Inside the Complicated Relationship Between Ivanka and Melania Trump

Regardless of your view on their influence, Ivanka and Melania Trump are two of the most talked-about women in politics. The two prominent women in President Donald Trump’s life have been compared regarding their parenting, political advocacy, and careers, but rarely in terms of their relationship to one another.

So what is their relationship really like? We unpack all the details we know about Melania and Ivanka that we know so far, including what Ivanka really thinks about her stepmother (page 7).

They’re Trump’s leading ladies

Donald Trump hugging Melania Trump.

You’ll often see Donald with Ivanka or Melania by his side. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Melania and Ivanka both contributed to Donald’s campaign, act as political advisers to the president, and champion their own causes. Ready or not, Melania assumed the role of the first lady and completed many of the duties typical of the position in her first year. Ivanka became an official federal employee, sat in on summits for Donald, and lobbied the tax code on the Republican tax reform bill.

However, the two women are usually referenced in terms of their relationship to Donald, never to each other. We know they’re working side-by-side in the White House, but how well do they work together?

Next: Here’s what we know about Ivanka and Melania.

They have an 11-year age difference

Donald standing with Ivanka and Melania.

They aren’t that far apart, age-wise. | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Donald and Melania have a 24-year age gap, while Melania and Ivanka are only 11 years apart at 47 and 36, respectively. Both are balancing raising young children with government duties and their own personal causes as first lady and first daughter. The two have a lot in common and are both arguably the most talked-about women in Donald Trump’s life.

So, what do they think of one another?

Next: Here’s how Melania refers to her relationship with Ivanka.

Melania thinks of herself as Ivanka’s friend

Melania Trump sits at a table.

She plays a role in their lives. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Melania revealed a glimpse of how she views her relationship with her stepchildren to Harper’s Bazaar in 2016. “They are grown-up, I don’t see myself as their mother,” she said, “I am their friend, and I’m here when they need me.”

Ivanka thanked Melania for her “support and friendship” in her most recent book, Women Who Work. She also said the first lady had a “heart of gold,” so there is solid evidence that the two are on good terms.

Next: Friends? Not so fast.

They’ve experienced their fair share of tension

Melania Trump, Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump posing together.

Have they always been on good terms? | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for IMG

According to Vanity Fair, two sources close to Ivanka and Melania in the fashion and media industries “observed a frostiness between the two.” No one elaborated on what could have caused the tension between the two.

Some speculated Ivanka “playing the first lady” during Melania’s absence from the White House could have caused the aforementioned frostiness, while others called Ivanka’s role in the White House a clear obligation.

Next: Melania and Ivanka both wish Donald would do this.

They both wish Donald would act more ‘presidential’

Scowling Melania during the inauguration

Scowling Melania during the inauguration. | Alex Wong/AFP/Getty Images

“There’s definitely times when I was younger,” Ivanka said on The Oprah Winfrey Show, “I was going, ‘Did you have to say that, Dad?'” We doubt Ivanka is alone in this feeling.

Both Ivanka and Melania have expressed their desire for Trump to act more “presidential.” In the past, Melania has expressed that she wishes he would tone it down with tweeting, and explained that he has a hard time controlling himself when he feels attacked.

She told Fox News, “He has great nights and he can be presidential, but sometimes he just like, he cannot stand that somebody attacks him. Because if somebody attacks him he will punch back 10 times harder.”

Next: Melania and Ivanka’s relationship gets labeled as “fine.”

 ‘Their relationship is fine’

Melania and Ivanka Trump at a debate.

They seem to be on good terms. | Rick Wilking/AFP/Getty Images

Another source told Vanity Fair their relationship is “fine.” Melania’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, vouched that “Ivanka and Mrs. Trump have always shared a close relationship, and that continues today.” While we don’t have extensive evidence of the statement, a 2012 Huffington Post blog offered similar insight.

Nicole Bryl, Melania’s former make-up artist, wrote: “All the Trump’s are quite family dedicated actually, they are a seriously close-knit family.”

Next: Here’s what Ivanka has to say about their relationship.

Ivanka has called Melania an ‘inspiration’

Ivanka Trump smiling and clapping her hands.

She looks up to Melania. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Ivanka called Melania “an unbelievable mother,” and offered her praise for the first lady’s ability to balance parenting and politics. “It’s pretty uncommon for wives of candidates to not be on the campaign trail every day. And she made a decision I totally respect … My father’s traveling so frequently, and she is an unbelievably consistent, loving and reliable figure in Barron’s life,” Ivanka told People.

“She takes [Barron] to school every day, picks him up every day. It’s a really remarkable thing and she’s a great inspiration to me as I raise my own children in terms of family first and having the right priorities.”

Next: Here’s the real scoop on their relationship.

It’s probably … complicated

Ivanka Trump standing with Melania Trump.

Things might not always be easy. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Every mother-daughter relationship is multifaceted — sometimes great, sometimes horrible. Factor in two ex-wives, stepchildren, a divisive political climate, and throw it all into the White House, and complicated probably doesn’t even begin to cover it.

We can analyze the official and candid photographs of the two, dissect their every interaction, and keep hoping for a tell-all interview. But, for the time being, “complicated” may be as good an explanation as we can get.

Additional reporting by Eric McWhinnie.

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