An unusual first family

By Karly Domb Sadof and Danielle Rindler |
Jan. 13, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump has said on more than one occasion that his closest relationships are with his family. “I have a lot of good relationships. I have good enemies, too, which is okay. But I think more of my family than others,” Trump said. His reliance on his family has been on full display, creating a number of potential conflicts of interest as his adult children and their spouses have had unprecedented influence over his campaign and transition.

And just as Trump has been an unconventional candidate and president-elect, so too is the new first family unlike any other in U.S. history. Trump will become the first president to have been married three times and to have been divorced twice. His current wife is only the second foreign-born first lady.


Fred and Mary Trump

Fred in New York in 1985; Mary in Scotland in 1932. (Photos from Bettmann Archive/Getty Images and Newsline Scotland)

Fred C. Trump, the president-elect’s father, was a real estate developer who made his fortune building middle-class houses and apartment buildings in Brooklyn and Queens. He and his wife, Mary, raised their five children in a 23-room brick mansion in prosperous Jamaica Estates, Queens, near where Donald went to elementary school before his parents sent him to a military boarding school.

Mary, who had migrated from Scotland, was a homemaker who enjoyed being the center of attention at family parties. She also loved pageantry, spending hours watching the televised 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. While their son Donald became famous building his well-known tower in Manhattan, his parents remained in Queens. A Republican who supported Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign, Fred Trump cultivated New York City’s dominant Democratic establishment in order to build his real estate business. In his neighborhood, Fred Trump was known for wearing suits and driving a Cadillac with the personalized license plate “FCT1.”

— Paul Schwartzman


Maryanne, Fred Jr., Elizabeth and Robert

Photos from Reuters, WireImage via Getty Images, Getty Images and AP

Donald is the fourth child of Fred and Mary Trump’s five children. Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald’s eldest sister, is a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. His older brother, Fred Jr., was a gregarious airline pilot but suffered from alcoholism and died at the age of 43. Donald often cites Fred Jr.’s death as a reason that he abstains from alcohol and cigarettes. Elizabeth Grau, the third Trump child was an administrative secretary, and Trump’s younger brother, Robert, went into business.

First lady

Melania Trump

Modeling in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in March 1987. (Stane Jerko/Reuters)
Melania, second from right, at a fashion show for her mother’s former textile company in Radenci, Slovenia, in 1977. (Nena Bedek/AFP/Getty Images)
With Donald at a party at the Russian Foundation after the White House correspondents' dinner in 2001. (Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images)
After her wedding to Donald in 2005 in Palm Beach. (Joe Amon/AP)
Holding Barron before Donald receives his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. (Chris Pizzello/Reuters)
On the campaign trail in 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Melania Knauss (born Melanija Knavs on April 26, 1970) was a Slovenian-born model from a modest Eastern European background who worked in Milan and Paris before she came to the United States, where she met her future husband at New York’s Kit Kat Klub during Fashion Week in 1998, while he was separated from Marla Maples.

She continued to work as a model, and on one occasion she appeared to be nude for a British GQ photo shoot on Trump's jet. She was reclining without clothes on a fur rug, handcuffed to a briefcase.

She and Trump were married in 2005 at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Guests at the lavish Palm Beach wedding included Bill and Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Melania, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006, launched her own brand of jewelry as well as a line of caviar-infused face cream.

Melania, who speaks several languages, played only a minor role in her husband’s presidential campaign. At the Republican National Convention, she gave a speech that included language almost identical to part of a speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic convention. Melania initially said she wrote the text herself "with as little help as possible." A Trump staffer later assumed responsibility.

Shortly before the election, Melania decried cyberbullying, telling supporters, "Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers.”

Melania follows Louisa Adams (1825-1829) as only the second foreign-born first lady of the United States. She plans to remain in Trump Tower with their son Barron at least until the end of his school year.

— Frances Sellers

Ex-wife | Divorced 1992

Ivana Trump

Posing for a photographer in 1983. (Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)
With Donald at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1985. (Tom Gates/Getty Images)  
With Donald outside the federal courthouse after she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in May 1988. (AP)
With her children Ivanka and Eric as Riccardo Mazzucchelli looks on in October 1993. (AP)
At her 2006 birthday party at the Cannes film festival. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Raised in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule, Ivana Zelníčková (born Feb. 20, 1949) was an only child who immigrated to Canada, where she modeled at Montreal department stores and posed for furriers before coming to the United States. She was married briefly to Austrian skier Alfred Winklmayr.

Trump recalled that he first met Ivana at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and that she had been on the Czech ski team. The Czech Olympic committee later said there was no such person in their records.

The more popular story of their meeting was at an upscale East Side singles bar, Maxwell’s Plum. Trump was smitten – “I found the combination of beauty and brains unbelievable,” he said – and proposed on New Year’s Eve, later presenting Ivana with a three-carat Tiffany diamond ring and an elaborate prenup that was signed two weeks before their April marriage. About 200 people attended the reception at the 21 Club, a former speakeasy famed for its celebrity clientele.

On Dec. 31, 1977, a year after their engagement, Ivana gave birth to the first of their three children, Donald John Trump Jr.

Trump made Ivana a member of his executive staff – a move he later regretted – and she oversaw the interior design of several buildings, including the Plaza Hotel. The marriage ended in bitter public squabbling after a famous 1989 ski-vacation confrontation between Ivana and Trump’s mistress, the younger model Marla Maples. The divorce, signed in 1991, included a confidentiality agreement that barred Ivana from publishing any material “concerning her marriage to Donald or any other aspect of Donald’s personal business or financial affairs.”

— Frances Sellers

Ex-wife | Divorced 1999

Marla Maples

In the July 1985 "Miss Hawaiian Tropic International" beauty pageant in Panama City, Fla. (AP)
With Donald at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City in 1991. (AP)
At her and Donald’s wedding in New York in 1993. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Leaving the hospital with Tiffany in 1993. (AP)  
With Tiffany in Los Angeles in 2008. (Chris Weeks/AP)

Marla Maples (born Oct. 27, 1963) grew up in a small town in Georgia, the 1981 homecoming queen of her high school who went on to win a minor role in Stephen King’s 1986 movie, “Maximum Overdrive,” in which she was crushed by watermelons.

In the 1980s, Trump was at once secretive and brazen about his affair with the aspiring actress, installing her in the St. Moritz Hotel, mere blocks from Trump Tower, and meeting her in public in the company of men who were her supposed dates.

Her confrontation with Ivana Trump at Aspen began a protracted on-again, off-again public relationship with Trump, who was drawn to her stage presence and threw a huge party after she starred in 1992 as "Ziegfeld’s Favorite" in the Tony Award-winning Broadway production “The Will Rogers Follies.”

Their affair provided daily fodder for tabloids, which nicknamed Maples the “Georgia Peach,” culminating in the New York Post’s front-page headline “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had,” supposedly uttered by Maples about her suitor.

Trump eventually gave Maples a ring more than twice as big as Ivana’s and married her in December 1993 in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel two months after their daughter, Tiffany, was born, and in front of a thousand guests from show business, sports and politics. Maples played no role in the family real-estate business, though she co-hosted the 1996 and 1997 Miss Universe Pageant, and the 1997 Miss USA Pageant.

The marriage also ended in divorce not long after tabloids reported a “rumpled and sandy” Maples had been found with a bodyguard on a beach near Mar-a-Lago. The terms were finalized in 1999.

Maples’s book, “All That Glitters Is Not Gold,” billed as a tell-all about her high-profile marriage, never made it to publication. “She signed a confidentiality agreement,” Trump said at the time.

Maples moved to California, where she raised Tiffany largely out of the public eye, though in 2016, she reemerged to compete in “Dancing with the Stars” (finishing 10th).

— Frances Sellers

Son | Mother: Ivana Trump

Donald Trump Jr.

At the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
With his wife, Vanessa Trump, in 2007. (Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG)
After his wedding ceremony in Palm Beach, Fla., in 2005. (Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
With his wife, Vanessa, and their five children. (Jen Blakele/Courtesy of Trump family)
Firing a SilencerCo Maxim 9 pistol during a visit to the company in Utah. (SilencerCo)

Donald Trump Jr., born in December 1977, is Trump’s eldest child and an executive vice president of the Trump Organization. He is often called “Don,” “Don Jr.” or “Donny.” He and his brother, Eric, six years his junior, say that they have always been inseparable. As children, they spent summers in semi-rural Czechoslovakia with their maternal grandparents and sister Ivanka.

The Trumps sent Don to Hill School, a prestigious boarding school in blue-collar Pottstown, Pa., partly to shield him from the media circus around their separation and divorce, which resulted in Ivana retaining custody of him and his siblings. At Hill, Don developed a love for the outdoors and hunting. He graduated in 1996, thought about joining the Marines, but followed in his father’s footsteps to the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a self-described brat and party boy.

After graduating in 2000, Don traveled around the West for a year and a half in a truck, exploring the Rockies and bartending briefly at the Tippler, a since-closed bar in Aspen, Colo. Having exorcised some restlessness, Don joined the family business in September 2001 and gave up alcohol a couple of years later.

Don’s father introduced him to his future wife, fashion model Vanessa Haydon, in 2003; they married in 2005 and have five children born between 2007 and 2012. The family lives on the Upper East Side.

As a surrogate for his father during the 2016 presidential campaign, Don was a well-received speaker in town-hall settings but endured blowback for giving an interview to a white-supremacist radio host (an encounter that Don said was inadvertent). His portfolio for the Trump Organization includes assets in India and Indonesia.

— Dan Zak

Daughter | Mother: Ivana Trump

Ivanka Trump

In 1996 in New York. (Alvaro Canovas/Paris Match via Getty Images)
At the 1994 U.S Open in New York. (Roh Frehm/AP)
Inside her father’s Chicago offices with Donald Trump Jr. in 2006. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
At her wedding to Jared Kushner in New Jersey. (Brian Marcus/Fred Marcus Photography via Getty Images)
On the campaign trail in New Hampshire in 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Speaking at the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel in Washington in October 2016.  (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Ivanka Trump, 35, is exceptionally close to her father and, unlike her brothers who will remain in New York, she is moving to Washington. She is expected to be both an influential adviser and take over some of the duties traditionally carried out by the president’s spouse.

Ivanka, who led the renovation of the new Trump hotel a few blocks from the White House, just announced she is taking a leave of absence from the Trump Organization and her business that sells Ivanka-branded clothes, jewelry and accessories. Still, questions remain about how she will navigate a minefield of potential conflicts of interest.

In November, marketers at Ivanka Trump jewelry promoted the $10,000 bracelet she wore on “60 Minutes,” creating considerable criticism. After she spoke on her father’s behalf at the Republican convention, the $138 Ivanka brand pink dress she wore on prime time television sold out.

Ivanka has three small children and increasingly uses her public appearances and social media postings to be a voice for women struggling to find work-life balance. She has a new book coming out in spring called “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success.”

Ivanka, who started modeling when she was a teenager and appeared with her father on the “Apprentice,” is married to Jared Kushner, who is joining the White House as a senior adviser to the president. She converted to Judaism before she married into Kushner’s Orthodox Jewish family in 2009.  She has spoken about how she, her husband and children strictly observe the Jewish sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

After studying two years at Georgetown University, she transferred to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, her father’s alma mater.  

— Mary Jordan

Son | Mother: Ivana Trump

Eric Trump

 At a campaign event at Grumman Studios in New York in April 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Attending a celebration of the birthdays of Vanessa and Donald Trump Jr. in December 2006 in New York. (MediaPunch/IPX)
Greeting Tiger Woods after the final round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at the Trump Doral Golf Resort & Spa in March 2013 in Florida. (Warren Little/Getty Images)
With his wife, Lara Yunaska, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016. (Carlo Allegri /Reuters)
At a campaign event in Las Vegas in February 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Eric Trump, born in January 1984, is Trump’s third child with Ivana and an executive vice president of the Trump Organization. Eric considered his older brother, Don Jr., a prime role model, because their father was often preoccupied with work and less available after the separation from Ivana.

Eric followed his older brother to Hill School, where he became a prefect of his dormitory and won awards for woodworking. The brothers spent summers in between their high school years on their father’s construction sites, cutting rebar, hanging chandeliers and doing other odd jobs. Eric, considered quieter than Don Jr. in demeanor, graduated from Hill in 2002 and moved into the Village C dorms at Georgetown University. He and classmates would occasionally take weekend trips to Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City; peers described him in college as far less bombastic than his father.

Eric earned a degree in finance and management in 2006. After a couple months of travel, Eric went to work in the family business and launched the Eric F. Trump Foundation to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Eric resigned from the foundation after facing questions about whether its donors might get special access to members of the first family. In 2014, he married Lara Yunaska, a former personal trainer and “Inside Edition” producer. They live in Central Park South.

As a surrogate for his father during the 2016 campaign, Eric often appeared on television — “He made us work,” Eric said in the fall of 2015 on MSNBC, “and I think that’s what a great father does” — and was criticized for comparing waterboarding to fraternity hazing (rhetoric taken out of context, he says) and for hunting big game in Africa with Don. Eric’s portfolio for the Trump Organization includes assets in Panama and the Philippines, plus all of the Trump golf sites. Eric and Don Jr. have breakfast together nearly every weekday at 7 a.m. in Trump Tower.

— Dan Zak

Daughter | Mother: Marla Maples

Tiffany Trump

At the Republican National Convention in July 2016. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
With her mom at New York Fashion Week in November 1995. (Paul Hurschmann/AP)
At the season 5 finale of "The Apprentice" in June 2006 in Los Angeles. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
In Beverly Hills, Calif., with her mom in 2006.  (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
At her graduation ceremony at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 2016. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Tiffany Trump, the fourth youngest of Trump’s five children, recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Before that, she attended the private Viewpoint School in Calabasas. She was less seen on the campaign trail than her three older half-siblings. Her highest-profile moment was speaking at the Republican National Convention. Her three older siblings were born to Trump's first wife, Ivana Trump.

Tiffany grew up in Southern California — with her mother, with whom she's very close — and not in New York with the rest of her siblings. “I don’t know what it’s like to have a typical father figure,” she told Dujour. “He’s not the dad who’s going to take me to the beach and go swimming, but he’s such a motivational person.”

Maples has described herself as raising Tiffany Trump as a " single mother." Like her father, she’s known for her social media following. But hers is on Instagram. A New York Times article this year called her and other progeny of well-known figures the “ Snap Pack”. Among them were Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s daughter Kyra Kennedy; Stephanie Seymour’s son Peter Brant Jr.; and Gaia Matisse, the great-great-granddaughter of painter Henri Matisse. She also released a pop music single called " Like a Bird (feat. Sprite & Logic)” in 2011. It gets 3 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

A sampling of the reviews: "Normally, I don't write reviews on music, however I would not be writing this review if I thought it was bad. I have to say I enjoyed it. It’s a very catchy song." Others thought it was too heavily auto-tuned. And she followed in the family business earlier this year when she made her debut as a model. She has also interned for Vogue magazine.

— Aaron Blake

Son | Mother: Melania Trump

Barron Trump

At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016. (Anthony Behar/SIPA)
After his father was honored with the 2,327th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)
 At the 16th Annual Bunny Hop at FAO Schwartz in 2007 in New York City.  (Peter Kramer/Getty Images For MSKCC)
On election night in New York in 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Born in March 2006, the youngest of the Trump children  was the least visible of the five  on the campaign trail. After his father’s election, he made headlines when Trump announced that Melania and Barron would not be moving to the White House immediately so the 10-year-old wouldn’t have to change schools in the middle of the year. Barron attends Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His mom, Melania, says she calls him little Donald because of his opinionated and independent personality.

A previous version of this article mistakenly said that Ivanka gave birth to Donald Trump Jr. in 1977. It has been corrected to Ivana. It also said that Donald Trump would be the first president married to a former model, which was incorrect. Betty Ford also modeled.

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