October 21, 2020

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First Lady portrayed as deeply selfish, out of touch

On June 21, 2018, First Lady Melania Trump wore a jacket with the words "I really don’t care, do u?" on the back as she went to visit immigrant children forcibly separated from their parents at the Texas-Mexico border.

The tone-deaf fashion choice raised a question that had been circulating about Melania Trump for years: does she care? About her husband’s behaviour? His policies? Her own reputation?

This Trump tell-all, written by the First Lady’s former BFF Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, answers bluntly: no, The First Lady doesn’t care, especially about how people think of her. As Winston Wolkoff reports, the First Lady is a woman who "doesn’t register humiliation or distress," whose "selfishness is so deep, it enables her to keep her distance from the rest of the world."

Winston Wolkoff earned a name as an A-list event planner in the New York City fashion world through her work as director of special events at Vogue magazine. But she’s now most widely known as the former unpaid senior adviser to the First Lady, and the friend whose event-planning firm received US$26 million for its role in planning the 2017 presidential inauguration.

This memoir is Winston Wolkoff’s attempt to clear her name. She does so credibly, coming across as genuine, if incredibly misguided. When friends questioned her decision to produce the inauguration, for example, she recalls telling them, "But this isn’t about Trump or the administration, it’s about making America proud!"

Winston Wolkoff and the First Lady, then Melania Knauss, met in the Vogue offices in 2003 and became close friends. In 2016 she was recruited to help plan the presidential inauguration and be the First Lady’s senior adviser.

Despite her devotion — she turned down a salary to ensure enough money remained available to hire enough qualified staff for the First Lady’s office — the administration pinned the presidential inauguration fiscal mismanagement on Winston Wilkoff, and her best friend didn’t defend her.

Melania and Me focuses on the friendship between the title women and the activity in the First Lady’s office. Readers expecting Real Housewives-style drama will be disappointed, however, and Winston Wolkoff drops only an occasional catty comment. In fact, she often defends the First Lady, pointing out that her absence at public appearances was often due to Ivanka Trump withholding scheduling information or pulling strings behind the scenes. She even speculates Ivanka was behind Melania’s infamous plagiarized speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, as a warning for her stepmother to stay in the background.

The author comes across as defensive at times — understandable, given how her reputation suffered.

Don’t worry about Melania, however — she’ll be just fine.

Kathryne Cardwell is a Winnipeg writer.

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