Ivana Trump has always been his boss
Ivana Trump (1949-2022) has always had the tallest hair in the room. In her younger years, her fluffy blond mane was cropped, and her forelock and crown hair were teased three inches from her scalp. The result was sculptural, dimensional. She later transitioned to a beehive – a solid-looking mound on top of her head, finished in wispy bangs. TheHairStyler.com website calls her “The Ivana Trump Long Straight Updo” and only rates her popularity at half a star out of a possible five, but Ivana, still her boss, has gone her own way. Salih Salon on Manhattan’s Upper East Side has been producing her hairstyle for the past two decades and features several photos of her modeling it on her website. The rest of the photos show women with more contemporary hair that’s long and loose and lacks lift, but Ivana stayed the course; it was still 1963 on his head.
In one of the last photos of her taken in public, she was walking to the living room. What is surprising about the photo is that her hair is tied in a low ponytail, flat against her head. It’s probably no coincidence that the caption points out that she let her hair down, which she rarely did in public, likely in anticipation of people not believing it was her.
When we first met Ivana in the 1980s, she was married to her second husband, Donald, who was then just a loud-mouthed, red-faced developer without the slightest hint of presidential puff. At the time, they seemed like a perfect pair. She was fabulous; he was a fabulist. He inflated his net worth and his modeling and skiing achievements. He purchased revered landmarks, such as the Plaza Hotel, New York; it gilds and dazzles them. She had crazy hair; he had wild hair. (His banana became as much his signature as the hive became his.) In the end, of course, the scale and damage caused by his excesses was nothing compared to his.
She called him The Donald, and adding the article to his name made it look like a royal or honorary title. But she never underestimated herself. In fact, she was sure of her worth. To this end, she filed an application to register her name, in 1989, in case she wanted to monetize her brand. It turned out to be a wise move, as she ended up selling a lot of Ivana Trump products on TV shopping channels. Yet Donald Trump held a lot of psychological, social and emotional real estate; how would he feel to be hitched to this?
A Trump wife didn’t seem to like it. Once, I was sent on a mission to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach base, and dragged myself to a morning yoga class there. Marla Maples, who had then replaced Ivana as Mrs. Trump, was in the classroom next to me, and then in the locker room we started talking. She seemed tired, not from yoga but perhaps from the heaviness of being part of the Trump apparatus. They divorced shortly thereafter. Ivana, on the other hand, has always shown peppery energy and a genuine taste for her role as Trump. She seemed driven by attention, even negative ones. It was all just a compliment, she says: She once told *Vanity Fair, “I think it’s heartbreaking to people that Donald and I have everything.” After their divorce and their respective remarriages, she kept the name, and proudly announced to the interviewers: “I am the first Wife of Trump! as if it were part of a pre-planned production rollout, where the first model is considered the most authentic, the best.
We’ll never know the truth behind one of Ivana’s last big public gestures, in 2017, when she claimed the Donald had offered her a role as ambassador to the Czech Republic, where she was born Ivana Zelníčková, the daughter of an electrical engineer and a telephone operator. In a wonderful flourish, perhaps the ultimate cold shoulder to the husband who cheated on her, she claimed she turned down the job. Did he really offer her the position of ambassador? Who knows. But it was a brilliant move of her to suggest that, although he might think he was all that, she really couldn’t be bothered. As she triumphantly explained, in an interview with “CBS Sunday Morning,” “I have a perfect life.” ♦