Ivana Trump's peculiar brand of feminism


Ivana Trump's peculiar brand of feminism


Ivana Trump was discovered dead at the foot of her Upper East Side apartment's stairs last Thursday at the age of 73, which is a sad irony for a lady whose life was all about ascension. The child, whose father was an electrical engineer, was born in Communist Czechoslovakia in 1949. She rose to fame as a competitive skier before becoming Donald Trump's second wife and managing his eye-bending skyscrapers in New York and Atlantic City. Ivana built her fame by enduring and exposing the humiliations of her marriage's breakdown after her contentious tabloid divorce from Donald in 1991 as a result of his romance with chorus girl Marla Maples.

After penning the bestselling self-help book The Best is Yet to Come, she wrote two thinly disguised fictional tales called For Love Alone and Free To Love. The First Mrs. Trump, who wrote Coping With Divorce and Enjoying Life Again, went on to become an odd feminist figure, being canonized as the Patron Saint of Scorned Women and later memorialized in a cameo in the popular movie First Wives' Club starring Diane Keaton and Bette Middler. All of this was done with her signature blonde up-do, which was a genuine skyscraper in and of itself. She seems to have hardly changed from the 1980s to the few photos that now exist of her as a Celebrity Big Brother candidate. More than just a hairstyle, the hair served as a metaphor for a variety of things, including the woman's roots—quite literally—behind the Iron Curtain, the brassy aesthetic of the Eastern Bloc that later found expression in the marbled hallways of Trump Tower, and—perhaps most importantly—a conviction in a particular brand of womanhood in which leveraging glitz and connections was expected.

Ivana formed an unlikely standard-bearer for the typical impoverished woman as the recipient of a massive $25 million divorce settlement that is said to have included gilded flats, yachts, and mansions sprinkled throughout the East Coast and Florida. But to her fans, who saw in her a determined worker whose victory against her adulterous husband signaled a feminist future in which past wives couldn't be simply put aside and forgotten, this was of little consequence. If she is extravagant with her dress choices or the things she says, as one New York gossip columnist put it, "it is forgiven because she has been battered down and she has climbed to the top." America enjoys a good underdog. You can see its attraction by watching the video of her stumbling around in the First Wives' Club: the big hair and bootstraps feminism that so perfectly encapsulated the American philosophy of self-sufficiency.

Ivana was quick to capitalize on her feminist credentials, much like her daughter Ivanka did after her. Ivana stood for the same thing that brown-rice feminists had battled so hard to oppose: the diet and beauty industry. Ivana famously says, "You know what I say, dear, you can never be too rich or too skinny," while staring directly into the camera in one iconic milk commercial. Years later, she admitted to eating a hot dog without the bun and starving herself for two days out of guilt in another (though unpaid) declaration. She later claimed that she had made up the infamous rape charges she leveled against Trump in her divorce deposition, which was perhaps the most perplexing development for the millions of women who had projected their grievances onto her. Ivana even made an appearance to campaign for "the Donald" in the hectic days of his 2016 presidential campaign, branding him a feminist and taking credit for fostering his political aspirations.

Ivana ultimately never really embraced the position of female resistance icon that the public had created for her. She might not have desired it in the first place. She married Rossano Rubicondi, a considerably younger man, with Trump's approval at Mar-a-Lago, indicating that she had never truly stopped being Mrs. Donald Trump. The former President naturally edited out the entire chapter of his first wife's feminist uprising in his online obituary, which he posted on his social media platform Truth Social instead of Twitter (where he is banned), focusing instead on her role as mother to their three children: "She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life. Her three children were her pride and joy. She was so proud of them, as we were all so proud of her. Ivana, please rest in peace.

There was no indication of the hostility between the pair that had captured the public's attention so vividly years earlier. The hair, in my opinion, spoke it all: a mysterious force that persisted, I hope, vertical right to the end.

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