Ivana Trump (1949-2022) always had the highest hair in the room. In her younger years, her frothy blond mane was bobbed, and her forelock and the hair on her crown were teased a lofty three inches off her scalp. The result was sculptural, dimensional. In later years, she transitioned to a beehive—a solid-looking mound on the top of her head, finished off with wispy bangs. The Web site TheHairStyler.com calls it “The Ivana Trump Long Straight Updo,” and rates its popularity just a half star out of a possible five, but Ivana, always the boss of her, went her own way. Salih Salon, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, produced her hairdo for the past two decades, and features several pictures of her modelling it on its Web site. The rest of the photos show women with more contemporary hair, long and loose and without elevation, but Ivana stayed the course; it was always 1963 on her head.
In one of the last photos taken of her in public, she was on her way to the salon. What’s surprising about the picture is that her hair is in a low ponytail, flat against her head. It’s probably no accident that the caption points out that she had let her hair down, something she rarely did in public, likely in anticipation of people not believing that it was her.
When we first came to know Ivana, in the nineteen-eighties, she was married to her second husband, Donald, who was then merely a loudmouthed, russet-faced developer, without the slightest whiff of the Presidential rising from him. At the time, they seemed a perfect pair. She was fabulous; he was a fabulist. He inflated his net worth and her modelling and skiing accomplishments. He bought revered landmarks, such as the Plaza Hotel, in New York; she gilded and bedazzled them. She had crazy hair; he had crazy hair. (His quiff became as much his signature as the beehive became hers.) Ultimately, of course, the scale of and the damage done by her excesses was nothing compared with his.
She called him The Donald, and the addition of the article to his name made it seem like a royal title or an honorific. But she never undersold herself. In fact, she was confident of her value. To that end, she applied to trademark her name, in 1989, in case she wanted to monetize her brand. It turned out to be a wise move, because she ended up selling a lot of Ivana Trump products on TV shopping channels. Still, Donald Trump occupied a lot of psychological, social, and emotional real estate; how would it feel to be yoked to that?
One Trump wife didn’t seem to dig it. I was once sent on an assignment to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s toehold in Palm Beach, and dragged myself to a morning yoga class there. Marla Maples, who by then had replaced Ivana as Mrs. Trump, was in the class, downward-dogging next to me, and, afterward, in the locker room, we got to chatting. She seemed tired—not from the yoga but perhaps from the sheer weightiness of being part of the Trump apparatus. They divorced not long afterward. Ivana, by contrast, always displayed a peppery energy and a genuine relish for her role as a Trump. She seemed animated by the attention, even when it was negative. It all was a compliment, by her reckoning: she once told Vanity Fair, “I think it’s upsetting to people that Donald and I have it all.” After their divorce and respective remarriages, she kept the name, and proudly announced to interviewers, “I am the first Trump wife!”—as if she were part of a preplanned production rollout, where the first model is viewed as the most authentic, the best.
We will never know the truth behind one of Ivana’s last big public gestures, in 2017, when she claimed that The Donald had offered her a role as Ambassador to the Czech Republic, where she had been 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 had cheated on her, she claimed that she had turned down the job. Did he really offer her the ambassadorship? Who knows. But it was a brilliant move on her part to suggest that, while he might think he was all that, she really couldn’t be bothered. As she explained triumphantly, in an interview with “CBS Sunday Morning,” “I have a perfect life.” ♦