The strangest mysteries from Melania Trump’s time in the White House

Melania Trump has long been a woman of mystery. Unlike the First Ladies of administrations past, the former model has given a shockingly low number of public interviews since taking up residence in the White House — that is, if she ever took up residence there, to begin with, which depends on which conspiracy theory you’re willing to believe. 

She’s barely appeared on magazine covers — a right of passage for her predecessors and a stark contrast to her former life posing nude for GQ, and her initiatives seemingly contradict her husband’s most public efforts (see: her “Be Best” anti-bullying campaign vs. the President’s Twitter account). Basically, Melania has sauntered through Donald Trump’s administration one scowl, hand-swat, and covetable designer coat at a time, but we still really don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Since the moment Melania (perhaps reluctantly) left her gilded palace in Trump Tower and moved into the belly of the political beast, she’s been the subject of a number of on-going mysteries and conspiracy theories. From the First Lady’s infamous Zara jacket (the rare instance in which she had the audacity to wear fast fashion) to her alleged 2018 disappearance, these are some of the most bizarre mysteries of Melania’s time in the White House. We actually really do care, don’t you?

Why did Melania Trump really stay behind in New York?

When Donald Trump was first inaugurated, Melania was met with a myriad of speculation, not only because she was spotted scowling behind her husband when he was sworn in, but because she seemed reluctant to call the White House home. The former model famously delayed her move for five months, staying in New York until June 2017 — but the real question here was why?

At the time, Donald claimed that his wife was waiting for son Barron to finish out the school year before she left the state. According to The Guardian, the move-in date remained heavily up in the air, and as much sense as that might have made, reports eventually began to surface that Melania was less-than-pleased with her husband’s new role. Intelligencer claimed that the First Lady cried in despair when it became clear that “Trump might actually win” the presidency, and The Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan claimed in her book that Melania used her delayed arrival to renegotiate her prenuptial agreement. After all, she didn’t sign up to be a First Lady, much less an unpaid First Lady.

Ultimately, we’ll never know the real reason Melania stayed behind. All we know is that she eventually made it there if only to watch her husband consume an alleged 12-pack of Coca-Cola and redesign the blue room. The jury’s still out on whether she hand-picked the infamous curtains James Comey reportedly tried to hide behind.

Does Melania Trump actually live at the White House?

Most of us know that Melania Trump delayed her move to the White House, but some people don’t actually think that she ever made it there at all. Throughout the First Lady’s tenure, fans alleged that the former model was actually living in a separate house in Washington D.C. with her parents and son. The evidence? Her general lack of public appearances (as noted by the litany of headlines touting rare appearances by the elusive celebrity).

In 2018, The Washington Post dispelled this on-going mystery. Apparently, she actually spent a lot of time in the White House and had “a very good relationship with the permanent household staff.” She’s also been undertaking renovations, such as a much-needed redesign of the tennis pavilion. Her former chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, told the publication that the rumor was “1,000% false” and that they “laugh at it all the time.” Rickie Niceta Lloyd, the White House social secretary, even went as far as calling it an “urban legend.” 

Nonetheless, Melania’s staff wouldn’t reveal where her parents live, presumably for their own safety and not at all because people would try to verify this insane conspiracy theory. If the First Lady believed a birth certificate wasn’t enough evidence to establish Barack Obama’s nationality, we’re going to need more than a utility bill or driver’s license saying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Where in the world is missing Melania Trump?

In the age of social media, it’s vastly difficult for a human being to slink by completely off the grid, particularly a person who’s spent the better part of the last two decades on Page Six. Nonetheless, for about a month in 2018, Melania Trump achieved the near impossible. The First Lady seemingly vanished out of thin air in a public mystery so notorious that Vanity Fair published a complete timeline of her alleged disappearance.

Per VanityFair, the #MissingMelania scandal began in early-May after the First Lady appeared alongside her husband to welcome home US citizens from North Korea. Days later, it was announced that she had been admitted to the hospital for a “benign kidney condition.” The procedure was successful, Melania experienced no complications, and about a week later, Donald Trump claimed she had returned home. Okay, but had she actually?

According to The Guardian, suspicions of Melania’s whereabouts began to rise when the President claimed that she was looking out of a White House window, watching him during a press conference. Unlike the ghost of a scorned woman in The Haunting of Bly Manor, the First Lady was nowhere in sight, spawning a series of Internet conspiracy theories ranging from secret plastic surgery to suspicions that she had left her husband. These were squashed when the FLOTUS remerged (with no seeming facelift or divorce settlement) at a June 4th event to honor Gold Star families.

The mystery of Melania Trump's Zara jacket

Shortly after Melania Trump’s face was erased from the figurative milk carton the White House uses to find their missing staff, the FLOTUS jet set to McAllen, Texas, wearing her now-infamous Zara jacket — the one emblazoned with the words “I really don’t care. Do you?” This wouldn’t have been such a controversy had McAllen not been, as CNN describes, “one of the epicenters of the family separation crisis.” Talk about a mixed message.

Needless to say, Melania’s jacket was a thing of many mysteries, and the media dove in with a myriad of speculation. First, are we really supposed to believe that someone who previously lived in a gold-encrusted penthouse shopped at the mall? Second, who exactly was the passive-aggressive comment meant for? Was the First Lady, whose work mostly revolved around children, saying she didn’t care about the reported 545 children who can’t be reunited with their parents? Rather, was it a rallying cry against her husband, who’s notoriously cruel border policies separated them in the first place?

As it turns out, it was none of the above. Melania’s Chief of Staff claimed it was just a jacket, but Donald Trump revealed his wife was addressing the “Fake News Media.” The First Lady eventually came clean in an interview with ABC News, stating that she wore the jacket “for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.” 

We still don't have an answer about Fake Melania

Following in the footsteps of her punk rock predecessors Avril Lavigne and Andrew WK, Melania Trump also fell victim to the conspiracy that she was using a body double. As Refinery29 mused, Fake Melania may be “the greatest unsolved mystery of our time.” It’s even got its own page on Wikipedia. 

According to Snopes, the theory — which claimed the FLOTUS had been using a body double for public appearances — emerged on Facebook in October 2017, hinging on a video filled with “blurry” and “possibly distorted” footage. Nonetheless, the Internet ran with it, clinging to the fact that the supposed fill-in had a beaming smile. As we know, Melania is typically spotted with a stern gaze, or at the most, an occasional smirk followed by an eye roll.

As the Daily Mail and their team of alleged experts pointed out, a big smile can really change the shape of someone’s face, but the idea of Fake Melania is still kicking even as Trump’s administration is packing their U-Haul. According to the New York Post, the #FakeMelania hashtag trended on Twitter in October 2020 when the FLOTUS was spotted smiling on her way to the presidential debate in Nashville. Did anyone think to consider that Melania might just be happy her presidential fever dream is coming to an end? It’s time to click your heels together and say there’s no place like Mar-a-Lago, baby girl.

Melania Trump's nightmare before Christmas

In addition to the Easter Egg Roll, one of Melania Trump’s prime duties as the first lady was to curate the White House Christmas decorations — and it was ho, ho, horrific if you ask the Internet. The former model seemingly abandoned the warm, cheerful decorations favored by her predecessors for something decidedly more high fashion (or right out of a horror movie, depending on who you ask).

The first year, the former model opted for a hallway of wintery branches that commenters likened to Suspiria and American Horror Story, though personally, we think it had major Snow Queen vibes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The next year, she followed up with an assortment of blood-red trees that garnered comparisons to The Shining and The Handmaid’s Tale. With the widespread rumors that the First Lady was miserable in her role, was she trying to send us a message? Did she want us to break her out of the figurative Gilead she helped create?

If Melania’s decorations looked like the work of a fed-up wife forced to deck the cavernous halls of the White House (or the Stanley Hotel), that’s because they were. In 2020, CNN revealed the contents of a leaked tape that was recorded in the Summer of 2018. There, Melania admitted, “I’m working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations?”

Whose speech was that again?

In 2016, Melania Trump burst onto the political scene by gracing the stage at the Republican National Convention to give her very first campaign speech. In it, she touched upon themes of hard work and strong values, something that seemingly should have unified the country and set the tone for her husband’s future presidency. In a way, it did — but only because it caused a massive scandal as viewers were left scratching their heads, asking themselves, “Haven’t we heard this one before?”

Melania’s speech bore a striking resemblance to one given by Michelle Obama in 2008, so much so that USA Today ran a side-by-side comparison. Nonetheless, her team was adamant that she didn’t plagiarize and simply used “common words,” according to BBC. The campaign’s now-disgraced manager Paul Manafort held steadfast, claiming there was “no cribbing” of the former First Lady’s speech, and thus, the mystery began. Were we really supposed to believe this was a bizarre coincidence?

Later that month, the truth came out, and Trump campaign staff writer Meredith McIver owned up to the mistake. In a statement (via NPR), she revealed that Melania “always liked” Obama and read her some of the 2008 speech. McIver wrote down pieces and included them in Melania’s version. “This was my mistake and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant,” she said. Mystery solved.

Do Donald Trump and Melania Trump even hang out?

With the number of times onlookers have noticed Melania Trump covertly shutting down her husband’s PDA attempts, there was bound to be a rumor that the pair actually can’t stand each other. In 2018, The Washington Post furthered one of the administration’s biggest mysteries: does Melania actually hang out with Donald, or does she float around the White House in couture, tending to Barron and cautiously avoiding the West Wing?

Per the report, several White House staffers claimed that Melania “erected a de facto wall” between the East Wing, where her office is located, and the West Wing, where the President works. As you know, the family has an affinity for building walls. Melania reportedly also has her own bedroom, and the pair “often do not eat together” in the White House or elsewhere. To be fair, they don’t really seem like the type of couple who does family meals, especially if Donald’s idea of dinner is a fast-food burger. One alleged longtime friend claimed the pair “spend very little to no time together.”

In the same report, these claims were refuted by Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s former chief of staff, who claimed the First Lady spent most evenings with the President. “She’s focused on being a wife, and she’s focused on her role as first lady. And that’s it. The rest is just noise,” Grisham said. From the looks of it, we’ll never get a clear answer about this one.

#FreeMelania is the conspiracy theory that keeps kicking

Ever since Melania Trump was spotted grimacing behind her husband during his presidential inauguration, the Internet has run with the theory that the First Lady is absolutely miserable. The moment spawned a thousand think pieces, including Jezebel‘s “Melania Trump Definitely Loves Her Husband and Is Very Happy to Be Here” and Slate‘s detailed analysis of her frown. In the aftermath, the hashtag #FreeMelania got its wings, and commenters searched for signals that the First Lady needed help planning her escape.

According to Vox, the Internet began to speculate that Melania was sending messages through her clothing. First, she donned a pussy-bow blouse amidst her husband’s “grab ’em by the p***y” scandal. Then, she wore a “suffragist white” suit to the State of the Union in 2018. Was Melania quietly rebelling in an administration that kept her silent? Some people at the 2017 Women’s March seemed to think so, carrying signs emblazoned with the words “Melania: blink twice if you need help.”

As much as we’d love to picture Melania haunting the White House hallways for all eternity like the ghost of a tormented lover, it seems like she doesn’t need to be freed after all. The tape that leaked in 2020 — a rare moment where Melania spoke for herself — saw her echo some of her husband’s same sentiments about immigration. Could it be that the pair agree? Are we all forgetting that she championed Donald’s same insane birther conspiracy theory years prior?

How could Melania Trump desecrate the Rose Garden?

Melania Trump has notoriously left her touch on the White House, making some very necessary renovations — the Rose Garden, however, wasn’t one of them. There’s nary a soul who’d argue that the former model didn’t massively improve the tennis pavilion, but a faux scandal erupted when the First Lady allegedly desecrated Jackie Kennedy’s iconic crab apple trees and tore up the roses planted by every First Lady since 1913 amidst her renovations. Was this a slight on the First Ladies that came before her? Was it a quick-witted attempt to prevent future staffers from hiding in the bushes like Sean Spicer? The mystery was actually a lot less dramatic in real life than the faux scandal that erupted on the Internet.

According to Snopes, Melania didn’t actually touch Jackie Kennedy’s precious crab apple trees. Those were already long gone before she moved to the White House. The trees that the former model did remove were wildly problematic because they shaded the roses, which were not planted by every first lady since 1913. Shaded roses can’t grow, nor can roses live for over a hundred years. Beyond that, the flowers have “continually been removed and replaced” since the rose garden was first created, and Melania actually restored it to the “original 1962 blueprint.” In other words: she preserved Jackie’s legacy.

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