How fashion brought Melania and Donald J. Trump together

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melania donald trump 1998
Melania Trump (then Melania Knaus) and Donald Trump on a date in 1998, pictured at a Playboy 45th anniversary party with Playmate Jaime Bergman (Photo: Getty Images)

Since becoming the nation’s newest first lady, Melania Trump has undergone a remarkable amount of scrutiny. There are fashion designers opining on whether they will dress her. Insiders are leaking details about how “miserable” she is in her new role. And others are calculating how much it’s costing the American taxpayer to support her living in Trump Tower. The latest spotlight for the former model from Slovenia comes in the form of a new CNN special, “Melania Trump: The Making of a First Lady,” which focuses on how she is now “settling in” as first lady. She emerges, the CNN production concludes, as “one of the most compelling figures of the Trump administration.”

As the CNN special details her early years in the U.S., some special attention is paid to how she and the future 45th president of the United States actually met — and how big of a role fashion played in their initial encounter.

Melania Trump details their first meeting in the special: “We met at a fashion party … a big fashion party that my friend organized in Fashion Week, and he invited me. That’s how we met, me and Donald.” The party was at the Kit Kat Klub in September 1998. In the special, Donald Trump also chimes in on his recollection of the encounter: “I was actually supposed to meet someone else … this great supermodel.” But Trump wasn’t interested in his initial date. “I said, ‘Forget about her,’” recalls Trump, “Who’s the one on the left?’” — indicating his future wife.

Stories like this, delving into the history and complexity of Melania Trump, are seemingly taking over from the more scandalous headlines, like her battle with the Daily Mail newspaper over allegations of working as a high-end escort in the 1990s. In fact, the timing of the CNN special seems appropriate, since recent polls are revealing a growing favorable view of the first lady in the public eye. The poll, conducted by CNN, revealed that “52 percent of Americans now have a favorable impression of the first lady; one year ago, that number was a 26 percent.”

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