Daddy's girl: The making of Ivanka
When Donald Trump went to Washington there was no question that his favourite child, Ivanka, would accompany him. For a time, it seemed that first female president was not an unrealistic goal for the First Daughter. The last few weeks have seen the wheels come off though, as she Instagrammed domestic bliss while babies were taken from their parents at the US border. Liadan Hynes on the world’s most famous Park Avenue princess.
A reporter had a very direct question for Ivanka Trump in 1999? "Have you ever done anything rebellious?" the journalist asked. "Oh God, no," came the response. "I've never smoked, or taken drugs or drunk alcohol."
Even before she was the First Daughter, self-proclaimed champion of working women everywhere, Ivanka Trump had spent almost a lifetime building a brand as a sort of anti-Paris Hilton.
In her new book Born Trump: Inside America's First Family, Vanity Fair's Emily Jane Fox recounts how friends of Ivanka remember her father repeatedly talking at the time of The Simple Life about how famous and attractive Paris was, and urging Ivanka to get her own, similar, reality show.
Ivanka, or Vank as her husband calls her, was having none of it. "It makes me sad," she commented of Paris in 2004. "Paris and I don't hang out," she once said. "We both come from wealthy families, but that's all that links us. I think there's something more accessible about me," she reflected, adding that being put into "that heiress category" annoyed her, as she "works her ass off".
Ivanka's self-created brand is that of an "unentitled, goodie-goodie who... had no interest in television or modelling as a career, and enjoyed the simpler things in life," writes Fox. The simpler things now include, of course, an office in the White House, where she serves as an adviser and occasional de facto First Lady. These last few weeks though have seen what some are calling a tipping point for Ivanka's image. While children as young as eight months were being separated from their parents at the US border, Ivanka was Instagramming blissful pictures of her and her youngest child. She made no comment on the immigrant children until after her father had rowed back somewhat on his controversial policy. Tone deaf, not that bright, or too entitled?
After their parents' many marriages, it is hard to imagine now that Ivanka and her brothers actually grew up in a reasonable simulacrum of domestic stability, albeit one set in the environs of a Trump Tower triplex. Donald and Ivana's method of parenting was, Fox writes, "to throw money at the problem", rather than let their children, first Don, then three years later Ivanka, followed a year-and-a-half after that by Eric, alter their busy lives in any way. The Trump children's quarters took up an entire floor of the triplex, and included a kitchen, a room for the two nannies, two guest rooms, a playroom with a game system so impressive neighbour Michael Jackson would often drop by to play video games (Ivana later wrote in her book that he was never left alone with them), and a bedroom for each child. Ivanka's room was covered in posters of Madonna and the cast of Beverly Hills 90210, floor to ceiling windows looked out over Central Park. Before school they visited their father in his office 40 floors below. Ivanka studied ballet - Jackson once came to watch her Christmas performance at the Lincoln Centre, staying backstage and causing quite a stir amongst the other girls, who attempted a tribute, thwarted by their teachers, of all wearing one glove.
Most evenings their parents were out. On occasion, Ivana would bring her daughter to the couture shows in Paris. "My mother was much stricter than my father when we were growing up," she once told a reporter, going on to describe how Ivana would pull down her pants and spank her in front of friends until the age of about 10. "People are shocked but she didn't chase me around with a whip." Winter holidays were often spent in Aspen - Ivana was practically a professional skier, so ensured that her own children were accomplished at the sport.
It was in Aspen that this domestic bliss, and the children's world, was shattered. In 1990, on the eve of Don Jnr's 12th birthday, their father's long-time mistress, model and actress Marla Maples, confronted Ivana as she stood in line at a restaurant with Don Jnr, Ivanka, then eight, and Eric, five. As Ivana tells it, the woman said: "I'm Marla, and I love your husband." Marla's account differs somewhat, but witnesses all agree what ensued was, as Fox puts it, "so much yelling that everyone at the restaurant was mortified on behalf of the children".
What followed rewrote the book on messy break-ups; details of sexual exploits, settlement arrangements, and psychiatrist visits were splashed over the front pages of the papers. Photographers took to hanging around outside Ivanka's school, and Vanity Fair reported that she was spotted crying. Leaving school the day after the headline quoting Maples saying: THE BEST SEX I'VE EVER HAD! Ivanka was accosted by reporters; "one idiot reporter even had the temerity to ask me if Marla Maples' claims were true. What type of person would ask a nine-year-old girl that kind of question?" For a time, their mother took the three children to Palm Beach with private tutors. "The children are all wrecks," Ivana said at the time. "Ivanka now comes home from school crying 'Mommy, does it mean I'm not going to be Ivanka Trump anymore?'"
Don Jnr stopped speaking to his father for a year, but Ivanka took the opposite approach. Always a daddy's girl, she has said that the divorce made her realise she could not take Donald's presence for granted. "At the time of the divorce… Ivanka clung to her father even more," Fox writes. "The fear that he might replace her or not always be around... led her to visit him more in his office, call him more when she was at school."
While she was never close to Marla, she and Melania seem to have forged a relationship of sorts, helped recently by the First Lady's apparent distaste for her new-found role, meaning the First Daughter often takes her place. "It was much more difficult getting along with my dad's girlfriends when I was younger, because almost every woman who came into the house was somehow a challenge to me." Gold-digging was often a worry, but Melania, she decided, had "a good character". Ivanka needn't have worried. She is without doubt her father's favourite, sometimes to a disturbing degree. Watching her present Miss USA aged 16, he said "don't you think my daughter's hot? She's hot right?" He has also called her "voluptuous", agreed with Howard Stern that she is "a piece of ass," has "the best body", and reflected that if she wasn't his daughter, he might in fact be dating her. The favouritism has not come between her and her brothers. "That the siblings are so close is a real product of the bunker mentality they adopted during their formative years," Fox writes. "No one else understands what that was like. Nor does anyone understand quite as well what it's like to work for their dad. They were handed a set of golden keys and with them, golden handcuffs."
Donald had always wanted five children. "Then I will know that one will be guaranteed to turn out like me." In fact, his long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, once reflected that each of the kids got one of Donald's traits. "They're like mini super bots, mini Voltrons. Collectively, they make the whole."
Ivanka, like her father, is a supreme self-publicist, although where he is brash, she is polished. "When the camera comes on, she comes alive," Fox writes. The narcissism, says Fox, is muted, but hereditary. An entire wall of her office was taken up with magazine covers from her modelling, and then business incarnations. Many friends and business associates seem to think an eventual run for president is a given; "the attention, she loves it. She's like, addicted". Fox traces this love of the limelight in part back to insecurity over her father, created by the divorce. "She carried the burden of wondering if her father would leave again or love her still, and knew full well that one way to endear her to him forever was for him to read about her in the paper."
Now 36, her career as a teenage model doesn't fit with her image as an earnest workaholic, but her father was said to be very in favour of this line of work, no doubt relishing the attention. Donald didn't call her much when she was at boarding school, but would regularly send mail, mostly clippings about himself or his daughter. Fox spoke to a friend who recalled getting a call from Donald's sister, asking him to talk Donald out of letting Ivanka get plastic surgery. Donald denied that she was getting implants, although asked his friend "why not, though?" For the rare souls allowed to see behind the Barbie-ish, cookie-cutter Instagram Ivanka, there seems to be a more likeable version.
"When she lets herself be herself - and this is something her friends say privately all the time - Ivanka reveals herself as a much more nuanced, relatable, aspirational person than the version of herself she's crafted, with a delicious rebellious bent," writes Fox. During the final year of her prestigious Upper East Side school, she and a friend flashed a hot-dog vendor from a school window. At boarding school, she would return to New York at weekends for dinners with friends, limousines to nightclubs where, only 15, they would be plucked from the line, ushered in. Rumour has it her father would hire a limo to make the two-hour drive from New York with takeout from her favourite restaurants.
Like her father, Ivanka is no stranger to the occasional obfuscation; far from never having smoked, she was known to use the morning break in classes for a two-cigarette break, dressed always in her uniform of khakis and a Burberry trench. In later years, her college results were slightly improved on the cover of one of her books. She met her husband, Jared Kushner, in 2007. He, of course, also serves in the White House, with a portfolio that has included creating peace in the Middle East. Friends describe the couple as bashert, a Hebrew word which means soul mate. Both are heirs to real estate dynasties, but the compatibility goes deeper. Intensely loyal to their families, highly ambitious, "that's just the crunchy shell," writes Fox. "Crack it slightly and you'll see that their gooey innards have been pulverized exactly the same way. Both fell victim to their father's bad, selfish behaviours." Charles Kushner was sent to jail on charges that included witness tampering - he set his brother-in-law up with a prostitute and then mailed the tapes to his sister. Associates have described Charlie Kushner as a "psychopath", a "torturer", and "truly the worst person in the world".
After meeting at lunch Jared emailed to invite her to a party. "Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," a friend remembers her saying upon reading the message. Things escalated quickly, but his family, Observant Modern Orthodox Jews, were not keen. A break-up in 2008, said to have "devastated" Ivanka, according to Fox, is thought to have been instigated by Kushner's parents. It was her good friend Wendi Murdoch who acted as re-matchmaker, inviting the pair for a weekend on her 184ft yacht. They reunited, and Ivanka converted.
The wedding took place in a Trump golf course. Their guest list ran to 500, including Russell Crowe, Natalie Portman (a friend of Kushner's from Harvard) and Anna Wintour. When Donald decided to launch his bid for the presidency, as Fox puts is, "Ivanka's life didn't have room for a presidential campaign".
An executive in her dad's company, with her own fashion line, she had just signed a deal to write a book, and was pregnant with her third child. So full was her schedule that "her trainer had begun bringing a notebook and pen to sessions so that Ivanka could write down what she had to do after their workout. Otherwise, she would be too overwhelmed to focus," says Fox.
There was no question, though, that she would not fully support her father. So far, Ivanka's venture into politics has not been an unqualified success, but neither has it, until now, been a disaster. A foil to her father's awfulness, her credibility has been badly tarnished. But while her New York friends may be unenthused, her father's loyal followers are said to have opened up a whole new potential customer base for the First Daughter.
Whether her reputation manages to survive her father's spell in the White House remains to be seen.
Born Trump: Inside America's First Family, Emily Jane Fox, £20, William Collins
When Donald Trump went to Washington there was no question that his favourite child, Ivanka, would accompany him. For a time, it seemed that first female president was not an unrealistic goal for the First Daughter. The last few weeks have seen the wheels come off though, as she Instagrammed domestic bliss while babies were taken from their parents at the US border. Liadan Hynes on the world's most famous Park Avenue princess