Decoding the enigma of Melania Trump

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Two things struck me as I watched Melania Trump address the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night. The first was: but she has an accent! A ridiculous answer in fact, because: of course, Melania Trump has an accent! She is Slovenian; she arrived in the United States in 1996, aged 27, already equipped with the kind of accent that only a fraud would try to hide, to shake, to replace. Although also, I guess, my surprise to hear her voice is testament to how unused I am for Melania in public speaking at all. As we are all unused; among us, actress Bette Midler, who sparked an argument on social media after ridiculing Melania as “an illegal foreigner” who “still doesn’t speak English”, thus prompting accusations of xenophobia, even from anti-neighborhood neighborhoods. Most hardened Trump.Rather, it reminds us of how little we know about Melania; how enigmatic and mysterious she chose to stay away from us, certainly in comparison to all the First Ladies who came before her.

The second thing that came to my mind was, she’s much better at it, so I would have anticipated her. Softer, more convincing, more customizable. Much more human. She hit all the notes that were asked of her. She flattered her husband’s ‘base’, his staunch supporters, praising the chance they took four years ago on a politically unproven businessman (thus reinforcing Trump’s credentials as a outside the American political establishment, a quality that his “people” appreciate in him); but she also invoked Covid 19, and women’s rights, then teased her husband for his social media excesses, in a way that made you think she meant it. Which doesn’t mean that she did it, or that she has the right to make such proclamations, or that her performance wasn’t planned, built and coached to the nth degree… who knows… But, it doesn’t matter: it clearly demonstrates that there is hitherto unsuspected political artistic talent in Melania Trump.

She also watched the role. If you felt there was a touch of evil Bond to her presentation – it could be a bit of stirring latent sexism. Rather, we’re inclined to assume that very obviously beautiful people lack credibility, or authenticity, after all; and to associate Melania’s innate glamor projects, with a hidden nefarious agenda, when they might actually speak more of an Eastern European aesthetic that tends to influence in this way.

As for the olive, the structure and the lapels of his jacket: it would have seemed a little heavy in the military benchmark stakes, if they had not also worked very well with his complexion and his eyes, emphasizing the line on her cheekbones and eyebrows, so as to suggest they might as well have been a good fashion call. And if his brushing was impeccable, it was perhaps 25pc less talkative and flamboyant than normal, in the name of seriousness. (Also: I’d love to know what shade of lip gloss she was wearing.)

Overall: she did well. Think and say what you want from her husband. God knows, I got it. But Melania Trump pulled off this moment. It might even represent its highlight, in terms of presentation. An accomplished culmination of four years of refinement and provocation, with various fashion statements, hairstyles and behaviors. Maybe it was nothing else that she was doing her best to look good, with media all over the world focusing on her. But, if you think pictures can paint 1,000 words, over the past four years, that’s what we’ve gleaned so far …

This pink shirt

October 2016

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