Sunday 17 December 2017

Comment: Why I’m not ashamed to admit I actually like Melania Trump

Support act: Melania Trump
Support act: Melania Trump
Donald Trump takes the oath of office as his wife Melania holds a bible during his inauguration Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral on January 21, 2017, in Washington, DC
First steps: Fashionistas were closely watching first family icons Melania (pictured) and Ivanka Trump this weekend Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
President Donald Trump's wife Melania Trump adjusts their son Barron's tie during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Donald Trump and Melania Knauss attend the "2004 CFDA Fashion Awards" at the New York Public Library June 7, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Okay - here goes.

I like Melania Trump. I really do. Sure, I don't agree with 99 per cent of what she or The Donald seem to stand for.

I think her taste in men is seriously questionable, but I don't hate her the way other women (and I'm afraid it is mostly women) seem to.

I like Melania's social awkwardness, and her juddering accent. I think it's great she doesn't want to spend her time manning the vegetable patch in the White House garden, and is choosing to head back to New York (making her the first First Lady in around 168 years not to live in Washington).

U.S. President Donald Trump introduces his wife, first lady Melania Trump, as they arrive at the Inauguration Freedom Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
U.S. President Donald Trump introduces his wife, first lady Melania Trump, as they arrive at the Inauguration Freedom Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

I like that she once had her own range of $150 caviar-infused, anti-ageing, luxe moisturisers, which was described as the "Cristal of the face cream world".

I thought that GQ shoot - where she posed naked on a bear-skin rug in a customised Boeing 727 while toting a chrome handgun - was Noughties brilliance.

Donald Trump and Melania Knauss attend the
Donald Trump and Melania Knauss attend the "2004 CFDA Fashion Awards" at the New York Public Library June 7, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

And I am jealous that her hometown now produces the 'Melanja Cake' which is covered in white chocolate and gold leaf - to match her inauguration-ball dress.

You've truly made it when baked goods are being named after you. She's got none of the righteousness, or earnest worthiness, some of the other First Ladies had.

President-elect Donald Trump (C),and his wife Melania Trump (L), are greeted by President Barack Obama (R), and his wife first lady Michelle Obama, upon arriving at the White House on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Later in the morning President-elect Trump will be sworn in as the nation's 45th president during an inaugural ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump (C),and his wife Melania Trump (L), are greeted by President Barack Obama (R), and his wife first lady Michelle Obama, upon arriving at the White House on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Later in the morning President-elect Trump will be sworn in as the nation's 45th president during an inaugural ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

But not many people share my enthusiasm for Melania - in fact, according to polls, she is the least popular First Lady since Hillary Clinton. On the day of the inauguration, she was the punchline of most of the viral jokes and memes.

"Look!" the internet gleefully screamed. "There's Melania, awkwardly handing Michelle a Tiffany box."

"Look at Melania's pained expression during the inaugural luncheon - she hates her life."

"Fail. WATCH Melania's awkward high five with her son Barron."

President Donald Trump's wife Melania Trump adjusts their son Barron's tie during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump's wife Melania Trump adjusts their son Barron's tie during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

"CRINGE! Trump and Melania's first dance was a total car crash." Her clothing was assessed and analysed, but usually with a degree of vitriol and snobbery. There was also a dash of sexism.

We were repeatedly reminded that Marc Jacobs and a plethora of other designers had refused to dress her. Every article usually referred to how Melania used to dress - in plunging necklines and thigh-high hemlines.

The words "tacky" and "style evolution" were used a lot.

When she was compared to Jackie O, some people objected to the two women even being mentioned in the same sentence. But it wasn't all hate for Melania. There was also a bit of a patronising pity party.

Melania Trump in 2003
Melania Trump in 2003

Some people said they felt sorry for the new First Lady and #FreeMelania started trending.

Journalists took umbrage with this, and a number of articles were published chastising women for even sympathising with her.

One journalist urged the public not to "waste their sympathy" on the wife of a billionaire and reality TV star.

The good wife: Melania Trump addresses the Republican National Convention in Cleveland
The good wife: Melania Trump addresses the Republican National Convention in Cleveland

Instead, they should focus on women who are in more pitiful situations - famine victims, women who have suffered domestic abuse, women living in boxes under bridges.

These people know that sympathy is not a fossil fuel, right?

We don't all possess a finite supply of the stuff which we must carefully ration out. We aren't going to run out of it one Tuesday afternoon and lose our sense of compassion entirely.

And anyway, Melania doesn't want your sympathy. She has said so time and again.

These people also berated Melania for not standing up for women.

I get that - her defence of Donald's 'grab them by the p***y' comments was in no way admirable, although perhaps it was understandable that she decided to defend her husband.

After all, didn't Hillary once do much the same?

She may not be the torch-bearer for the feminist cause, but isn't the role of a First Lady, by default, a smack in the face for the sisterhood?

Firstly, it's an unpaid gig, and it's a role almost entirely defined by the husband's day job.

This shouldn't completely undermine the power and reach of the First Lady - Michelle's speeches resonated a lot further and deeper than Joe Biden's. But it is undoubtedly a supporting role.

Look, Michelle was always going to be a hard act to follow.

She was inspirational and smart, and incredibly articulate and strong.

For many of us, she was pretty much infallible.

But giving Melania such flak - over her broken English, who she chooses to sleep with, the way she carries herself and the way she used to dress - seems both ironic and unfair.

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