She was born Melanija Knavs in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, and grew up in Sevnica with her father Viktor, mother Amalija and sister Ines.
Viktor ran car dealerships while Amalija was a model maker.
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Melania attended Ljubljana High School and attended university there for a year before dropping out to pursue modeling full time.
Her ex-boyfriend, Jure Zorcic, met Melania in the summer of 1991, when she was 21.
He said, “We met like in a movie. It was a hot summer day, between two wars in Slovenia.
“It was the start of a new political era for us, the city was empty, blocked by the army.
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“I was on my motorbike and it was walking down the street.
“As I walked past her, I had a moment and thought, ‘Wow, who’s that girl? She is so beautiful, I have to turn around and follow her. “
Mr. Zorcic explained how he stopped his motorbike and started talking to Melania, before taking her for coffee.
He said she was wearing “the most fashionable piece” he had ever seen, while also referring to a leather number she was wearing.
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The couple dated for several months and spent summer days by the Croatian Sea with friends.
He said: “It was a bit of a shock when I met her. She’s very special, that’s the truth.
Melania is now a style icon, with her looks emulated by people all over the world.
According to Mr. Zorcic, speaking to ABC News in 2016, she has always been a very beautiful and fashionable woman.
He said: “I was in awe of her beauty from the first moment. She was very well dressed and her demeanor was classy.
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“She was tall, had long hair on her face, I could barely see her eyes – such a style!
He added: “She wanted to live abroad, in Italy, in France, a fashion life. She was very fashionable.
Melania ended up making that dream come true – living a jet-set life of a model flying between Paris and Milan for a while.
She eventually decided to move to the United States after meeting Metropolitan Models co-owner Paolo Zampolli, a friend of her future husband, on a reconnaissance trip to Europe.
When Melania moved to Manhattan, Mr. Zampolli arranged for her to share an apartment with photographer Matthew Atanian at Zeckendorf Towers in Union Square.
But according to Zorcic, she didn’t dream of moving to the Big Apple when she was a young woman.
He said, “I think it was very far from our thoughts at the time.”
Mr Zorcic said he was surprised when Melania suddenly left Slovenia, saying: “She told me she had an offer with a hair care company, for a campaign – that’s why she left. “
When the two men reunited in 2000, Mr Zorcic said he was surprised when she spoke to him in English rather than Slovenian.
He told ABC: “I asked him: have you forgotten that you are Slovenian?
“She told me that she spent her time traveling between New York and Fort Lauderdale in Florida and that she would never go back to Slovenia.
Commenting on his marriage to Mr Trump, Mr Zorcic said he believed it was “fate”.
He said: “No one thought 20 years ago that she would live on top of the world, on Fifth Avenue in Trump Tower – even her! “