Ms. Meyers loves to follow politics especially the First Ladies and how they shaped fashion, popular culture, and the role of women.
A "Classy" First Lady
Before she became First Lady, Trump supporters consistently ascribed the same word to Melania in the run-up to the presidential election: classy. Political neophytes assumed they used that particular adjective based on her past as a fashion model, her lavish designer wardrobe, and her reserved eastern European demeanor.
Definition of "Classy"
Definition of "Classy": having or showing class, such as
a. elegant, stylish: a classy clientele, a classy hotel
b. having or reflecting high standards of personal behavior: a classy guy, a classy gesture
c. admirably skillful and graceful: a classy outfielder
Melania appeared to be an introvert to many casual observers, a dutiful wife dragged into the national spotlight by an ambitious husband. Because of her reserved persona, some people (especially women) had empathy for her plight as a reluctant figure on the world stage and wished her the best.
Yet, as time went by and her actions proved to be anything but classy, many who once had compassion for Melania’s unfortunate circumstance felt duped. They realized the classy designation had been a racist dog whistle—not so much a compliment to Mrs. Trump but a slight of the former First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Figuratively, a "dog whistle" is a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others.
"Classy" Functioned as a Racist Dog Whistle
Those who used the classy label to describe Melania were speaking loudly and clearly to their targeted audience. They were directly addressing those who disliked Mrs. Obama, the only black woman to have ever served as First Lady and a hugely popular, well-respected figure around the globe. "Classy" was their code word, meaning she’s not black and she’s not Michelle Obama.
Here are seven times Melania acted in ways that most people would not consider "classy" in the usual meaning of the word.
1. Accused of Plagiarism
Many Americans were introduced to Melania Trump in 2016 when she addressed the Republican National Convention with a speech that provided a preview of less than classy things to come. Mrs. Trump was caught on the national stage uttering sentences that were taken almost word-for-word from a speech given at the 2008 Democratic National Convention by Michelle Obama.
An employee for the Trump organization eventually took responsibility for the debacle. Yet, it was an early indication that the soon-to-be First Lady was more than okay with taking someone else’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences and pretending they were her own.
2. A Proponent of the Birther Lie
Some political pundits claim Donald Trump, a familiar face from reality television, was propelled to the presidency by being a loud and adamant birther. More than anyone else, he pushed the false claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and, therefore, wasn’t a legitimate president because he was born outside the United States.
Just like her husband, Melania spread this lie far and wide including a 2011 appearance on Joy Behar's show. By calling into question the birthplace of our country’s first black president, both Trumps drew bigots to them like moths to a flame. Sadly, these hateful Americans heard their racist dog whistle loud and clear and found it to be music to their ears.
In the video below from 2011, Melania Trump spreads the birther lie that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States and, therefore, wasn't a legitimate president.
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3. A Gold Digger
Among the rich and famous, nobody bats an eye when an older wealthy man marries a much younger woman. This kind of arrangement is commonplace; the husband has a trophy wife on his arm while the wife gets financial security and a luxurious lifestyle.
This was the case when the 52-year-old twice-divorced Donald Trump, who had cheated on his first wife with his second wife, met the 28-year-old Melania Knauss. They married five years later with a prenup securely in place. Melania has stayed with her husband through many of his alleged affairs including one with a Playboy Playmate soon after she gave birth to their only child, Barron.
4. A Liar
Perhaps, in an attempt to live up to her classy designation, Melania inflated her resume. She claimed to have earned a degree in Architecture when she had, in reality, attended college for just one semester.
In addition, journalists who’ve closely covered the First Lady say she lied about being fluent in five languages: English, Italian, French, German, Serbian, and her native tongue, Slovenian. Mary Jordan is a Washington Post reporter and the author of The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump. She has scrutinized Melania’s life, watching hours of coverage. She wrote: “I couldn’t find any videos showing her fluency in anything other than Slovenian and English. I asked the White House if they could point to any evidence, and they did not respond.”
5. A Cruel Fashion Statement
Some folks with no opinion of the mysterious First Lady developed a decidedly negative one on June 21, 2018. On that eye-opening day, Melania had flown to the southern border to visit immigrant children separated from their parents. Always fashion-conscious and in control of her public image, she wore a jacket with the following sentiment emblazoned on the back: I really don’t care. Do U?
While her press secretary desperately tried to downplay the fashion choice, arguing a jacket is just a jacket, most folks realized Melania used her wardrobe to make a blatant statement of callousness about these vulnerable kids.
In the video below, Melania's fashion choice overshadowed what was happening to children at the southern border.
6. "Be Best" Campaign
Long after they exited the White House, America’s First Ladies were remembered for their pet projects. Nancy Reagan was known for her Just Say No campaign against drugs, Michelle Obama for her focus on children’s nutrition and fitness, and Laura Bush for her devotion to education and literacy. In a move that spoke volumes about her unwillingness to accept counsel from her staff, Melania Trump chose to tackle cyberbullying among children and teens. This, of course, was a ludicrous choice given her husband’s penchant for bullying and name-calling.
The program, Be Best, was mercilessly mocked for its grammatically incorrect title. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania’s senior advisor and author of Melania and Me, called it “illiterate” but the First Lady stubbornly refused to change the name. Moreover, the campaign was an insult to the intelligence of the young people it intended to reach, making it seem as if they were too stupid to grasp its hypocrisy.
7. An Auction
Since leaving Washington D.C., Melania has kept a low profile at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump-owned private resort in Palm Beach, Florida. In a move some deemed tacky, she recently emerged from her posh seclusion to sell items from her time at the White House. In doing so, she became the only First Lady to ever monetize her former position.
She auctioned off the white broad-brimmed hat she wore while hosting the French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife for a state visit. The minimum bid was $250,000. She also offered up a digital watercolor painting of herself donning the aforementioned hat. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to get wealthier off the NFT craze, she also sold “Melania’s Vision,” a digital watercolor of her cobalt eyes.
According to the auction website, an unspecified amount of the proceeds will go to the Be Best campaign. Based on their track record, though, the Trumps will most likely pocket the great bulk of them.
The video below explains how Melania auctioned off items from her time at the White House, becoming the only First Lady to monetize her time there.
What do you think?
© 2022 McKenna Meyers