admits models as highly skilled workers alongside scientists and computer programmers.
Trump is a fierce critic of the scheme and has vowed to rail against the “rampant, widespread H-1B abuse”.
He said in March: “These are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay.”
She obtained her green card in 2001 before becoming a citizen five years later.
How did she meet Donald Trump?
Melania was 28 when she met Trump in 1998 at a party thrown by Zampolli at the Kit Kat Club in Manhattan.
Trump was there with Norwegian cosmetics heiress Celina Midelfart but made a beeline for Melania and asked for her number. But, because he had a date, she refused to give it to him – and instead asked the billionaire for his.
She said later: “If I give him my number, I’m just one of the women he calls.
“I wanted to see what his intention is.
“It tells you a lot from the man what kind of number he gives you. He gave me all of his numbers.”
She played it cool, waiting a week before calling and they began seeing each other, only to break up for a few months when Trump toyed with the idea of running for US President in 2000 as a member of the Reform Party. In 2000 Melania also gave a rare joint interview with Donald to Howard Stern, telling the shock jock: “We have incredible sex at least once a day.” Trump then boasted about how hot Melania looked in “a very small thong”.
Married twice before, Trump proposed at the glitzy Costume Institute Gala in New York and they married January 2005 at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida.
The bride wore a £140,000 dress made by British designer John Galliano, partying the night away at her new husband’s palatial Mar-a-Lago estate.
The reception was attended by presidential rival Hillary Clinton and her former President husband Bill.
Other A-list guests included model Heidi Klum, rapper P Diddy and Simon Cowell – all serenaded by Billy Joel singing Just the Way You Are.
She told Larry King during a 2005 interview: “To marry a man like Donald, you need to know who you are. You need to be very strong and smart.”
Do they have children?
Melania gave birth to the couple’s only child, Barron William Trump in 2006.
As an infant, Barron reportedly had his own floor of the Trumps’ apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan, but often slept in a cot in his parents’ bedroom. He is said to like wearing a suit and tie, and Melania’s nickname for him is “Mini-Donald”.
He is fluent in Slovenian – Melania’s parents moved to America and live near the family in Trump Tower.
Melania is also stepmother to Donald Jr, 38, Ivanka, 34, Eric, 32, from Trump’s first marriage to Ivana, and Tiffany, 22, from his marriage to Marla Maples.
What is Melania like?
In 2000 when Trump considered a run for office, Melania was asked what kind of role she would play if he ever became commander-in-chief.
“I would be very traditional like Betty Ford or Jackie Kennedy,” she replied.
US political commentator Stephen Fisher told the Mirror: “Melania would make an exceptional First Lady.
“They say never to judge a book – or perhaps in her case, a magazine – by its cover, and nothing could be more true about her.
“She is refined, highly educated, carries herself with incredible dignity, and her beauty is not just skin deep. Unlike her husband, she is a model New Yorker… quite liberal.”
What happened with her Republican convention speech?
Speaking at the first day of the Republican Convention which marked a new phase in her husband’s campaign to be President, Melania painted Trump as a talented, compassionate and unrelenting leader who would unify rather than divide the country if elected as president.
But following her moment in the spotlight, social media commenters were quick to note the striking similarities between her words and those of Michelle Obama’s from the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
The two speeches, ironically on the importance of hard work, use the same phrasing “work hard for what you want in life,” “your word is your bond” and “we want our children in this nation…to know the limits of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”
When asked about the speech during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Melania Trump said, ” I wrote it…with as little help as possible.”
Is she on Twitter?
Yes, and Facebook and Instagram – but she is leaving Snapchat to other members of the Trump clan for the moment.
Follow her on the campaign trail at @MELANIATRUMP (yes, it is all capital letters) on Twitter, although she is far from a prolific tweeter, and @MelaniaTrump on Facebook, where the posts are also somewhat sporadic. Her Instagram account,realmelaniatrump, is the newest and started in February.