Ivanka Trump: all the things you didn’t know

The president’s favourite child has been described as the real First Lady of the United States

Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump watches her father answer questions after signing an executive order to end the practice of separating families at the Mexico border
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Along with an entourage of security personnel, advisers and officials said to number around 1,000, Donald Trump has been accompanied on his three-day state visit to the UK by his family.

The most high-profile of his five children is his daughter Ivanka, who as well as having had a senior role running his business empire is now a top White House adviser along with her husband, Jared Kushner.

Together they form one of Washington’s most powerful couples, with many seeing Trump’s favourite child as the real “First Lady” of the United States.

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The president has previously been scrutinised for having an “unusually close” relationship with his daughter, regularly complimenting her appearance and intelligence, Newsweek says.

So what else do we know about her?

Exclusive upbringing

Ivanka was born in New York in 1981, the only daughter from Donald Trump’s first marriage to Czech athlete and model Ivana Trump (nee Zelnickova). She spent her early years among the Manhattan elite studying first at the Chaplin School, whose former alumnae include Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and then moving to Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, where JFK himself studied. Her ability to master many an exclusive social circle has given her an “urbane self-assurance that her father never mastered”, says Politico.

Like father, unlike daughter

In the Trump family business, Donald gave Ivanka a “level of authority none of his wives, or for that matter executives, have ever had”, says The New York Times. She handled some of the Trump Organization’s biggest deals and along with her elder two brothers, Donald Jr and Eric, has often preached fiscal conservatism in direct contrast to her father’s bellicosity.

‘Proxy wife’

Throughout her father’s presidential campaign, Ivanka found herself being used more and more to get across Trump’s political message. A profile in Vanity Fair described her as a “proxy wife”, saying this was in part due to Donald’s current wife, Melania, not being a “conventional campaign spouse”.

“The Trump campaign appears more comfortable using the candidate’s daughter to spread his message than his wife,” the magazine said.

Quartz suggested Ivanka would serve as Donald’s “actual first lady”.

Conversion to Judaism

Ivanka was raised Presbyterian but converted to Judaism in 2009, to marry husband Jared Kushner. The couple have three children: Arabella Rose, Joseph Frederick and Theodore James.

She told Vogue in the run-up to the election that the family are kosher and observe the Sabbath, turning off their phones to enjoy time together. “We don’t do anything except play with each other, hang out with one another, go on walks together - pure family,” she said. Ivanka described herself as a “very modern”, but also “a very traditional person”, adding that her conversion was “a great life decision”.

Ivanka rarely discusses her religion, calling it a “personal thing”, but her father invoked it several times during his campaign to assure voters he was pro-Israel. “I have tremendous love for Israel,” he said. “I happen to have a son-in-law and a daughter that are Jewish, OK, and two grandchildren that are Jewish”.

She has written two books

Ivanka published her first book, The Trump Card, in 2009. The self-help tome is aimed at working women - but the average reader would be forgiven for giving up after the first few sentences “to preserve her sanity”, writes Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker.

In it, Tolentino continues, a woman “born with a silver spoon in her mouth” offers life-coaching to “people who use plastic forks to eat salad at their desks”.

Ivanka also displays massive “cognitive dissonance” in asserting that her birth played no part in her success and wealth, says the critic.

Ivanka’s second outing, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, hit the shelves in 2017 and focuses on her career advice and “best practices”.

It is very much a spiritual successor to The Trump Card - and received even more brutally scathing reviews.

She is a White House adviser

After initially suggesting she would not take an official role in the White House, Ivanka was appointed to an official government post, joining her husband as an adviser to her father.

At the time, the New York Times said Ivanka’s role “amounts to the formal recognition of the value Mr Trump places on the judgement and loyalty of both his daughter and his son-in-law”. However, the paper added, while past presidents have called on family members to provide unofficial counsel and advice, “giving them a formal role has few precedents”.

Ivanka stepped down from management and operations of the Trump Organization to comply with ethics regulations once her father became president. She also quit her eponymous fashion brand.

The couple have also made “substantial divestments” from some of their holdings, People says.

However, ethics experts have criticised the appointment, arguing it allows her to avoid financial disclosure rules.

“This arrangement appears designed to allow Ms Trump to avoid the ethics, conflict-of-interest and other rules that apply to White House employees,” Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, ethics lawyers for former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, wrote in a letter to the White House counsel.

Eisen added that the decision to appoint a nuclear family member to such a position was “a lot of nepotism”.

Yet half way through her father’s first term, “Ivanka Trump remains as much of a mystery as ever”, says The Atlantic.

At first seen as a moderating force in a White House full of hawks, she seems to have done little to temper her father’s most impulsive instincts, be it withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the ongoing trade war with China or the controversial immigrant ban.

“Ivanka is a mystery, less powerful than she seemed at first, but still firmly wedged in there at the very center of whatever is going on in our strange, unpredictable, and increasingly dangerous White House,” says the Atlantic.

She’s into art... bigly

Ivanka’s apartment, which stars in many of her thousands of Instagram posts, “seems to telegraph contemporary good taste”, says Bloomberg.

But while the furnishings may project an air of low-key affluence, the art that adorns the walls does not.

In one image on Instagram, Ivanka “shimmies” in front of a Dan Colen “chewing gum” painting - a comparable work by the artist sold for $578,500 at Phillips New York in 2012.

Another post, taken from a Harper’s Bazaar shoot, shows her posing in front of a piece by Alex Israel, whose pieces also raise similar amounts at auction, adds Bloomberg.

However, not every artist is happy with the coverage. “I think there are a lot of artists that are uncomfortable now being incorporated, or leveraged, as part of the Ivanka Trump brand,” said art dealer Bill Powers.

Indeed, some are even calling for their work to be removed from Ivanka’s walls.

Giving his support to Halt Action Group, an anti-Trump collection of artists, curators and activists Israel wrote on Instagram: “Dear Ivanka, Please stand with artists and so many people around the world who believe that America means equality for all people.”

Alex Da Corte, meanwhile, posted underneath a photo of her posing in front of one of his paintings: “Dear Ivanka, please get my work off of your walls. I am embarrassed to be seen with you”.

She was a model aged 14

Ivanka might have made a name for herself as a canny businesswoman, developing her own line of jewellery, shoes and accessories, but her first career was as a model.

At the age of 14, the “First Daughter” was approached by a modelling agency while a student at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut.

When the prestigious boarding school was reluctant to allow Ivanka time off for jobs, the quick-thinking teen showed an early flash of her negotiation skills to get around their objections.

She told The Guardian: “They’d granted similar leave to a student who was training to be an Olympic skier, so I used precedent to my advantage and got what I wanted.”

Before her 15th birthday, she had featured in the pages of Elle and over the next few years appeared in magazines, catwalk shows and an advertising campaign for Tommy Hilfiger.

However, she fell out of love with modelling - the industry was “ruthless”, she told Marie Claire in 2007 - and instead entered Wharton business school after graduating.

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