Friends and Family Reveal What Melania Trump Was Really Like Growing Up

Melania Trump may strike some as a reluctant first lady, known for her reserved nature and being in and out of the spotlight. The wife of President Donald Trump has made her White House mission combating bullying and drug abuse among young people; she will surelymake her mark for those efforts. On a personal level, not much is known about the elusive former model.

Here we’ll highlight what Melania was like while growing up and as a young model. See how she learned to speak six languages (page 4) and what the secret baptism rumors are all about (page 7).

1. Her hometown was ‘too small for her’

Sevnica, Slovenia

Her hometown was very small. | iStock.comJimmyLung

The first lady was born Melanija Knavs in 1970 in a river town near Sevnica, Slovenia, which was then part of communist Yugoslavia. She had big aspirations from the start to be a fashion designer, childhood friend Mirjana Jelancic recalls. “But I always had a feeling that Sevnica … would be too small for her.”

Next: A childhood interest led to a career move.

2. As a school girl, she enjoyed geography and art

Melania Trump in 1977

Melania Trump (2nd R) modeling in 1977.| STR/AFP/Getty Images

At her elementary school down the block from her home, Melania enjoyed geography and art lessons, friends say. In art classes, she made bracelets. (Decades later, she went on to create a jewelry line sold on QVC.) She wrapped her books in magazine perfume ads and wore knitted sweaters.

In those days, Melania and her friends knitted gloves, sweaters, and leg warmers and enjoyed perusing fashion magazines. “She was always very sophisticated, extremely well brought up in a very traditional way,” recalled childhood friend Jelancic. “In that respect she was different from us.”

Next: Her first photographer recalls her early modeling days.

3. She was shy when she started modeling

Melania Trump as a model

She became comfortable as a model very quickly. | Diane Freed/Getty Images

Photographer Stane Jerko discovered Melania when she was a high school student in Ljubljana in 1987. He photographed the teen in her first fashion shots. “She was a bit shy, but she learned very quickly,” he said. “The second time she was very good, like a model.”

During the same timeframe, Melania’s high school friend Petra Sedej recalls hanging out in the now-first lady’s apartment after their design classes. “She was very funny, it wasn’t serious all the time,” she said. “We both liked fashion and design and we were both quiet girls. We didn’t like heavy partying or discotheques.”

Next: How she learned all those languages

4. She learned multiple languages when modeling

Melania trump modeling whale

Melania Trump modeling in the 1990s. | Melania Trump via Facebook

When Melania was 16, she began traveling around Europe for modeling gigs. Her time in Milan and Paris between 1992 and 1994 enabled her to learn Italian and French. She also speaks Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, English, and German. In a 2016 Fox News interview with Greta Van Susteren, she said, “I learned when I lived there. So, it was easier to communicate with me, and for me with other people.”

The first lady dusted off her French during a visit to a Paris children’s hospital in July 2017. In a red skirt suit, she greeted kids there with soft “bonjours” and introduced herself in French.

Next: How she changed after meeting Donald

5. From bookworm to cocktail parties

Donald Trump and Melania Knauss 2002 NBA Finals

She didn’t go out much until she started dating Trump. | Mark Mainz/Getty Images

In 1996, Melania made her way to the U.S. and worked as a model in New York. Rather than partying with her peers, she spent much of her spare time reading, exercising, and designing and sewing clothes for herself and friends. Her handiwork included a Molnar camel-hair coat, New York Post reported.

When she began dating Donald in 1998, she joined him regularly galas and cocktail parties. The couple also jetted frequently between New York City and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Next: Her fashions then and now

6. Her sense of style evolved

Melania Knauss at the Aida opening

Her style has come a long way from her modeling days. | Scott Gries/Getty Images

When Melania arrived in New York, she preferred cashmere sweaters and Joseph designer brand pants to glamorous cocktail gowns. After she met Donald, she hung up her slacks for furs, sequins, and thigh-baring dresses.

Fast forward to her White House years, and the first lady now prefers a more conservative, elegant wardrobe of Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, and Dolce & Gabbana skirts, dresses, and custom suits.

Next: What she has in common with Jackie Kennedy

7. Was she baptized a Catholic in secret?

Pope Francis and Pres. Trump

Melania is a practicing Catholic. | Evan Vucci/AFP/Getty Images

Melania was baptized Catholic in secret as a child, as atheist Slovenia officially banned the practicing of religion, according to Good Housekeeping. However, other news outlets have denied this claim.

Regardless, Melania’s spokeswoman confirmed she is a practicing Catholic. This makes her the first Catholic in the White House since the Kennedys. Her husband is a life-long Presbyterian, and they were married in a Florida Episcopal church. When the Trumps’ visited the Vatican in 2017, Pope Francis blessed a rosary for Melania.

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