What Was Melania Trump’s Life Like Before Marrying Donald Trump?

Donald and Melania Trump | Win McNamee/Getty Images

Before Melania Trump ever met Donald Trump, she was living a completely different life. She was born as Melanija Knavs on Apr. 26, 1970, but her name was later westernized to Melania Knauss. However, after she became a married woman in 2005, she took on a new last name: Trump.

Though she met her future husband while living in New York, Trump grew up in the communist nation of Novo Mesto, Slovenia. She was raised alongside a younger sister, but later discovered she had a half-brother on her father’s side, as well.

Overall, Trump’s life was pretty mysterious before she became the wife of a famous businessman. Here’s everything we know about what her life was like before becoming Mrs. Trump.

She started modeling at 16 years old

Long before her days as the first lady, Trump had her own successful career as a model. She got started at just 16 years old, after being discovered by Slovenian photographer Stane Jerko. Trump was simply sitting on a fence waiting for a friend outside of a fashion show, when the photographer couldn’t help but notice her beauty.

“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.”

She dropped out of college to model

When Trump’s modeling career came calling, she decided to put a halt on her college education. She enrolled at the University of Ljubljana, which is located in Slovenia. Her major was in design and architecture, but once she signed with a modeling agency at 18, she dropped out.

It wasn’t until she was 22 that she had her big break. She competed in a “Look of the Year” contest for Jana, a Slovenian women’s magazine — and she was crowned the runner-up. Even if she didn’t win, she caught the attention of photographers who wanted to work with her.

Melania Trump

Melania Trump | Scott Gries/Getty Images

She learned how to speak five languages

Just because Trump dropped out of college doesn’t mean she didn’t have the opportunity to learn. She reportedly speaks five languages: Slovene, English, German, Serbian, and French.

Her career peaked in the ‘90s

Trump ended up working with some big names in the ‘90s, officially making her a successful model. From 1992 to 1996, she modeled in Milan and Paris. She worked with well-known photographers, such as Helmut Newton and Patrick Demarchelier, even landing on covers of Harper’s Bazaar in Bulgaria and Italy’s Vanity Fair.

By 1996, she made her move to New York — where she would meet her future husband, Donald Trump, two years later.

Donald and Melania Trump

Donald and Melania Trump | Mark Mainz/Getty Images

She always lived a private life

Trump is often criticized for leading such a private life as the first lady. However, her privacy is something she’s always valued. In a 2005 New York Post interview, ID Models president Paolo Zampolli recalled what Trump was like before meeting Donald.

“It was unusual for her to go out; she never went to clubs or bars,” Zampolli claimed. “She never dated anyone in New York before Donald. She only went to movies by herself and to the gym.”