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Should we pity Melania Trump?

A first lady's position is a precarious one

12 November 2016

9:00 AM

12 November 2016

9:00 AM

It was a race between the first dude — Bill — and the first nude — Melania. And in the end, the first nude won, appearing next to her husband in the early hours wearing a white jumpsuit straight out of Charlie’s Angels. It may seem unfair to judge Mrs Trump so early on, but judged she will be. She awaits her turn, just as Hillary Clinton once did.

How will she fare? Well, liberal American voters will want targets, and she looks like one. People are already making jokes about Michelle Obama writing Melania’s first speech, to save her the trouble of plagiarising again.

There is so much for her to live up to. She must be as elegant as Jacqueline Kennedy; as eloquent as Mrs Obama; as astute as Nancy Reagan; as political as Hillary Clinton. For an immigrant from a former Eastern Bloc country whose strongly accented English is far from perfect, who has naked photos of herself plastered all over the internet, whose face looks too obviously gummed together, and who only received her green card in 2001, it’s a tall order.


Above all, Melania must stand up to the scrutiny of America’s women as they come to terms with the reality of a president who thinks sexual assault is by-the-by and who apparently fancies his own daughter. ‘I like him the way he is,’ Melania says.

Perhaps the sisterhood will be kind; but it is more likely that she’ll be made into either a victim or an apologist. The newspapers will spend their time dredging up old stories about her. And she will never be able to escape the ghost of Hillary, the woman who almost became the first female president.

Her life will be part fairytale, part gothic horror. She will pout and parade around in the designs of the day. The new president will see to it that he ‘hangs his brand’ on her coltish frame. She will meet the Queen, greet foreign dignitaries, host parties in the presidential ballroom (which her husband has said he will redesign for her). She will become even more of a sex object. She will be compared to Ivanka, her stepdaughter and the ‘de facto’ first lady, as Vanity Fair put it. She will be at the president’s side when matters of war and peace are decided. Will she be able to offer any counsel?

But perhaps she can make a virtue of her weak position. The opportunity to win over America lies ahead. Many will never forgive Trump, but they may forgive her. She is an immigrant, after all. She speaks five languages. And unlike her husband, she really did start from the bottom, living in a concrete tower block in a socialist republic. Underneath that strange, frozen face lies vulnerability. While many will ogle those photos, plenty will sympathise too.

People scoffed when she said she wanted to campaign against cyber-bullying if she were to become first lady. After all, hasn’t Trump just unleashed a new era of hate? ‘Our culture has gotten too mean,’ she said. ‘It is too mean and too rough.’

There’s truth in that. America could do with some kindness. If the new first lady is prepared to offer it, as a foil to her husband, she may make it through the next four years better than he does.


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