Sunday 21 December 2014

The Trump card: Ivanka follows in her father's footsteps

She's the only daughter of the most infamous power couple of the 1980s, which may explain why this mother, businesswoman and wife guards her personal life so closely. Ivanka Trump tells Joanna Kiernan what it's like to grow up in the spotlight

Published 20/07/2014 | 02:30

Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump chats to Michael Noonan and Donald Junior
Ivanka follows her father Donald Trump down the steps of his 757.
Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner

When her father Donald Trump's private plane – a Boeing 757 emblazoned with his surname in gold lettering – landed in Shannon Airport in May, no one knew quite what to make of the furore.

There was a red carpet, musicians, that undeniable hairdo claiming victory over the wild Atlantic wind and a government minister to boot – so many things to distract us from the humble beauty, who strolled down the steps behind her father as he descended to a hero's welcome. Yet Ireland became immediately intrigued by Ivanka Trump.

And so we should be. As executive vice-president of the organisation's hotel development and acquisitions, the young Ms Trump is charged with the global expansion of the company's hotel portfolio, which is exactly what brought her and her father to Ireland, for a site visit to their newly acquired Doonbeg Hotel and Golf Club in Co Clare.

It is said Ivanka is involved in all decisions 'large and small', from the initial purchase to what wallpaper will go in the lobby.

"Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries I've visited," she recites with an air of subtle, but infectious enthusiasm. "The landscape is incredible and we are so thrilled to have the opportunity to visit more often now. My father and brothers and I are all deeply involved in every aspect of our various projects and Doonbeg is an incredible asset."

For decades, the 33 year old has expertly negotiated her position as the offspring of fame and fortune, managing, unlike many of her counterparts and despite all of the advantages she has had in life, to come across as down to earth, intelligent, hard-working and, dare I say it, quite normal.

"You can't divorce yourself from the way you grew up. I'm so thankful for my family and the opportunities that I've had as a result. No matter who you are or where you come from there is no substitute for hard work," Ivanka tells me from her New York office, in between meetings with her Trump Hotel collection team and the creative and marketing departments of her self-titled design label, which boasts fine jewellery, clothing, handbags, footwear, sunglasses and fragrance collections.

"As long as I can remember people have been approaching my parents to greet them," she adds. "That was my first exposure to the recognition that comes with the kind of success my parents have experienced. Like everything in life, fame has its advantages and disadvantages, but I prefer to live my life according to my priorities and goals and let my work speak for itself."

Indeed, nobody could accuse Ivanka of simply sitting back and dining out on the family name. While other young heiresses, such as the Hilton sisters, were partying their way through their twenties, Ivanka was attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her degree in economics, and simultaneously followed in her mother Ivana's footsteps by modelling for some of the fashion industry's biggest names.

"Overall it was a great experience," she says of her catwalk days. "I travelled, met interesting people and worked hard to prove to my family and peers that I could handle my academic and professional commitments. It was an early lesson in multi-tasking that has served me well."

Ivanka has had to work even harder to overcome certain perceptions people tend to have of her on account of who she is. "I find that many times when people meet with me they will be less prepared than they would be if they were meeting with my father," she muses. "I don't take it personally. Being underestimated can be a huge advantage."

In 2009 Ivanka married Jared Kushner, the owner of The New York Observer publishing group and son of wealthy real estate magnate Charles Kushner. The couple now have two children, Arabella Rose (3) and Joseph (9 months).

Ivanka's parents, Donald senior and Czech model Ivana Trump, divorced when she was just 10 years old. However, the pair continue to enjoy a close relationship both with each other, their children, Ivanka, Donald Jr (36) and Eric (28), and now as doting grandparents.

Ivanka considers motherhood as her most important and rewarding role to date. "I make an effort to be home before the kids go to sleep and then after we put them to bed I'll enjoy time with my husband before trying to clear my inbox, in an attempt to start the next day with a clean slate," she says. "I try not to put too much emphasis on balance because realistically it's very difficult to achieve.

"Being a mother gives each day a new and more clearly defined purpose. I've become incredibly efficient and try to relish in the chaos as much as possible.

"It's an adventure and my husband and I have basically resigned ourselves to the fact that we won't sleep for the next decade!

"I could spend the day finalising the acquisition of a new hotel or creating design story boards with my Ivanka Trump creative team for our spring collection, and at the end of the day I go home to my kids, inevitably end up with food all over myself and spend an hour unsuccessfully trying to sing them to sleep. It's all very humbling and chaotic and wonderful."

Despite his tough and robust exterior, Ivanka says her father is one of her closest companions. "He is an incredible father and grandfather. I probably interact with him 10 to 15 times a day," she says. "He is an invaluable resource, both professionally and personally. He is insightful, thought provoking and has his finger on the pulse like nobody else."

Family is Ivanka's priority and she is intensely proud of her roots. "My father is my mentor, my friend and a constant source of inspiration. My mother is an amazing woman with more energy in her pinkie than most people exude in a lifetime. They are both extremely influential and inspirational figures in my life," she says.

"I love working alongside my father and brothers. We each have our strengths and areas of interest within our Trump Organization projects and we work really well together. I find family businesses to be very binary; either it's a complete disaster or a great success and thankfully we represent the latter."

After they divorced in 1992, Ivanka's mother Ivana famously coined the phrase 'Don't get even, get everything', and in a parallel sort of way it appears that her only daughter took on board at least part of this throwaway remark. She got everything and has worked very hard for it.

Now, at 33, Ivanka has the world at her feet. She has two beautiful children, an adoring husband and is a key part of the family business, which is the fastest-growing luxury hotel brand in the world. And as if all that wasn't enough, the Ivanka Trump brand, which she describes as a brand that "speaks to women like us; women who work" is also growing exponentially, with additional collections in children's footwear and home décor on the horizon.

So what is the key to her success? Once again Ivanka allows her father to take centre stage. "My father always says, 'Be passionate. If you are passionate about what you do you will ultimately succeed'. I try to live and work by this credo every day."

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