Ivana Was Never The Same After Marrying Donald Trump

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At around 12:40 p.m. on Thursday, July 13, 2022, the NYPD received a 911 call requesting emergency assistance for a 73-year-old female found unconscious at the bottom of a grand, curving staircase inside the elegant white limestone townhouse located at 10 East 64th Street (via CBS News). Just off Fifth Avenue on New York City's Upper East Side, the address is listed by Dun & Bradstreet as the headquarters of Ivana Inc. One of the fanciest private residences in New York City, it has also served as the predictably palatial home for more than three decades of the glamorous, unapologetically posh Ivana Trump (via The Sun). 

Responding officers declared Ivana deceased at the scene. Media reports of her unexpected death left the world reeling. In its ensuing coverage, CNN identified Ivana as "an ex-wife of former President Donald Trump." Similarly, Biography referred to her as "a former model who is best known as the first wife of President Donald Trump." 

By contrast, The Washington Post noted in its coverage that if Ivana hadn't come into his life, the former president would never have become who he has. Similarly, The New York Times mentioned Ivana's status as a "glamorous Czech American businesswoman" before even addressing her "high-profile" marriage to Trump. In fairness, however, it's arguable that Ivana was the one whose life changed forever after meeting and marrying Donald. 

Ivana was born, impoverished, behind the Iron Curtain

Ivana Trump was one-half of one of the most iconic power couples of the 1980s (via the NY Post), but her upbringing in the Eastern European country that was once known as Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was vastly different from the glamourous, uber-capitalistic lifestyle to which she became accustomed during her marriage to Donald Trump, according to the Daily Mail

Born Ivana Marie Zelnícková on February 20, 1949, in Gottwaldov, Ivana lived with her father, Miloš Zelníček — who was an electrical engineer –  and her mother, Marie Zelnícková — who was a telephone operator (via The New York Times). 

From an early age, Ivana exhibited a natural talent for ski racing — a sport she took up competitively at age six, according to Biography. By 12, Ivana's travels as a member of Czechoslovakia's junior national team had opened her eyes to the glittering world that lay outside the Iron Curtain. As a teen, Ivana realized that competitive skiing could be her ticket out of a nation that had been under communist totalitarian rule since 1948. And that's precisely how she used her ski career: as a steppingstone, one that eventually led her to her pivotal first meeting with the real estate mogul, Donald J. Trump.

Ivana Trump was a world class ski racer before she met and married Donald

After earning a master's degree in physical education in 1972 from Prague's Charles University, in which she matriculated in 1967 (via The New York Times), Ivana Zelnícková escaped Czechoslovakia to Canada — without having had to identify as a "Soviet defector" because of her "Cold War marriage" to Austrian skier and ski instructor, Alfred Winklmayr. 

The marriage, which Ivana's attorneys claim was "never consummated" (via Page Six), entitled Ivana to an Austrian passport, which she obtained in March 1972 and used to emigrate to Canada in September before having the marriage unceremoniously "dissolved" in August 1973.

When Ivana met Donald Trump in Montreal in 1976 (via the CBC), she had already begun transitioning from professional athlete to fashion model. However, young Donald was arguably prouder of Ivana's skiing prowess, bragging that his wife had once been an alternate on Czechoslovakia's Olympic ski team, according to The New York Times. That said, Ivana's Olympics career may have been greatly exaggerated by her then-husband.

Ivana was a fashion model at the time that she met Donald

There are a number of conflicting accounts regarding how Donald and Ivana met, according to the New York Daily News. Some say they met in Montreal, where she was living at the time (via People). Others say it was in New York City (via The New York Times). What everyone seems to agree on, however, is that it was 1976, and Ivana was still skiing to supplement her income working as a fashion model (via the CBC). According to Ivana's memoir, "Raising Trump," the fateful meeting took place in New York City, where Ivana was in town promoting the Montreal Olympics (via the New York Post). 

Ivana never saw modeling as more than a temp job, the Daily Mail reported (although she did return to it after her divorce from Donald). However, it's not known what she had in mind to do next — likely because everything changed the moment Donald Trump tapped Ivana on the shoulder and offered to help her friends secure a table at the now-defunct Maxwell's Plum on East 64th Street. The eatery at the time famous for its glamourous clientele, which included business moguls and the statuesque fashion models that hoped to marry them. 

Donald Trump made Ivana a mother three times over

The night they first met, Donald Trump offered Ivana a ride home, and the two began a jet-setting courtship that included a visit to Aspen, Colorado, where Ivana spared the ego of the man she would someday dub "The Donald" by pretending to be a skiing novice (via the New York Post). 

On April 7, 1977, Donald took Ivana's hand in marriage (via Yahoo!), and the couple opted for a private ceremony, according to the Daily Mail. Nine months after that, the extraordinarily photogenic couple announced the birth of their first child, Donald Trump, Jr., on December 31, 1977. Their second child, Ivanka, was born October 30, 1981, and the former couple's youngest, Eric, was born January 6, 1984.

As glamorous and jet-setting as Ivana was, her three children maintain that she was, to them, an incredibly admirable woman who successfully balanced her high-powered marriage to Donald with a warm and nurturing mothering style (via the Columbian). In a joint statement, Ivana's three children said she was an "amazing mom, teacher and inspiration to all of us."

Ivana quickly attained celebrity status after marrying Donald Trump

Whatever the Trump matriarch hoped to accomplish in adulthood, it likely didn't involve modeling or ski racing, per CBC Archives. Nor can anyone say exactly what Donald Trump wanted out of life, although he did tell Tom Brokaw in 1980 that he had no interest in becoming a billionaire, per The Atlantic. Nevertheless, the Trump marriage seems to have possessed a mutually symbiotic heat-seeking alchemy that the public responded to with undivided rapt attention. 

Indeed, Ivana Trump began to acquire a rather astonishing level of celebrity soon after she married Donald (per Marca). As BBC News noted, Ivana's marriage to Donald took her on a wild ride from immigrant (albeit a rather glamorous one) to U.S. institution. "Arm in arm with Estée Lauder at Lincoln Center," The New York Times musingly recollected of Ivana's celebrity status. "Seated next to Luciano Pavarotti for a dinner at the Central Park Boathouse. Laughing it up with Jackie Mason, regaling Michael Douglas with stories, being carried like a bride by Fabio, shaking hands with Don King." 

As the celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan said, Ivana Trump was the "bold in the bold-faced name." No wonder The New York Times observed in its obituary for Mrs. Trump that it was Donald's marriage to Ivana that helped make the future president a "household name."

Ivana quickly learned to successfully court media attention

Ivana Trump's life as an icon of the "more-is-more" ethos that prevailed during the "greed is good" 1980s did not technically take off until she married the then-burgeoning real-estate-mogul who would later be president, Donald Trump, in 1977. But upon her marriage to Trump, Ivana made certain the world would follow right along with her stunning transformation.

In a lengthy tribute to the life of Ivana Trump, The New York Times wrote that throughout her marriage to Donald, Ivana managed to command "almost as much media attention as her husband." In fact, The New York Times asserted that it was Mr. and Mrs. Donald Trump of the 1980s who helped define those years as an "era of gaudy excess among the elite." And this did much more than just change Ivana's trajectory; it formed the basis for Trump becoming a reality television personality and rising to political power in 2016.  

Ivana became a successful real estate executive

Donald Trump began his career working for his father, a real estate tycoon who got his own start in the 1920s, per the BBC. By 1977, when Ivana and Donald began their courtship, Donald was just a few years into developing the business that would eventually become the Trump Organization (via Britannica). That was the renovation of the Grand Central Station-adjacent Commodore Hotel into the Hyatt Grand. The timing could not have been more perfect. As Donald Trump would soon discover, the woman he had chosen to be his life partner possessed not only a preternatural capitalistic instinct but also a natural flair for over-the-top interior design. 

"Ivana's style defined Trump's first big real-estate project," The Guardian reported. "Her attention to every detail, from plumbing to painting, was compared to a general's." Ivana later on to give the same 1980s treatment to two of Trump's casino acquisitions. Three years later, Ivana took on the job of executive managing the Plaza Hotel, which Trump bought in 1988. And if you want to talk about crushing it, that's precisely what Ivana did, transforming the well-worn Central Park South fixture into the jewel box it is today.

Ivana became the CEO of an Atlantic City casino

One of Ivana Trump's proudest accomplishments was becoming a mogul in her own right. As she told Vanity Fair in a 1988 profile that focused on her role in her then-husband's empire, she said, "Donald calls me his twin as a woman." And who else better than his twin to charge with running his casino empire? When Trump's Castle Casino Resort, which is now the Golden Nugget, opened in 1985, Ivana was installed as president and CEO, per The Guardian. And as WPG Talk Radio noted, "She was the owner's wife, but, make no mistake about it, Ivana Trump ran the property."

Perhaps she was just a little too good at her job? Indeed, the Trump marriage blew up not long after this, according to the BBC. By 1989, Donald Trump had taken up with young model, Marla Maples, which led to a tense confrontation between the Trumps in Aspen, Colorado (via The Washington Post).

By 1990, Donald was reportedly locking Ivana out of her own office at the Plaza. Of course, that did not stop her from battling Donald for half his fortune and winning "everything" (or, at least a very nice settlement that included $14 million and a mansion in Connecticut).

Ivana Trump became the head of her own business empire

Starting, probably, around the time that Donald Trump first locked Ivana Trump out of her office at the Plaza Hotel (via the BBC), it may have occurred to the former fashion model and perennial fashion plate that perhaps her next business move might be in a field about which she felt passionate. 

In any case, after the smoke had cleared from her divorce from The Donald, Ivana set out to build a business empire all her own in the field of fashion, according to WWD. From the ground up, albeit with the help of some beaucoup seed money from her divorce settlement, Ivana built said empire through both QVC and the Home Shopping Network.  

According to the Daily Mail, Ivana designed the clothing and jewelry based on her own glitzy taste, and wouldn't you know it, the people bought it right up. It couldn't have hurt that Ivana leveraged her own celebrity appeal by turning up on these shopping networks to entice viewers into thinking along the lines of "If I don this fabulous fashion, I just might be able to live a life as glamorous as Ivana's." 

Ivana also branched out into "lifestyle products" that included fragrances, makeup, and costume jewelry, per House of Francheska. Whatever you may think of the late Ivana Trump's style, she parlayed said style and influence into a multi-million dollar business, according to her memoir, "Raising Trump" (via People).

Ivana became something of a role model for female empowerment

After their divorce, Ivana and Donald Trump managed to forge a friendship. As Ivana told the New York Post in 2016, in later years, Donald often sought her advice, and her advice was to remain calm and employ the following strategic filter before speaking any words at all. "You think it, I say it," she told the Post of the counsel she offered to her ex. 

As the history books will show, Donald didn't take her up on it. But he should have known better, given Ivana's outspoken nature (via the NY Post), and no one knew that better than Donald himself. First off, when Ivana heard rumors of Donald's affair with Marla Maples, she took a vocal approach to saving her marriage — by which we mean, she not only straight-up confronted Donald, but she also sent a message to his mistress, via friends, that she still loved her husband. 

When that didn't save her marriage, Ivana took to speaking her mind about various forms of abuse that she may or may not have endured while married to The Donald (per NPR). More famously, however, she appeared as herself in the 1996 film, "The First Wives Club." And it was there on the screen that she uttered the words quoted by spurned spouses everywhere. "You have to be strong and independent," she insisted, and when it comes to infidelity, "Don't get mad, get everything" (via YouTube).

Ivana Trump became a published author

During her marriage to Donald Trump, Ivana Trump watched her husband become not only a billionaire but also a published author. "The Art of the Deal," which came out in 1987, rose to the top spot on The New York Times bestseller list, and remained there for 13 weeks, according to The New Yorker's profile of Trump's ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz. 

Competitive to her core, after her divorce from Donald, Ivana set out to become a published author, herself. And she did just that, starting in October, 1993 when she published her first book, "Free to Love." While it's not known as a literary tour de force (via Goodreads), it certainly served its purpose — to the extent its purpose was to prove that Ivana could do anything her ex-husband could do, and then some.

The next year, Ivana published her first memoir, "The Best Is Yet to Come: Coping with Divorce and Enjoying Life Again." As the title suggests, the book offers advice, both from herself and from thousands of women who reached out to support her during her divorce, on "how to survive divorce and single parenthood," according to Publisher's Weekly. The year 2017 saw the publication of Ivana's "Raising Trump: Family Values from America's First Mother," a memoir that answers the question Ivana heard too many times to remember: "How'd you raise such great kids?" (via Fox News). 

She developed a taste for young men

By the time Ivana Trump was done with her marriage to The Donald, she was already on her way to developing a whole new outlook. Specifically, after a failed attempt at marriage with the Donald-aged Riccardo Mazzucchelli, Ivana moved onto younger men, according to the New York Post

The first of Ivana's "boy toys" wasn't all that much younger than Ivana, born as he was in 1953 (via ABTC). The two began dating in 1997, and he might even have been the love of Ivana's life if he had not died in a car crash in 2005. The following year, Ivana participated in her own reality show for the purpose of helping another very rich woman find her own younger man (via IMDb). "Ivana Young Man" came and went rather quickly, but it ushered into popular culture the famous Ivana-ism that when it comes to men, better to be "a babysitter than a nurse." 

Next came Rossano Rubicondi, an Italian actor more than two decades younger than Ivana. The two married in 2008 and divorced the following year. Nevertheless, the two remained in that sort of former-couples limbo that many of us can relate to all the way until 2019, according to Page Six.