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The deceptive First Lady

Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady by Stephanie W. Wolkoff, Gallery Books, US $28.00, Pp 352, September 2020, ISBN 9781982151249

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff was a director of special events and producer of nine legendary Met Galas when she met Melania Knauss in 2003. She closely observed the then girlfriend of Donald Trump become the First Lady. Stephanie Wolkoff was also one of the organizers of 58th Presidential inauguration in 2017. After the inauguration, she was put in-charge of hiring the First Lady’s staff, organizing her events and helping write her speeches. The friendship fell apart when nobody expected. Stephanie Wolkoff claims that she was made the scapegoat for inauguration finance irregularities. In Melania and Me, Stephanie Wolkoff tells the story of her friendship with Melania and what really happened to the inauguration funds of $107 million.

Stephanie Wolkoff says that Melania always took extremely good care of herself, inside and out — especially out. She rarely left her Trump Tower penthouse without an immaculate outfit. She has a glam squad at her beck and call, although she really does not need them. She’s mastered the art of always seeming perfect – like a model. She rarely lets someone see her without a full face of makeup and a perfect do. If you ask her for tips, she won’t share which cosmetics brands she uses. Melania always carries a pristine purse, and she treated it with gentle care. At times, she only had her green American Express on her, sans purse. In contrast to this, Stephanie Wolkoff says that her bag gets a beating and shows it. Melania understood that she carried her life in her bags, but she would wrinkle her nose on how disorganized they were –Post-it notes with scribbles, old insurance claim forms, receipts tickets, candy wrappers, makeup she never wore, a hairbrush she never used, a few hair scrunchies, a dozen pens and Sharpies, her agenda, notepads, a can of Coke Zero, and a bag of dried mangoes. But they remained friends because Melania needed Stephanie Wolkoff.

Stephanie Wolkoff writes, “The force of Melania’s personality blinded me to the truth about her, and Donald’s, lack of character. But I wasn’t the only one. They have pulled the same trick on about half the country. I didn’t see it from the inside out, but once I was on the outside looking in, it became glaringly obvious. Now I cannot believe how blind I was to the depth of their deception and lack of common decency. I put Melania’s needs ahead of my own. I volunteered to break my back (literally) for her, for nothing in return, other than a bunch of emojis. And she was happy to oblige. The biggest difference between Melania and me: I would never let a friend crash and burn for my sake. Never.” Stephanie Wolkoff says that she would never sit back and watch someone exhaust and sicken themselves for her, but she did. Melania didn’t lose a minute’s sleep over it.

Stephanie Wolkoff says that Melania’s selfishness is so deep, it enables her to keep her distance from the rest of the world. It makes her untouchable; if she doesn’t give a shit about things, they can’t affect her. The wall around her is her defense mechanism. The secret to her happiness is to be authentically and unapologetically skin-deep. She lives through her external attractiveness and how her appearance is perceived. Her behavior hasn’t changed from her pre-First Lady days; she’s just more visible now. Stephanie Wolkoff writes, “After our breakup, I asked myself, Did her character change or was she always like this?” She says that throughout the years of their friendship, their mutual affection, “maybe all I really saw was her charming, warm grounding personality. I gave her the benefit of the doubt about her moral character, the virtues of empathy and honesty I have taught my children. I have tried to live my life by the principles that what you do becomes who you are. I was Melania’s enabler, and her using me became the basis of our friendship. I liked feeling needed. I believed she was a noble person and treated her that way, blinding myself to the truth about her to justify our long friendship.” She says that she used to think she was different from her husband. She says that she saw streams of daylight between them and thought Melania was more principled, kind, and honorable than Donald and all of his offspring. “I was wrong about that.”

Melania and Me is the first insider’s look at — and opinion about — the private life of the First Lady by a former friend, aide and adviser. After many years of friendship, Melania’s close friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff feels that she was fooled, used, and betrayed by the present First Lady and she explains why she feels that way by telling the story of their friendship. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff explains the chaos, confusion, backbiting and backstabbing stories only a few in the White House know. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is an amazing writer who writes better that a novelist which makes this book a pure joy. It is a must read to understand how the country was run in the last four years.

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