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Melania Trump emerges to launch new NFT platform meant to ‘inspire’ — and earn cash

Melania Trump as she welcomed the arrival of the White House Christmas tree in 2020. (Hannah Mckay/Reuters)
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Former president Donald Trump once called bitcoin a scam that “competed against the dollar,” but on Thursday Melania Trump announced a new business venture embracing cryptocurrency and digital art.

Trump is launching a platform to sell NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, as she makes her first public move since leaving the White House. She has mostly been out of the public view since she and her husband departed Washington nearly a year ago following the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, without attending Biden’s inauguration.

NFTs, explained

NFTs are unique digital assets such as images or audio recordings. Their ownership is stored on the blockchain — and they can be quite lucrative.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady just offered NFTs that included digital ownership of his college resume and his old cleats. Around 16,000 NFTs were made available for Brady’s collection, each priced at $80. They sold out in minutes and grossed around $1.3 million. Other celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber, are also cashing in on this new platform that directly connects them to mass audiences.

Trump’s first NFT offering is a watercolor depiction of her “cobalt blue eyes” called “Melania’s Vision.” She said it would provide “the collector with an amulet to inspire.” Each NFT will cost about $187.

Next month, the former first lady said she will offer NFTs in a “a one-of-a-kind auction of historical importance” that will include “digital artwork, physical artwork, and a physical one-of-a-kind accessory.” She did not elaborate.

Trump’s statement said “a portion of the proceeds” will assist “children aging out of the foster care system,” but her office did not respond to questions about how big that portion will be.

“I imagine with that vague language her new venture will be certainly scrutinized,” said Katherine Jellison, a professor of history at Ohio University who has researched first ladies.

For years, Donald Trump boasted about all the money he donated to charity, but it turned out he was not as generous as he claimed. Some money even went to his 2016 presidential campaign. In 2019, a New York judge ordered him to pay $2 million in damages for misusing funds from a tax-exempt charity.

Melania Trump, 51, has often gone out of her way to say she is very different from her husband, 75.

Yet her actions often show how alike the Trumps are. Many note that she has not distanced herself from her husband’s baseless claims that President Biden stole the election, and her new announcement struck many as a sign that she, like her husband, is very interested in making money and promoting a carefully curated image.

“This new project in many ways says she is a true Trump,” Jellison said. “She is entrepreneurial and she wants to be center stage, in a way that she calls the shots.”

Jellison said that while many people don’t pay any attention to what Melania Trump does these days, she continues to have passionate detractors and admirers. On social media, her new venture was instantly slammed as an inappropriate cash grab by some and praised as a clever way to raise money for children by others.

“I am proud to announce my new NFT endeavor, which embodies my passion for the arts, and will support my ongoing commitment to children through my Be Best initiative,” Trump said in a statement.

While in the White House, she launched that signature initiative aimed at improving children’s well-being. Its most memorable component was her call to end cyberbullying. While Trump urged kindness online, her husband regularly tweeted derogatory descriptions of people he didn’t like, calling them “dumb as a rock” and worse.

The work of Marc Antonine Coulon, the French artist who created the “watercolor” of her eyes, frequently appears in top fashion magazines. Melania Trump was a model before she met Donald Trump.

Her NFTs will be powered by Parler, the social media platform that has attracted many supporters of the former president after larger platforms began cracking down and removing users who posted in ways that violated their terms.

While Donald Trump has been raising money in advance of a possible run for the presidency in 2024, Melania Trump has kept her usual low profile. But she recently surfaced a few times near Mar-a-Lago, their Palm Beach home, including to visit a local children’s charity.

Jae Gnazzo, an NFT expert at the Blockchain Association, said one of the reasons NFTs are exploding in popularity is that they allow artists to directly reach a massive audience.

Trump was quoted in Breitbart News saying she turned to NFTs because they are a platform without any interference from censors: “Since leaving the White House, I have envisioned creating a new platform where Freedom of Speech can flourish … My new NFT gallery, MelaniaTrump.com, uses the decentralized nature of Blockchain Technology, and gives a direct connection to people worldwide.”

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