This Is Everything We Know About Melania’s Modeling Career

Long before she ever imagined she’d become first lady of the United States, Melania Trump was just another beautiful girl trying to make it in the modeling world.

Melania isn’t the first style icon presidential wife and she’s also not the only one with stunning good looks. But her specific combination of style, beauty, foreign roots, and reserved demeanor all help to make the current FLOTUS one-of-a-kind. So where did she come from, and how has modeling helped shape who she is today? Read on to find out.

Fashion runs in the family

Melania trump mother

Melania’s parents with her son, Barron. | Melania Trump via Facebook

Melania hails from a small town in Slovenia and says she always had an interest in fashion and modeling. Born Melanjia Knavs, she claims that she used to knit sweaters herself. Her father Viktor Knavs was a car dealer and her mother, Amalija, was a children’s clothing designer.

As Melania told People in 2016, “I always loved fashion. My mother was a fashion designer so it was always in my blood.”

Next: Her career started early.

She’s been modeling since a young age

Melania trump modeling sand

Melania Trump modeling | Melania Trump via Facebook

Melania began working as a model at the tender age of 16. She got signed by an agency in Milan at the age of 18, but it wasn’t until she turned 22 that she got her big break. Melania was runner-up in the Slovenian women’s magazine Jana’s “Look of the Year” contest.

Next: This person helped make her famous.

A photographer helped launch her career

Melania Trump modeling

Melania Trump modeling | Melania Trump via Facebook

Professional photographer Stane Jerko is credited with discovering Melania while she was waiting for a friend to finish walking in a fashion show.

“It was January 1987 when I went home just before the end of the fashion show,” Jerko told TODAY. “On the stairs of the Festival Hall, I saw a girl that immediately caught my eye. There stood a tall, slender and attractive long-haired girl with distinct eyes.”

Next: She was instantly good at this.

Melania was a natural

Melania trump modeling whale

Melania Trump modeling | Melania Trump via Facebook

Jerko reports that even Melania’s very first photo shoots, during which she brought her own outfits, were incredibly promising. Even though she was reserved and quiet, she became comfortable in front of the camera very quickly. She seemed to love modeling and displayed enthusiasm for learning how it all worked.

Next: This is how she made her career.

She made a full-time career as a model

Melania Trump Modeling

Melania Trump at a photo shoot | Melania Trump via Twitter

Melania dropped out of the University of Ljubljana in her native Slovenia where she was studying design and architecture. She focused her efforts on becoming a professional model instead.

Melania worked with well-known photographers like Patrick Demarchelier and Helmut Newton and appeared on the covers of Harper’s Bazaar in Bulgaria and Vanity Fair in Italy. She even posed nude in GQ magazine in 2000.

Next: Everything changed when she met this person.

She met Donald Trump in 1996

Donald Trump and then-girlfriend Melania Knauss, 2002.

Donald Trump and then-girlfriend Melania Knauss | Matt Campbell/AFP/Getty Images

Indirectly, Melania’s modeling career helped her meet the man who would later become her husband — and then president of the United States. She met Donald Trump in 1996 at a party after years spent working as a model in Milan and Paris. The pair wed in 2005.

Next: This proves that she’ll always be a model at heart.

Her White House portrait recalls her modeling past

Melania Trump Portrait

Official portrait of Melania Trump | The White House via Getty Images

Most first lady White House portraits have a certain look to them, but Melania’s head-on image where she’s staring directly at the camera is slightly different from any in the recent past. Everything from the pose to her expression makes it obvious that she’s comfortable in front of the camera.

Next: She could still become a style icon despite this one thing.

Her fashion choices aren’t selling

Melania Trump G7 Summit

US First Lady Melania Trump arrives for a visit at the Chierici Palace City Hall of Catania | Giovanni Isolino/AFP/Getty Images

Anytime Kate Middleton wears something, it sells out. In Melania’s case, the public is a little less likely to try to copy her looks. She curates her own wardrobe with the help of designer Hervé Pierre.

It may be because a lot of her clothing is super expensive (hello, $51,000 3D floral coat) and therefore inaccessible to most budgets. Still, it’s apparent that the first lady has the experience to become a true style icon.

Read more: Fascinating Facts About How Melania Trump Made Her Money

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