The mysterious life of Melania Trump, a former supermodel who is the subject of fashion scandals and bizarre conspiracy theories

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Michelle Obama and Melania Trump at President Donald Trump's Inauguration.Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP
  • Melania Trump broke from first lady tradition in many ways. 

  • As a former lingerie model and an immigrant, she's very different from most modern first ladies. 

  • While Trump has the support of many loyal fans, her time as first lady was filled with controversy.

Melania Trump was a first lady unlike any other.

She was the only first lady in almost 200 years to be born outside the US, and the only first lady whose native language isn't English. Trump was also the first first lady to be a former lingerie model.

Her actions as the first lady of the US similarly broke from tradition, winning over loyal fans and sparking questions from conspiracy theorists. Trump also became known for her fashion choices, with fans applauding her designer outfits and critics slamming her expensive tastes.

On Friday, April 26, she is celebrating her 54th birthday.

Here's what we know about the mysterious former first lady — and the conspiracies and controversies that dogged her during Donald Trump's presidency and beyond.

Melania Trump was born in Slovenia in 1970, making her the only first lady to have been born outside the US.

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Ljubljana, Slovenia, the birthplace of Melania Trump.AP Photo/Darko Bandic

The other first lady born outside the US was Louisa Catherine Johnson, the wife of John Quincy Adams. She was born in England, though her father was an American merchant.

She started modeling in the late '80s and moved to New York City to pursue a career in 1996.

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Slovenian retired fashion photographer Stane Jerko looks at a photo of Melanija Knavs, now known as Melania Trump, from their first photo session.AP Photo/Darko Bandic

While modeling in Europe, Trump reportedly learned to speak six languages, making her the most linguistically gifted first lady in American history, CNN reported.

At a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in 2023, she recalled navigating a "labyrinth" of paperwork to become a US citizen.

Once she moved to New York, friends say that Trump avoided parties, choosing instead to exercise, go to bed early, and eat healthily.

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Melania Trump in her modeling days.Mark Mainz/Getty Images

Inside Edition reported that she consumes seven pieces of fruit a day.

She met Donald Trump at a party in 1998, which he attended with another date.

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Donald Trump and Melania Trump in 2003.Peter Morgan/Reuters

She refused to give Donald Trump her number at first, but later asked for his and ended up calling him a few days later.

The couple married in 2005 at a star-studded wedding.

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Melania Trump on her wedding day.Gary I Rothstein/Reuters

Guests included Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, Kelly Ripa, Barbara Walters, Rudy Giuliani, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Trump's wedding dress was a satin Christian Dior gown that featured 1,500 crystal rhinestones and pearls.

Barron, their son, was born in 2006.

Donald Trump holds a replica of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as his wife Melania holds their son Barron in Los Angeles, January 16, 2007
Donald Trump holds a replica of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame beside Barron and Melania in Los Angeles in 2007.Chris Pizzello/Reuters

While the Trumps have staff to help with cooking and housework, Trump told People magazine in 2018 that she's a "hands-on" mom who didn't hire a traditional nanny. Page Six reported that the Trumps did, in fact, have a live-in nanny.

When Donald Trump began his presidential run, Melania Trump was happy to stay in the background, but she wasn't immune to scandal.

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Melania Trump addresses the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image

Her first major political scandal took place when she appeared to copy parts of her 2016 Republican National Convention speech from a speech Michelle Obama had given at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The scandal didn't slow down the Trump campaign. Melania Trump officially became the first lady of the United States in January 2017.

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The Trump family.Christopher Gregory/Getty Images

Melania Trump and Barron, however, did not immediately move to the White House, staying in New York City until the end of Barron's school year. It was a pricey decision, with security costing roughly $27 million.

When the first lady and the president were together, people had a lot to say about their body language.

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President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel.REUTERS/Amir Cohen

During a trip to Israel in May 2017 — Donald Trump's first trip abroad since taking office — much was made of the body language between the pair when Trump appeared to swat her husband's hand away.

In May 2017, Trump faced her first true scandal as first lady when she wore a $51,500 Dolce & Gabbana jacket at the annual G-7 summit in Catania, Italy.

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Melania Trump in 2017.Domenico Stinellis/AP

Critics slammed her for wearing an outfit that cost more than most Americans earn in a year.

Following the incident, Trump toned down the pricey clothing.

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Melania Trump in the White House garden.ASSOCIATED PRESS

She still wore a $1,380 Balmain shirt to pick vegetables in the White House vegetable garden started by Michelle Obama.

She is not the only first lady to select designer outfits, however.

In June 2017, soon after Trump and Barron finally moved into the White House, her parents came to visit.

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Melania Trump's parents.Getty/Pool

Many were struck by how much her father, Viktor Knavs, looked like Donald Trump.

Melania faced another fashion scandal in August 2017 when she was spotted wearing sky-high stilettos heading to an area devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

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President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump leave the White House to survey damage from Hurricane Harvey.AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Trump changed into the more sensible footwear — Timberland work boots — on the plane.

Donald Trump defended his wife from critics, saying that she had dressed up "out of respect for the White House" and added that she "wants to look good leaving the front entrance."

She also faced drama outside of fashion when Ivana Trump, the president's first wife, called herself the real first lady in October 2017.

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Ivanka Trump and Ivana Trump.Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Trump's spokeswoman called Ivana's comments "attention-seeking and self-serving noise."

Perhaps the strangest thing to happen to Trump in her first year as first lady was the rise of a bizarre conspiracy theory that she has a body double.

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Melania Trump is followed by a Secret Service agent.AP Images

The conspiracy theory was based on little evidence other than one bad photo of Trump and the fact that she had a Secret Service agent who looked strikingly similar to her in some photos.

Trump didn't immediately take on any major political stances as first lady, but she started quietly taking action on a handful of issues by 2018.

Melania Trump meets children in Japan.
Melania Trump meets children in Japan.Pool/Reuters

Her initiatives included speeches to address bullying and solo trips to speak with those affected by the opioid crisis.

Trump took a major step when she embarked on her first solo international trip in October 2018.

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Melania Trump walks with singing children as she visits an orphanage in Kenya.Carolyn Kaster/AP

The first lady spent the five-day, four-country tour in Africa exploring programs dedicated to childhood well-being.

The trip was also significant considering it came after Donald Trump had spoken about the continent in vulgar and inaccurate terms.

Over the course of the holidays and through other official duties that came with the Trumps' third year in the White House, Melania Trump established herself as a key figure in the raucous administration.

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First lady Melania Trump waves to guests during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.Andrew Harnik/AP

Along the way, she became the most popular Trump in the White House. A February 2019 Fox News poll had the first lady earning a 47% approval rating after two years in the White House, compared to the president's 43%.

The first lady was the subject of a biography published in December 2019 called "Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography," by CNN's Kate Bennett.

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Melania Trump celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at the White House.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

The book detailed little-known details about Trump's fashion, strategy, and life inside the White House, including the fact that she reportedly lived on a separate floor of the residence from her husband.

The year 2020 brought new opportunities for the first lady to appear at the head of the administration, including a trip to India.

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President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump in India.MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Trump also made occasional appearances throughout the coronavirus pandemic, either in front of socially distanced reporters or through video messages.

After her husband lost to Joe Biden in the 2020 election, she notably stayed out of the spotlight.

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Former President Donald Trump, right, stands with Melania Trump as they arrive for a GOP fundraiser.AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

The New York Times reported in July 2023 that Trump had repeatedly refused her husband's offers to join him at campaign events, though she continued to support him behind the scenes.

Donald Trump told "Meet the Press" moderator Kristen Welker in September that Trump is a "private person" and that he likes to keep her away from campaigning because "it's so nasty and so mean."

Trump appeared to distance herself from Donald Trump's subsequent 2024 reelection campaign until April 2024, when she spoke at a Log Cabin Republicans event.

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