She famously doesn’t like holding hands with the Potus. She fastidiously maintains strict physical distance between them during their rare public appearances. She avoids eye contact by donning designer shades and towers over her entourage in her signature sky-high stilettos. And when she deems to work her facial muscles, her steely eyes and frosty smile could give even Frozen’s Elsa a complex.
Much before the pandemic saw the world retreat into a cocoon, Melania Trump had already barricaded herself in an icy tower. So sitting out this Covid-19 from the comfort of the White House must be duck soup for her.
But her current rigid social distancing measures from Donald Trump must surely be frustrating for his campaign managers, as mere days remain for the 2020 US presidential elections. The fact that she still hasn’t reached out publicly to hold the hands of the most powerful man in the world, doesn’t bode well.
First Ladies have historically taken on significant roles, chief among them being to endorse their better halves as relatable, trustworthy men in positions of power. Her predecessor, Michelle Obama, had a personality that matched her equally popular husband. Hillary Clinton grinned and bore it even when she probably knew her husband was up to no good in the Oval Office. But it was perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt who was the most influential wife to occupy the White House, exerting considerable sway over her husband’s policies.
On Tuesday when Melania finally hit the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, her first solo 2020 engagement, all eyes were on her. And she didn’t disappoint as she stressed she may not “always agree” with Trump’s tweets, but he was “a fighter” — the speech might have seemed tutored but she’d at least relented enough to stand up for the man she’s been married to for over 15 years now.
It was all the more significant considering she had earlier cancelled an electoral appearance citing a ‘lingering cough’ following her recovery from Covid-19.
The First Lady’s turn at the White House lawn a few days back — the Trumps’ first joint appearance post the Covid diagnosis — had fanned the ‘Fake Melania’ conspiracy theory that has been doing the rounds ever since the business magnate took over the most sought-after residential complex in Washington. If the Trump administration had really invested in a stand-in for the First Lady, they surely would have utilised her better to shine up her husband’s personality?
Never has the American public perhaps been the recipient of someone so unwilling to engage with them. “She does what she wants, when she wants ... She can be a contrarian,” a former White House staffer is quoted as telling CNN.
Basically Melania is a woman who likes to play by her own playbook; Claire Underwood could have surely learnt a thing or two from her.
Melania is famously known for not letting her feelings show in public — the exception being when she wore that jacket inscribed with ‘I really don’t care. Do U?’ during a trip to meet immigrant kids separated by the Trump administration from their parents. When you have a husband who is known to over share especially on public platforms like Twitter, this is, of course, on par.
In her tell-all book, Melania & Me, based on secretly recorded conversations with the First Lady, her former friend and associate Stephanie Winston Wolkoff reveals that Donald Trump’s third wife can be explicit with a no-nonsense approach to being branded through media trials and a nation bent on harpooning everything she says and does.
Men, I’ve noticed, love women they presume they can read at first glance and dissect and pigeonhole to suit their own airy narrative. Much of Melania’s mystique lies in the fact she doesn’t let anyone in — and that’s a trait men are uncomfortable with. She doesn’t turn on the charm when it suits others and she doesn’t play to the gallery unlike previous Flotus. I believe there’s nothing more potent than a woman who refuses to wear her heart on her sleeve. —firstname.lastname@example.org
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