Ivana Trump, the woman who turned Donald Trump into The Donald


Without Ivana there would be no The Donald. Donald Trump’s Czech-born first wife was the one who called him that, mistakenly putting an article in front of his first name as she struggled with English. Journalists took in its delicious pageantry and lingered.

But there could also be no Donald Trump if there weren’t Ivana Zelnickova Trump, whose death at the age of 73 was announced by her ex-husband on Thursday. Trump’s early rise to fame, as manifested in New York’s tabloid and glossy magazine culture of the greed-is-good era, was fueled as much by her flowery charisma as by his own heat-seeking swagger and ambition.

She was usually photographed in either society gala highlights or with “dynasty” caliber shoulder pads. She was an unrelentingly glamorous character, a hot-blooded blonde with a startling backstory as the rowdy fugitive who fled communist Czechoslovakia and rose to the high places of New York society.

Ivana Trump, Donald Trump’s first wife, has died at the age of 73

Unlike Trump’s successor wives, Ivana wasn’t shy or press-shy. Like him, she enjoyed the limelight and often spoke to reporters. Like him, she sometimes fed them leftovers and treats to spice up the Trump mystique.

Insinuatingly, she seemed to recognize the absurdity of her ZsaZsa-meets-Real-Housewife persona while playing it to the max. After the ugly and expensive separation, she formed herself into an avenging angel for rejected first wives. “Don’t be angry – get everything!” she advised her divorced. After Trump’s election, she said she stopped calling her ex at the White House to avoid upsetting Melania Trump. “Because I’m basically Trump’s first wife,” she laughed in an interview. “I’m First Lady, okay?”

It could have been a dig at Melania’s. Or maybe it was just Ivana making a cheeky pun. In any case, Melania wasn’t amused, “There’s clearly no substance to that statement from an ex,” her office replied stiffly. “Unfortunately, that’s just attention-grabbing and self-serving noise.”

Which might have been a feature, not a bug, for the standout New York power couple of the late 1980s.

As with a number of elements in Donald Trump’s story, it has often been difficult to analyze the truth of Ivana’s story. Her husband told reporters that Ivana had been a member of the Czechoslovak Olympic ski team (she wasn’t). He described her as a former top model in Canada (she wasn’t). Neither he nor she mentioned in their respective memoirs that she was married to anyone else when they started dating — a brief relationship apparently arranged to ease their immigration.

As she proved during and after her wedding, Ivana didn’t actually need the puffery. She’s actually done a lot of interesting things: ran businesses (including some of Trump’s hotels and casinos in Atlantic City), launched fashion and beauty lines, wrote an advice column (“Ask Ivana,” for the Globe tabloid), as well as written several pieces of fiction and nonfiction. One of them was her 2017 memoir, Raising Trump, about raising Trump’s first three children, Don Jr., Eric, and Ivanka.

2015 onwards: Why does everyone call Donald Trump “The Donald”? It’s an interesting story.

However, like so many who have come into contact with Trump over the decades, Ivana’s relationship with him ended bitterly, in the midst high-profile infidelity and explosive abuse allegations.

Their divorce after 15 years of marriage became a soap opera drama, chronicled in near-daily headlines in the New York Post and the Daily News, and already on the trail of Trump’s new romance with a younger model, Marla Maples, whom he married and later divorced.

At one point, Ivana gave a statement in her divorce proceedings accusing Trump of sexually assaulting her after an argument. She later softened the allegation in a statement for a 1993 book detailing the incident, The Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald Trump.

“During a statement I made in connection with my marriage, I stated that my husband raped me,” the statement said. “[O]In 1989, Mr. Trump and I once had a marital relationship in which he behaved very differently towards me than during our marriage. As a woman, I felt hurt because the love and tenderness he usually showed me was missing. I have referred to this as ‘rape,’ but I don’t want my words to be interpreted literally or criminally.”

Trump denied the incident and said it was a ploy to increase their divorce settlement.

There have also been allegations from Trump about Ivana’s management of some of his businesses, including his claims that she wildly overspent on the renovation of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Trump later said he regretted that his wife was involved in the deal.

By many reports, including their own, the couple mend their relationship over the years and spoke often. When she married her fourth husband in 2008, the wedding took place in Mar-a-Lago in the presence of Trump.

However, she played no visible role during Trump’s campaign and presidency — no campaign appearances, visits to the White House, or photo ops with their grandchildren. She claimed they had a cordial, even close, relationship when he was president. They discussed politics, the media and their children, she said.

She also said Trump should face the reality of the 2020 election: “I don’t think he has a choice,” she told People magazine at the time. “He has to go and explain that he lost.”

But after knowing Donald Trump for almost a lifetime, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy. “He hates being a loser,” she said. “I’m sure.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/07/15/ivana-trump-created-donald-trump-the-donald/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_lifestyle Ivana Trump, the woman who turned Donald Trump into The Donald

Chris Estrada

Chris Estrada is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Chris Estrada joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: chrisestrada@24ssports.com.

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