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When she stepped off Air Force One for the last time in January 2021, Melania Trump seemed to be sending a clear message to the world that she was planning to leave the spotlight for good.
Dressed in dark sunglasses and a striking printed Gucci dress, the former First Lady refused to stop and pose for cameras upon arrival at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
Instead, she walked away from the paparazzi with barely a glance, leaving husband former President Donald Trump to stand and wave for pictures.
Former model Melania never made it a secret that she was uncomfortable being in the public glare as FLOTUS. She notably stayed in New York with her son Barron, 15, for several months after her husband started his one-term presidency in 2017.
Now, free from scrutiny, she has kept an incredibly low profile over 2021, only appearing in public on a handful of occasions.
The first time was in mid-February when she posed with a fan for a photo at Mar-a-Lago. She was snapped in a £3,000 black Dolce and Gabbana dress decorated with daisies. Smiling for the camera, she looked relaxed and happy.
Her mood seemed in contrast to the statement that her newly-created office had shared days earlier, hitting out at claims made by CNN that she was ‘bitter and chilly’ with Donald over their White House departure after the riots in Washington.
CNN also alleged that she was jealous of the positive attention given to her successor, Joe Biden’s wife, Jill.
"Mrs Trump is no longer First Lady," it said. "She is a private citizen, mother and wife. Sources in this article are not affiliated with her nor have insight into her thoughts or daily life."
At the end of March, the Trumps launched a website – 45office.com – to serve their personal offices. But amid rumours that she was spending all her time ‘having spa treatments and eating healthy fish lunches’, it wasn’t until April that Melania appeared to be easing her way back into public life.
Attending a high-profile GOP fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, she wore a £1400 Giambattista Vali figure-hugging white dress and was welcomed with applause as she walked behind her husband.
Days later, she made a joint statement with Donald to express their condolences to the Queen following the death of her husband Prince Philip.
President Trump and I extend our deepest condolences to Her Majesty the Queen, the Royal Family, and the people of Great Britain as the world mourns the loss of Prince Philip.
— MELANIA TRUMP (@MELANIATRUMP) April 9, 2021
On April 14, she was spotted enjoying dinner with her husband at a private roped-off table at Mar-a-Lago. At least two former aides had speculated that the Trumps’ marriage was in trouble and that Melania could soon file for divorce. But this dinner seemed to put a stop to those rumours.
Two weeks later – on April 26 – Melania turned 51 and while she made no announcement about her celebrations, she did tweet the day after to say: ‘Thank you to everyone for the wonderful birthday wishes!’
A series of retweets followed in May 2021 to celebrate the anniversary of her Be Best Initiative, which focuses on the emotional and physical wellbeing of children.
Melania was conspicuously absent from her husband’s 75th birthday celebrations in June and the next sighting of her was in early July in New York, prompting further rumours that the couple look set to separate. She was seen leaving the Trump Tower with son Barron, who now towers over both of his parents and is said to be 6ft 7inches tall.
Yet it wasn’t until August 8 that she made any further public comments. Only then it was to call historian Michael Beschloss ‘ignorant and dishonorable’ after he had criticised her redesign of the White House Rose Garden.
Again, weeks of silence followed.
But at the end of October, the Trumps appeared at a baseball match for the World Series. Melania did very little to suppress more rumours that all was not well in the marriage when she flashed a killer scowl when she turned away from her husband.
Watch: Melania Trump appears to frown at smiling husband
Yet this appearance also marked a more enthusiastic re-emergence into public life and perhaps it is no coincidence that her husband is hinting at running again for President.
On November 8 and 9, she shared a series of posts on Instagrams regarding Richard Grenell, former acting director of the United States National Intelligence, who supporting Melania's Spirit of Lincoln Award.
On November 11 she shared a tweet honouring America troops. Days later she revealed that she was presented with an award by a Republican Party organisation which advocates for equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans. And only days ago (15th Dec) she launched an NTF (non-fungible token) and said that ‘A portion of the proceeds will assist children aging out of the foster care system’.
She is said to be planning an auction in January with digital artwork, physical artwork and a physical accessory that is ‘one-of-a-kind’.
It seems that despite the former FLOTUS yearning for privacy, she might be willing to head back into the spotlight one more time.
Watch: Melania Trump launches NFT platform